Jeff Byrd, who was a visible friend to race fans as president and general manager of Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, died on Sunday after a length illness. He was 60.
Under his leadership, Bristol became one of the most popular tracks in NASCAR. He had led the speedway and its adjacent dragway since January 1996 when Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased the facility.
“From his days as a sportswriter 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,” said SMI Chairman and CEO Bruton Smith. “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. And those fans, and the people he worked with at Bristol Motor Speedway, were truly like family to him.
"Because of the mindset that he possessed, Jeff will stay in our hearts and memories forever."
Prior to joining BMS, Byrd served 23 years in the sports marketing department at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., departing as vice president of business development. He began his career as a sportswriter at the Winston-Salem Journal.
He is survived by his wife, Claudia, daughter, Belton Caldwell and her husband Jerry; son, Christian Byrd and his wife Amy; and seven grandchildren.
Funeral services remain incomplete.