1973 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Benny Parsons, 65, passed away Tuesday at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

Parsons, who became an award-winning television and radio personality after retiring from driving in 1988, entered the hospital Dec. 26 as the result of complications stemming from his battle with lung cancer.

Born July 12, 1941, in Wilkes County, N.C., Parsons spent his childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains and, after graduating high school, moved to Detroit, Mich., where his father operated a taxicab company. Parsons worked as a gas station attendant and taxicab driver during the early stages of his racing career.

He captured back-to-back ARCA stock car championships in 1968 and 1969 and joined NASCAR's premier circuit full-time in 1970 where his first victory came in 1971 at South Boston Speedway.

Parsons captured the 1973 championship in dramatic fashion as crew members from numerous teams literally rebuilt his car that was heavily damaged in an early race crash during the season finale at North Carolina Motor Speedway. He returned to the track and completed enough laps to edge Cale Yarborough for the title.

Parsons went on to record 21 victories, including the 1975 Daytona 500 and the 1980 Coca-Cola 600, in a 21-year career that included 283 top-10 finishes in 526 starts.

Even before hanging up his helmet in 1988, Parsons dabbled in the broadcasting industry, setting the stage for a very successful post-driving career.

He became a popular figure on NASCAR telecasts, first with ESPN and most recently with NBC and TNT. Parsons also hosted Performance Racing Network's "Fast Talk with Benny Parsons."

Parsons was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994 and became a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2005. He was selected as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

Survivors include his mother Hazel Parsons; wife Terri Parsons; sons Keith and Kevin Parsons; brothers Steve and Phil Parsons; sister Patty Severt; and granddaughters Emily and Libbie Parsons.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Connie E. Parsons Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 443, Ellerbe, NC 28338; Victory Junction Gang Camp; or the Blumenthal Cancer Research Center.