Chuck Parsons (1924-1999) was an American racing driver who spent the most of his career in sports car competitions, mostly in North America but also recording few successful participations at Le Mans 24 Hours. The highlight of his career was a victory at Daytona 24 Hours in 1969.
Chuck Parsons next to his Lotus 23
Car salesman became race car driver at the age 31
Charles W. Parsons was born in Bruin, Kentucky, moving to California at the age 24. He was working as an automobile salesman and eventually owned his own car-sales company. He started his racing career relatively late, purchasing the first race car, an Austin-Healey 100-6 MM, at the age 31.
He was using an Austin-Healey in amateur races and SCCA events until 1958, switching to Porsche 356 Carrera GT in 1959. He was pretty successful in that car but, however, he switched to Lotus 15-Ferrari in the second part of the year. In 1960, he entered few events of the USAC Road Racing Championship.
Maiden USRRC victory in a Lotus at Laguna Seca
His next car was a Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage which he bought from Jim Hall in 1961, using it in the USAC Road Racing Championship. In 1963, Parsons switched to cheaper cars, using a Sunbeam Alpine in SCCA races and Lotus 23-Ford in USAC races. He scored his maiden USRRC victory at Laguna Seca in June 1963.
Parsons was using a variety of cars in the following years, such were Shelby Cobra, Genie Mark X-Chevrolet or McLaren Elva Mark II-Chevrolet.
Chuck Parsons' McLaren in 1966
United States Road Racing champion in 1966
The first great success for Chuck Parsons came in 1966 when he won the United States Road Racing Championship. He started a season in a Chevrolet-powered Genie Mark X, driving for Hilton Racing and scoring podiums at Las Vegas, Riverside and Laguna Seca. In July, he switched to McLaren Elva Mark II, scoring podiums at Kent and Mid-Ohio before a victory at the season-closing race at Road America.
After winning USRRC title, Parsons continued to use McLaren in the Canadian-American (Can-Am) Challenge Cup, scoring one podium to finish 8th in the points.
Le Mans 24h debut in 1967
In 1967, Parsons competed again in the USRRC and Can-Am races. He won the USRRC race at Road America driving a McLaren for Carl Haas, sharing a car with Skip Scott.
In June 1967, Parsons made a debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans, joining North American Racing Team (NART) to drive the #26 Ferrari 365 P2 alongside Pedro Rodriguez. They retired after 30 laps because of an accident.
In 1968, Parsons stayed with Carl Haas, driving a Lola T70 Mark III-Chevrolet and Lola T160-Chevrolet in the USRRC and Can-Am. For the third year in a row, he won at Road America.
Daytona victory celebration for Mark Donohue, actor James Garner and Chuck Parsons
Daytona 24h victory in 1969
In February 1969, Parsons scored probably the greatest success of his career, partnering Mark Donohue in an overall victory at Daytona 24 Hours. They were sharing the #6 Penske Racing Lola T70 Mark III. Parsons joined the team as the last-minute substitute for an injured driver and contributed to the victory in the greatest American endurance race.
He participated also at Sebring 12 Hours, sharing NART's Ferrari 250 P with Pedro Rodriguez but they were far from the top in the 47th place. Parsons continued to race with Carl Haas Racing Team in the Can-Am Challenge, finishing third in the championship points after four podiums in a Lola T162 or T163.
Chuck Parsons and Tony Adamowicz were sharing the #57 Ferrari at 1970 Le Mans 24h
1970 - DNF at Daytona, class podium at Le Mans
In 1970, Parsons started a year at Daytona 24 Hours, sharing NART's #25 Ferrari 512 S with Dan Gurney. They didn't finish the race. In March, Parsons and Mike Parkes finished sixth at Sebring 12 Hours in the #22 NART Ferrari 312 P.
In June 1970, Parson came to Le Mans with NART, sharing the #57 Ferrari 312 P with Tony Adamowicz. They finished the race, although with an unsufficient number of laps, in the tenth place overall and second among P3.0 crews.
Chuck Parsons was active until 1972
Retiring from racing at the end of 1972
In 1970, Parsons also competed in the Cam-Am Challenge with Lola, scoring no wins or podiums. The same situation was in the 1971 Cam-Am season when he was combining Lola and McLaren cars.
In 1971, Parsons recorded DNFs both at Daytona 24h and Sebring 12h, driving a Ferrari 512 S for NART. His last competitive season was 1972 when he recorded few Can-Am starts with Lola T160/163 and McLaren M8F.