CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The list is complete.
Before he passed of cancer in January 2007, Benny Parsons left his wife, Terri, a list of 10 things to do. With his name being the first one called by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France on Wednesday evening for the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class, everything on the list has now been crossed off.
“Not to let people forget him,” Terri revealed of the last remaining item, which Parsons feared would happen. “I think this handles that one, don’t you?”
Parsons received 85 percent of the votes for the eighth class of inductees, which leaves Terri to believe his legacy has now been cemented. He had been on the ballot each year since the Hall of Fame started inducting members in 2010.
Terri has made the trip every year to sit in the audience, waiting to hear Benny’s name. Upon finally hearing it her reaction might have been tame to those observing her, but it was only because she had gone numb.
“I wanted to make sure I heard it right and make sure that picture turned around right (on the prompter) and that I wasn’t mistaking anything that I shouldn’t for what it was,” she said. “Believe me, it was an awesome moment.”
An underdog champion in 1973 with L.G. DeWitt, Parsons quickly became a fan favorite. He captured a Daytona 500 win in 1975 and became the first driver to qualify a stock car at more than 200 MPH in 1982 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Of his 526 career starts, Parsons claimed 21 wins and 20 poles. When he retired from driving in 1988, Parsons transitioned to a TV role and became a memorable voice for NBC and TNT.
A significant portion of the fan base and those within the industry have repeatedly called for Parsons induction, but each year Terri left the announcement having heard the names of their friends instead.
However, she knew it might take a while for Benny because there were so many other individuals who deserved to be in first. Some who had laid the groundwork for NASCAR.
Leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, Terri had a different feeling mostly because of all the positive messages she had been receiving. Ones that were then heightened when she arrived and there was someone waiting who asked, “Are you Mrs. Parsons? Hurry, hurry.”
“For some reason (today) felt different. It just felt different than it had any other year and I think a lot of it had to do with friends and family that had been encouraging me,” she said. “I had some very good advice from some people that were already in the Hall of Fame that said, you really need to put together a campaign and post on Facebook every day reminding people to vote because it’s not that they don’t want to vote, it’s that they forget every day to vote.
“So, boy am I worn out from doing that. I don’t have to do that anymore, and I’m sure y’all are sick of seeing it. So I think that helped a great deal. But yes, it was a very different feeling in the air today just coming in.”
There is also now a different feeling leaving than year’s past, but one that has been a long time coming.
“At last. Benny would have been very, very humbled and he would have thought he could have gone on more years because there was a lot of people that I know that he felt deserved to get in before he did,” Terri said. “Everybody that knew him knew how he was, that he was a very humble person.
“At the beginning of the Hall of Fame he knew then that he was on the first list, he found out about three months before he was told he had cancer. He was aware of the fact that he was on the list for the Hall of Fame, so somewhere tonight he’s saying, fantastic, I’m sure. We all know the smile that he’d have on his face, and there’s certainly one on mine because I’ve been here for nine years waiting for this. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.”
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