Ryan: The genial legacy of Benny Parsons and other Hall of Fame voting takeaways

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CHARLOTTE – The case for Benny Parsons’ Hall of Fame candidacy was illustrated best by the numbers – and not necessarily those the affable broadcaster and driver posted on track.

Parsons scored 21 victories in NASCAR’s premier series, including the 1975 Daytona 500, but his results weren’t overwhelming. In his 1973 championship season, Parsons finished on the lead lap only once (his victory at Bristol Motor Speedway). Fellow Hall of Fame candidate Ricky Rudd had two more victories in his career.

But Parsons made an enormous impression with his easygoing and genteel North Carolina hospitality, building strong friendships throughout the garage and helping build the strong bonds between others. Much has been made of car owner Jack Roush finding Greg Biffle solely because of Parsons, but the former NBC Sports broadcaster also had subtle and strong influences in virtually every NASCAR team.

While there aren’t definitive ways of calculating Parsons’ sway in the NASCAR industry, there are statistics that bear it out.

The leading vote-getter for the eighth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame garnered 85% of balloting, which is tied with Cale Yarbrough (2012) and trails only Bill Elliott (87%, 2015) and David Pearson (94%, 2011) for available total (there were no percentages released in the first year).

Just as telling is the support that Parsons received in the Hall of Fame discussion. Nearly two dozen voters spoke on behalf of candidates. Nearly half mentioned Parsons – more than any other candidate – and some told intensely personal and vividly detailed stories of how Parsons had affected the trajectory – always for the good — of their personal and professional lives.

Parsons was the Will Rogers of NASCAR but with a twist: Not only did the Ellerbe, North Carolina, native never meet a man he didn’t like, you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t like Parsons within the fiercely competitive world of racing.

“As a Daytona 500 winner and broadcaster, Benny loved a good story and loved sharing stories of the people that make this sport great,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said. “I’ll always remember him at the track, leaning up against a stack of tires and connecting with everyone who passed by. We were lucky to have him as the leader of NBC’s NASCAR team for six years.”

In the midst of celebrating his election Wednesday, fellow inductee Mark Martin went out of his way in an NBCSN interview to recall being a teenager who sought counsel from Parsons about a NASCAR career in the mid-1970s. Parsons invited Martin and his father to his home despite barely knowing them, and they talked for hours.

“He loved every job he ever had,” widow Terri Parsons told NBCSN on NASCAR America. “He didn’t care if it was working on taxi cabs or driving race cars, a commentator for TV or a radio announcer.

“Whatever job he was doing, he loved, and he loved the sport of NASCAR. Most of all, he loved that he was in a position that he could educate fans on questions that they always wanted to know the answer to but didn’t know who to ask. He definitely was in love with the sport of NASCAR, that’s for sure.”

Wednesday proved how much the NASCAR love affair was reciprocal.

Other thoughts on the Hall of Fame from a voter’s perspective:

–The new class will usher in two deserving team owners in Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress, but there remains a dire need for more crew chiefs and mechanics in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The last full-time crew chief to be inducted was Leonard Wood in 2013, and the only other true mechanic in the shrine is Dale Inman.

It’s inexplicable that Ray Evernham, who was voted the greatest crew chief in NASCAR history by a 2006 media poll and changed the face of NASCAR with fresh approaches to pit crews, setups and strategies, didn’t finish among the top eight in voting.

It also is hard to fathom why some mechanics such as Kirk Shelmerdine, Smokey Yunick and Jake Elder haven’t been up for nomination yet.

–Of the 58 voters (including an online fan poll), there were four who weren’t in the room Wednesday because they were recused from being on the ballot: Rudd, Robert Yates, Waddell Wilson and Ken Squier. There were several other voters who voted absentee Wednesday, leaving the room a few voices short of the usual 50-plus for the verbal discussion.

–Let’s hope the election of Childress and Hendrick puts to rest the fallacy that a candidate should be penalized for being active because “history still is being written.”

There was nothing left for Childress and Hendrick to achieve that would have made their resumes worthier of the Hall of Fame. Once someone is eligible for the Hall of Fame, the only criteria for induction should be what the candidate has accomplished, not whether they still are doing it.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”