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OEM Report: Automotive

NASCAR honors Parks

By Meghan Boyer

July 2010 - Raymond Parks, the last living member who was present at the meeting that led to the formation of NASCAR, died June 20 at the age of 96. In addition to being present at that pivotal 1947 meeting in Daytona Beach, Fla., Parks' car, driven by Red Byron, won the sport's first race and championship, both in 1948. A year later, he became the first championship car owner of what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Born June 5, 1914, Parks was one of stock-car racing's earliest team owners, according to a NASCAR spokesperson. He began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938 and eventually partnered with mechanic Red Vogt to produce equipment that would dominate the sport in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Although Parks' team competed only four seasons in 1949, 1950, 1954 and 1955, his team produced two wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 events, notes the spokesperson. Parks retired from racing in the mid-1950s.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of the sport's true pioneers, Raymond Parks," Winston Kelley, NASCAR Hall of Fameexecutive director, said in a statement. "His role in the birth of the sport and his contributions to the sustenance and growth of NASCAR are immeasurable."

Although Parks was a NASCAR pioneer, he largely chose to stay in the background of the sport, Buz McKim, NASCAR Hall of Fame historian, said in a release. "The sport owes him a huge debt of gratitude for what he brought to NASCAR. Few realize he was not only a hero of racing but also an American hero. He spent more than 100 days in a foxhole during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. It is hard to imagine all he witnessed in his 96 years," he said.

Parks is honored as one of the founding fathers of NASCAR at the NASCAR Hall of Fame[www.nascarhall.com], Charlotte, N.C., with a life-size statue. The site also includes a replica of the shop Vogt used to prepare the machines Parks fielded for Byron in the beginning years of the sport and the actual car Parks owned that Byron drove to the inaugural championship in 1948.

Parks and his wife visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame prior to its opening in May, noted Kelley. "Among my most cherished memories is seeing Mr. Parks and Richard Petty visit the same day. At one point that afternoon, we unveiled Mr. Parks' statue. Richard stopped his tour to walk over and watch the unveiling. That simple gesture from the king of our sport really shows the respect that the NASCAR community has for Mr. Parks," he said. FFJ

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