Sad news out of Bristol this weekend, as Bristol Motor Speedway president/general manager Jeff Byrd passed away following a long illness.
Byrd started as a sportswriter for the Winston-Salem Journal, then moved to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. before joining Speedway Motorsports to operate Bristol.
Byrd had run the track since 1996, when Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased the facility. Bristol became one of NASCAR's signature tracks, with its night race being a must-visit for all NASCAR fans.
Charlotte Motor Speedway offered a pre-race tribute to Byrd on Saturday night, and recollections from his fellow presidents and other NASCAR notables have been pouring in.
"He had such a passion for this business ... and was determined to help take our sport to another level," said Martinsville president W. Clay Campbell. "That determination carried over to his leadership at Bristol Motor Speedway. He was a guy that was just always a pleasure to be around. He had that kind of personality. He will be missed but not forgotten."
"Jeff Byrd was as important to making NASCAR popular as Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison, Tony Stewart and the rest," Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said. "They made fans on the track, but so many fans supported the sport because of Jeff's ideas, hard work, passion, leadership and creativity behind the scenes."
"From his days as a sports writer to his time at R.J. Reynolds to the last 14 years, Jeff Byrd was one of the greatest promoters both stock car and drag racing has known,” Speedway Motorsports chairman Bruton Smith said. "To say his passing leaves a void would be an understatement. Simply put, Jeff got it. He understood that more than what happened on the track, it was the experience that fans took home with them that stayed in their memories."
Our condolences to Byrd's friends and family. Here's hoping the energy and vision he brought to Bristol can continue to spread across NASCAR.