BRISTOL, TN- Jeff Byrd, the late Bristol Motor Speedway president and general manager and largely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential promoters in all of motorsports, was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame yesterday.
Byrd, who passed away in 2010 after a battle with cancer, was inducted by his family, including his devoted wife and executive director of Speedway Children’s Charities – Bristol chapter Claudia Byrd, son and executive director & GM of zMax Dragway Christian Byrd, daughter Belton Caldwell and son-in-law Jerry Caldwell, the executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway.
Byrd was inducted alongside legendary Los Angeles drag racers Jeep and Ronnie Hampshire, Mooneyes founder Dean Moon, husband and wife speed shop owners Joe & Dellie Reath, racer and promoter “Gentleman” Joe Schubeck, wheelstander founding father “Wild Bill” Shrewsberry, and Larry Sutton, a longtime chief starter at several Southern California dragstrips, most notably at famed Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach.
The group will forever be enshrined at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida.
Byrd made a huge impact on the sport of drag racing during his tenure as a senior executive with the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., whose Winston brand served as the title sponsor for touring series of the biggest drag racing sanctioning organizations in the U.S. – the National Hot Rod Association and International Hot Rod Association.
After leaving R.J. Reynolds, Byrd was hired by Bruton Smith to oversee Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway. Byrd guided a total rebuild of Bristol Dragway and returned the track to NHRA sanction. The dragstrip hosted two successful all-star events before joining the NHRA touring circuit as host of a National Event. The track’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals – held every Father’s Day weekend – continues to be one of the most anticipated events on the NHRA schedule for fans and race teams alike.
Courtesy: Bristol Motor Speedway