Benny Parsons’ Hall of Fame induction an emotional celebration

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Terri Parsons wasn’t going to watch the video honoring her late husband, Benny Parsons, as she stood backstage moments before accepting the honor of his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

She was afraid to watch the video Friday night because this had been such an emotional week.

Ten years ago Monday, Benny Parsons died. Now, four days later, NASCAR celebrated the 1973 champion with its highest honor, as he joined Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Raymond Parks and Mark Martin in the Hall’s eighth class.

In between those days were memories, stories, laughter and tears.

“It’s just been a roller-coaster ride,’’ Terri Parsons told NBC Sports.

This week brought a flood of friends, crew chiefs, crew members and drivers sharing stories of Benny. Some, Terri had never heard.

Martin told her about the time in 1978 that his dad contacted Benny to ask what they could do to help Martin’s chances of reaching NASCAR.

Benny told them to come to Ellerbe, North Carolina, and they’d talk. He took them to lunch and offered his advice.

“Can you imagine?’’ Martin told NBC Sports, recounting what the former champion did for him. “Yeah, come on down and I’ll take you to lunch. That’s unbelievable.’’

That was Benny, friends said.

Ricky Craven bought the farm Benny once owned. The conversation started when Craven won a pole award and Benny presented it. Craven said he wanted to buy the farm. A few weeks later, Craven won another pole and said the same thing to Benny.

Benny agreed to it. But what price? Benny said they would get someone to appraise the land and that would be the price Craven would pay. It’s a standard Craven says he’s used even these days when selling items to friends.

Perhaps one of the greatest signs of Benny’s impact on those around him was that 1973 season finale at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. He couldn’t avoid a wrecked car in front of him and tore off the right side of his car. His crew and others helped rebuild the right side so he could complete enough laps to win the title.

“You can’t say enough good about him,’’ said Waddell Wilson, the engine builder for Benny that championship season. “He was a gentlemen’s gentlemen. He was one you’ll never forget.’’

Brad Keselowski, who introduced the video segment on Benny, told Terri how Benny had been such an influence and hero to him.

She didn’t know that.

It’s not surprising. There are many more stories of Benny Parsons. A friend of those in the garage and an advocate for the fans, his popularity soared through his racing and TV career with ESPN, TNT and NBC. Fans embraced him, placing him on their Hall of Fame ballot each of the past six years, longer than any other nominee.

Backstage, Keselowski and Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett convinced Terri Parsons to watch the video. Soon the memories returned, seeing the smile and hearing that sweet, melodious Southern voice.

Then it was time for her to go on stage. The last thing she wanted to be was emotional.

As she stood before the crowded ballroom, Terri Parsons wanted to make sure everyone knew how important they were to Benny.

“The most important thing about tonight for him would be the people and especially the fans, understand how much they meant to him and how much he loved each and every one of you,’’ Terri Parsons said. “You all have such great stories, and tonight is really a celebration of his life. This is not sad, this is happy.  I’m the only one that’s sad.’’

Her voice quivered again.

When she exited the stage, she went to her seat on the front row with the other inductees. She sat down in front of seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

He rubbed her back and told her: “Terri, it’s fine. It’s good to show emotion.’’

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Driver-to-Driver with Jimmie Johnson: ‘I’ve got a lot to prove still’

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Jimmie Johnson is in his 17th year of full-time Cup racing and is in the midst the longest winless streak of his career at 42 races.

But the seven-time champion’s competitive drive is as strong as ever.

Johnson sat down with NBC Sports’ Dale Jarrett to discuss his career at this point in the latest edition of Driver-to-Driver.

“I can honestly say I spend more time now than I did my rookie year focusing on my job,” Johnson said. “I think that the support I have from my wife (Chandra), my kids are 7 and 4, to have them watch me be passionate about something has another meaning I didn’t anticipate coming. I’m lovin’ what I’m doing. I wish the results were a little better than what we have right now, but the process of what I’m going through is really fun.”

Hendrick Motorsports as a whole is in a slump. The team is in the middle of the second longest winless streak in its history at 35 races.

Johnson admits it’s hard to know when the right time will be for him to retire.

“The thing I can pull out of it is, don’t pick a number, make sure that fire’s gone out and that fire hasn’t gone out,” Johnson said. “The other thing that’s weighing on me, I don’t want to go out not at my fullest potential and not on my terms. The last thought that’s going to run through my mind is to walk away or, ‘Oh, it’s not going right, time to stop.’ Uh uh. I know I still got it. I’m going to go down swinging. I’ve got a lot to prove still.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

New Hampshire Cup race underway after rain delay

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The Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is underway after a three hour and 15 minute rain delay.

The race had been scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET.

Kurt Busch started from the pole and Martin Truex Jr. started second.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at New Hampshire

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver rediscovers his magic here and locks into the playoffs.

Dustin Long

Martin Truex Jr. wins back-to-back races for the first time in his career.

Daniel McFadin

Kevin Harvick earns a career-best sixth win of the season.

Dan Beaver

Martin Truex Jr. is getting into the same groove he had last year. This week he catches Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Next week, he starts to pull away,

Today’s Cup race at New Hampshire: Start time, lineup and more

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The Cup Series holds its only race of the year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today with the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301.

Kurt Busch starts on the pole and Martin Truex Jr. starts second.

Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jean Swift, treasurer of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Counsel, at 12:51 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 301 laps (318.46 miles) around the 1.058-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 35

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 11 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:05 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Vanessa Salvucci will perform the anthem at 12:45 p.m. The Canadian National Anthem will be performed by Kirk Young at 12:42 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 1 p.m. Coverage begins at noon with Countdown to Green on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at noon p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 70 degrees and a 78 percent chance of rain and storms at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Denny Hamlin won this race last year over Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch won the playoff race over Larson.

TO THE REAR: Landon Cassill (backup) and Michael McDowell (backup).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the complete starting lineup.