Benny Parsons’ racing career in NASCAR’s top series spanned two decades. The legend achieved just about everything one would want to in the top-tier division of stock car racing.
He is a former Daytona 500 winner, a former World 600 winner and most importantly, the 1973 Sprint Cup Series champion. But for what could be considered as the third or fourth year in a row, “BP” was snubbed of making the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame voting system has often been criticized by media and fans. Of course the all time greats, such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Junior Johnson are each first-ballot Hall-of-Famers.
The 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame class is very good but it could have been better.
The drivers who will be in the spotlight include Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, Bruton Smith, Curtis Turner and Terry Labonte. Each of them, in their own ways are deserving to be Hall-of-Famers.
Cook is a native New Yorker, who has 342 career Modified wins. He is also a six-time NASCAR Modified champion. Isaac is the 1970 Sprint Cup Series champion, and accumulated 37 wins in just 308 starts. Smith is the founder of Speedway Motorsports Inc, which includes tracks such as Charlotte, Bristol, Las Vegas and Sonoma.
Turner was labeled the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing,” and had 17 career wins in just 184 starts. Then there is Labonte, who is a two-time Sprint Cup Series champion, and earned himself the nickname “The Ironman” after starting in 665 consecutive Sprint Cup Series races.
“I didn’t know if I would be selected or not, I had no idea,” Labonte told Popular Speed. “But it was very exciting to find out that I was.”
Labonte is undoubtedly one of the best drivers in the last 30 years of NASCAR. However, after just retiring after the fall race at Talladega last season, it seems as though it’s too early for him to be inducted.
Yes, the newly acquired rule for eligibility into the Hall of Fame says that one is eligible when turning 55 years old. Another rule is if under the age of 55, one must wait three years until after retirement in order to be eligible.
Labonte could get into the Hall of Fame any year. It is debatable whether or not his numbers are first-ballot material. However, when there have been legends of the sport on the list for past five years, it seems as if they would be put in sooner rather than later.
Parsons has been on all seven ballots that have been nominated since the inaugural class in 2010. Well, the 2016 class has been decided and there is still no Parsons in the Hall of Fame.
His statistics speak for themselves. He is a 21-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He had 199 top-five finishes, as well as 283 top 10s finishes in 526 races.
Not only was Parsons one of the most feared racers on-track, but one of the best broadcasters auto racing has even seen.
When Parsons spoke, people listened. He was magnificent as an announcer and he spoke the truth.
The legend was often quoted with sayings like this, “While our drivers are probably not nearly in the physical condition of the NBA's All-Stars, the Daytona 500 is going to have 43 of the top drivers in the country, trained to drive at speeds in excess of 180 mph. Now that's intense. The NBA only has like 20 or 25 basketball players playing.”
For NASCAR’s sake, it would be better if Parsons had been inducted by now. Many current NASCAR stars such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brad Keselowski stand behind this as well. Keselowski came out in 2013 and said he thought Parsons would have been inducted for the 2014 class. That didn’t happen, and two years later and nothing has changed.
Parsons needs to be in the Hall of Fame. The sooner he is inducted the better, because everyone will be able to remember a true pioneer of auto racing for over the span of what is now the last four decades.