Johnny Parsons, Ricky Nix Ride Into Sunset at DuQuoin

Time is the one thing in this universe that is unstoppable. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we can't stop or even slow the progress of the clock and the calendar. Eventually all of us bow to Father Time. Such is the case for one of the best to ever drive a dirt track racecar in America and his car owner.

Sixty four year old Johnny Parsons of Speedway, Indiana and long time car owner Ricky Nix of Benton, Illinois have decided it is time to walk off in the sunset, together. Rumors had circulated that this could be the last year for the pair who had always indicated they would go out together. Nix denied the rumors earlier in the year but it appears that the two decided after the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield the time to step aside was right.

"It is time to let the achievements rest," said Parsons to USAC VP of Communications Dick Jordan earlier this week. "I've had a great time in racing, especially at DuQuoin, and though I won't be driving I will still be involved." To say that DuQuoin is special to the man known as 'JP' would be an understatement.

Born in Van Nuys, California to 1950 Indianapolis 500 winner Johnnie Parsons and wife Arza on August 26, 1944, he eventually became a stepson to fellow championship car driver Duane Carter and half brother to Pancho and Dana Carter after Arza and Parsons divorced and she married the elder Carter. 'JP' began his racing career on the west coast in midgets and sprint cars including a stint in the tough California Racing Association before heading to the Midwest for a try at USAC competition. The former Los Angeles police officer caught on very quickly.

It wasn't long before Johnny earned a ride in the national championship division coming to Indianapolis in 1969 but not earning a position in the 33-car field. He did secure a ride with Joe Hunt later in the year and made his first national championship dirt track start at Sacramento where he started 14th and finished 7th. In fact, he took the Hunt upright dirt car and ran it on the road course at Riverside at the Rex Mays 300 later in the year! Parsons earned a rid in 1970 in rear engine championship cars and the mighty upright dirt cars. "Boston Louie" Seymour had a Chevrolet powered machine that Parsons took to 16th at Springfield, 12th at DuQuoin but then he stunned the world by setting the car on the pole for the 1970 Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The year was 1970, the last year that the dirt cars were part of the American National championship and a time when most cars, including that of Seymour, had nothing more than a roll bar to protect the driver.

Over the years 'JP' has posted numerous wins in midgets, including the Hut 100 at Terre Haute and the Belleville Midget Nationals, sprint cars and of course USAC Silver Crown championship dirt cars. His first Silver Crown win came on the pavement at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1991 with Gene Nolen's V-6 after 20 years of trying to win in the division. Parsons gave the Nolen-Neibel V-6 it's first 100-mile dirt track win when he set a world 100 mile record on the mile at DuQuoin in 1992, and he gave the Hoffman family it's first 100-mile dirt track win at the same facility in 1995.

The "Magic Mile" at DuQuoin has been very kind to Johnny Parsons. He won twin 50 mile USAC midget races in 1971 driving for L. Gene Hamilton. In addition to the two Ted Horn 100 wins, Parsons has led 232 laps at DuQuoin placing him sixth on the all-time lap leader list. 'JP' already leads at DuQuoin in USAC Silver Crown Series starts with 24 and should he make the Ted horn 100 Sunday night he will become the all time leader in starts of the Ted Horn 100 at 26, breaking a tie with George Snider. Parsons is the oldest race winner at DuQuoin, his 1995 victory came at the age of 51 and he will leave DuQuoin just a few months shy of becoming the oldest driver to ever start the 100-mile grind.

Parsons started 12 Indianapolis 500 mile races, finishing 5th in 1977 and 1985. He has held various track records on the mile dirt tracks at Indianapolis and DuQuoin and remains not only the last active driver from the first season of USAC Silver Crown (Dirt Track) racing in 1971, but the last active driver to have driven an upright dirt car while the dirt tracks were still a part of the national championship series in 1970.

Parsons has not slowed down in recent years and the combination of he and Benton, Illinois owner Ricky Nix has provided some thrilling moments and good finishes. Parsons stunned a crowd at the Hoosier Hundred in 2001 when at the age of fifty-seven he took the Nix machine to the cushion and came from 21st to 1st only to have the machine begin faltering. Just last year he and the Nix car posted a top ten in the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield. Even two weeks ago at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Parsons was backing the car in and working the cushion with the 'kids' in practice before an accident took him out on lap 1 of the 100-mile main event.

Sunday August 31, 2008 marks the last appearance for Johnny Parsons and Ricky Nix with the USAC Silver Crown Series when they roll off for the 58th Ted Horn 100 at DuQuoin under the lights. Race fans may want to take a very good look as Labor Day weekend at the 43 car of Ricky Nix. When the driver steps out at the end of the evening it marks the end of an era.

-credit: usac