Robert "Red" Byron (March 12, 1915 – November 11, 1960) was an American stock car racing driver, who was successful in NASCAR competition in the sanctioning body's first years. He was NASCAR's first Modified champion (and its first champion in any division) in 1948 and its first Strictly Stock (predecessor to Monster Energy Cup Seriues) champion in 1949. Along with Bob Flock, he is considered one of the best drivers of the era. He won the first NASCAR race at Daytona Beach and Road Course and won the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) driver's championship.
Born in Colorado he moved to Anniston, Alabama at an early age, Byron began racing in 1932 and was successful racing in Talladega by the start of the 1940s. His racing career was interrupted when he served in the United States Army Air Forces as a flight engineer during World War II. Byron's B-24 was shot at (not down) during the war and he suffered a serious injury to his left leg. The doctors helped partially help his leg, but he needed a special set up to race.
Before World War II, Byron raced in the AAA Indy series, mainly in Sprint Cars and Midgets. He achieved his first Stock Car victory in July, 1941, while on a two-day liberty from training with the USAAF, and with the war intervening, did not return to racing for five years.
When he returned from the war, Byron, limp and all, returned to racing, and with the help of race engineer Red Vogt was still successful. He won his first race following the war at Seminole Speedway, near Orlando, in 1946, beating Roy Hall and Bill France. In 1948, Byron became a part of the newly formed NASCAR Modified Series racing with Raymond Parks' team.
In 1949, Byron began racing in NASCAR's newly formed Strictly Stock series, which became the Grand National series, Winston Cup, and the modern-day Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. With Parks in tow, Byron was equally successful in the inaugural eight-race season. Just as in 1948, he won at Daytona Beach, and also won at a dirt track in Martinsville. Byron, as with his previous year in a modified, ended the year as the series' first champion.
Byron raced sparingly after his two championships. He owned a sports car racing team for much of the 1950s.
Life after driving
Declining health forced him to hang up his goggles in 1951, but he remained active in racing. He worked with Briggs Cunningham, who was trying to develop an American sports car that could win Grand Prix races, then become manager of a Corvette team with the same goal. Neither project succeeded, but Byron enjoyed sports cars.
On May 24, 2017, Byron was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2018.
When he died of a heart attack in a Chicago hotel room on November 11, 1960, at the age of 45, he was managing a team in the Sports Car Club of America competition.
Motorsports career results
(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)
Grand National Series
|NASCAR Grand National Series results|
Despite his brief career, he was selected to the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1966. In 1998, as part of NASCAR's 50th Anniversary celebration, he was selected as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers. He is announced as a 2008 inductee in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.