Jeff Byrd, the late Bristol Motor Speedway president and general manager who is largely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential promoters in all of motorsports, was recently inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Byrd, who died in 2010 after a battle with cancer, was inducted by his family: Claudia Byrd, his wife and executive director of the Bristol chapter of the Speedway Children’s Charities; Christian Byrd, his son and executive director and GM of zMax Dragway; Belton Caldwell, his daughter; and son-in-law Jerry Caldwell, the current executive vice president and GM of BMS.
Jeff 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 United States: the National Hot Rod Association and International Hot Rod Association.
Bruton Smith hired Byrd to oversee BMS 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.
Also inducted were legendary Los Angeles drag racers Jeep and Ronnie Hampshire; Mooneyes founder Dean Moon; husband and wife speed shop owners Joe and 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 the famed Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach.
The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame is located at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida.