BENNY PARSONS' "24" The 1976 24 Hours of Daytona was chock full of talent with names like Peter Gregg, Al Holbert, Hurley Haywood (not teamed with Gregg), Alex Job, Gilles Villeneuve, David and Larry Pearson, Richard Childress and a few...
BENNY PARSONS' "24"
The 1976 24 Hours of Daytona was chock full of talent with names like Peter Gregg, Al Holbert, Hurley Haywood (not teamed with Gregg), Alex Job, Gilles Villeneuve, David and Larry Pearson, Richard Childress and a few British chaps among who were Tom Walkinshaw, Brian Redman, John Fitzpatrick and David Hobbs.
With six cars, manufacturer Porsche dominated the top-10 finishers. Corvette and Ferrari each contributed one car. The aforementioned first-place-finishing BMW had two sister cars, one of which bookended the group with its 10th-place finish.
Driving that factory-entered No. 24 BMW 3.5 CSL were Hobbs and 1973 Winston (now Nextel) Cup champion and 1975 Daytona 500 winner Benny Parsons.
At the time it wasn't unusual for a team to use only two drivers -- 26 of 72 teams had only two drivers that year.
"It was a time when men were men; pretty doggone tired men when that race was over," Parsons chuckled while recalling the race for me a few years ago.
"We had the BMW factory behind us and one of our teammates was Peter Gregg, who had won the 24 the year before. BMW made it clear they didn't just want to beat Porsche, but stomp 'em and were pulling out all the stops with the three cars they had there. They wanted a one, two, three.
"I don't know, somewhere around dark-thirty, we were one, two, three, with Gregg and them in front, Tom Walkinshaw and Fitzpatrick in second and me and David in third. Later on, we lost an hour-and-a-half in the pits and a ton of laps when our transmission went out.
(Note: with Walkinshaw sidelined on the course with a broken distributor that only he was allowed to fix, in the early-morning hours Fitzpatrick was moved over to the No. 59 BMW when Gregg became ill.)
"There was a lot of controversy in that race when they stopped it in the morning, after the sun had been up, and rolled back the clock after water got into a bunch of fuel tanks. Back then you could fill your gas cans at the track's gas station or have a truck come by and fill 'em up. We had ours filled on pit road and the truck got water in it somehow. It was a mess.
"Anyway, when everything was said and done, BMW had its win and David and I came in tenth."
"I came out of it realizing it was a challenge I wasn't going to do again. I was so doggone tired that there was times I thought toothpicks couldn't have kept my eyes open. But, I'd get in that car and forget all about being tired. Racin's racin', man.
"Of all that went on, there's one thing I really remember about that race.
"I've seen the sun rise a few times in my life for a lot of reasons," Parsons said with a sly grin.
"But that was one time when for sure it felt really, really good. It was a long night and I'll never, ever forget the feeling I had when I felt that sun in my face that morning. Man, it felt so good. Made me feel great to be alive, I'll tell you."
In about 10 days, when this year's Rolex 24 sun comes up, I'll be thinking of you, Benny.
-- DC Williams, Written Exclusively for Motorsport.com