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Former NASCAR Champ Benny Parsons Has Lung Cancer

Former NASCAR champion Benny Parsons has been diagnosed with lung cancer and began chemotherapy treatments Wednesday.

Parsons, the 1973 Cup champion and currently a NASCAR commentator on NBC and TNT, was diagnosed two weeks ago after he had trouble breathing.

"Needless to say this was a huge shock," Parsons said. "The first thing everyone asks me is, 'Are you a smoker?' The answer is that I smoked my last cigarette way back in 1978, and since then I've hated being around smoking.

"I don't even allow anyone in my foursome to smoke on the golf course."

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The 65-year-old Parsons will undergo chemotherapy three days a week for three weeks, and also will receive radiation five days a week. He's seeing Dr. Steven Limenpani, who treated NASCAR car owner Rick Hendrick during his battle with leukemia in the early 1990s.

"I'm determined to pull through this and I appreciate everyone's concerns and prayers during this time," Parsons said. "Everyone I work with has been gracious and accommodating. I plan to keep on talking about racing for as long as I can."

Parsons plans to remain in the booth during his treatments.

"One of Benny's greatest qualities is how unconditionally supportive he is to the racing community," said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports. "Now it's our turn to provide that support to him. I ask all of his friends and fans to put him in their prayers tonight."

Parsons, chosen as one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998, made 526 starts from 1964 until his 1988 retirement. He won 21 races, including the 1975 Daytona 500, and 20 poles.

He also had 283 top 10 finishes, led at least one lap in 192 races and finished no lower than fifth in the points from 1972 to 1980 while earning more than $4 million.

Parsons was born in Ellerbe, N.C., but spent time in Detroit, where he worked at a gas station and a cab company owned by his father. When he first started racing, he often listed "taxicab driver" as his occupation on entry forms.

He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994, and the National Motorsports Press Association's Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame in 1995.

Parsons began his broadcasting career in the 1980s as a pit reporter for ESPN and TBS, when he was still racing a partial schedule. He moved into the booth for good in 1989 for ESPN and won a Cable ACE Award for best sports analyst.