Robert “Red” Byron, who passed away in 1960 at the age of 45, was a part of NASCAR from the beginning. He won races quickly driving for car owner Raymond Parks. Byron competed with a special brace attached to the clutch to help with a World War II leg injury, one that contributed to the shortness of his two-year career but that he clearly overcame when facing the competition. His contributions to racing continued, though, as he worked to develop an American car capable of winning the 24 Hours of LeMans. Here’s a look at five reasons Red Byron could be a NASCAR Hall of Famer.
The impact of Byron’s early career was recognized by the sanctioning body in 1998. In celebrating its 50th anniversary, the group put Byron on its list of the 50 greatest drivers in the sport’s history.
Byron’s interest in NASCAR continued in 1950. Though he only entered four races, he finished in the top four in three of them. He ran only a handful of races in 1951 as well, then turned his attention to the other side of racing. Byron was striving to gain new heights once more in developing an American car capable of winning the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans when he died in 1960.
NASCAR Hall of Fame/NASCARHall.com
In 1949, NASCAR formed the Strictly Stock Division that would go on to become the modern-day Sprint Cup Series. Driving for team owner Raymond Parks, Byron ran in six of the eight series races that season. He won two and finished third in two others to win the championship. His net winnings that season? $5,800.
Byron’s talent and car were too much for the competition to match in the opening season of NASCAR racing. Byron won the first NASCAR title ever, in the Modified Division in 1948.
First to be first
Byron, a native of Anniston, Ala., enjoyed a brief but impressive NASCAR career. In 1948, as stock cars took to the Daytona Beach road course, Byron accelerated past the competition to win the first-ever NASCAR race.