ROBERT "RED" BYRON

Robert "Red" Byron holds a record that can never be broken: he was the first NASCAR points champion. Byron was born in Boulder, Colorado but moved to Anniston, Alabama at an early age. He began racing in 1932 in unorganized races at a little-known track at Talladega.

During World War II Byron served as a tail gunner on 57 missions in a B-24. He was shot down over Kikta in the Aleutian Islands on his 58th mission -- one he flew for a friend whose wife was expected to give birth to their first child at any moment. Although the doctors did not know if he would ever walk again, Red was determined to race.

After 27 months in military hospitals with doctors trying to rebuild his left leg, Red returned to racing in February 1946 at Seminole Speedway near Orlando, Florida in a car owned by LLOAR Director Raymond Parks. With his badly damaged leg in a steel stirrup bolted to the clutch, Byron posted a win over some impressive competition: Roy Hall, Mad Marion McDonald, Bob and Fonty Flock, Bill Snowden, and Bill France.

Byron's next start was the Daytona beach-road race in April. He chased Roy Hall for the first half of the 50-lap race. Around the 16th lap the tide started coming in, and Hall, knowing that the harder the sand the faster the car, ran with his right tires in the water. On lap 19 Hall's car veered toward the fans in the North Turn. He quickly turned to the right and went into the surf. Moments later he was back in the race, but Byron had passed him.

After a short career in AAA cars, Byron returned to stock cars in 1947 and won half of his 18 races. Although he competed in less than half of the races that year, he finished third in points.

Red won the first NASCAR-sanctioned race on the beach-road course on February 15, 1948. He won 11 races that year, finished in the top three 23 times, and captured the first NASCAR championship.

Red retired from racing in the early 1950's to head a sports car racing team. He died in 1960 and was inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1966. In 1998 he was named one of the top 50 NASCAR drivers.