Raymond Parks: NASCAR's First Championship Owner Dies at the Age of 96.
Raymond Parks owned the car that won the first two NASCAR championships.
Parks’ cars, built by Red Vogt and driven by Red Byron won the first ever NASCAR championship in 1948. This championship was the first of what is now known as the Modified Division.
Opening photo: Racing Photo Archives/Getty Images
From left, car owner Raymond Parks, crew chief Red Vogt and driver Red Byron won the first NASCAR season title, in 1948; this class of cars is now known as the Modified Division.
Parks’ team won the 1949 championship in the new Strictly Stock Division, which is now NASCAR’s premier circuit, known as the Sprint Cup Series.
To illustrate the domination of Parks’ teams in that era, Rick Hendrick can be considered the Raymond Parks of today, while Chad Knaus can be considered today's Red Vogt.
Raymond Dawson Parks was born in Dawsonville, Ga., on June 5, 1914, the oldest of 16 children. Parks died at age 96, on Sunday (Father’s Day) June 20, 2010.
Parks was the first child of Alfred and Leila Parks and great-great-nephew of settler Benny Parks, who found gold in the state of Georgia in the early nineteenth century.
Parks served in the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. He returned to Atlanta after the war. He continued pursuing business ventures, with his Parks Novelty Machine Company sponsoring his championship winning cars.
The Parks Novelty Machine Company operated jukeboxes and cigarette and pinball machines in bars while Parks also pursued real estate investments, plus owning liquor stores and gas stations in the Atlanta area.
Parks in his later years, maintained ownership of one liquor store, and came to his office every day at the store. His deal with the drivers who drove for him in the 1930’s and 1940’s was that he split the winnings while he kept all the trophies.
The multitude of racing trophies was on display in his office.
In the months leading up to the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Parks loaned a number of his trophies to the Hall.
In May 2010 at the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Parks, while not in the inaugural class of inductees, was given the honors he deserved as the first championship owner of NASCAR.
Parks was as the last living attendee of the famous meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, which led to Big Bill France’s founding of NASCAR.
Parks’ not being in the first group of those inducted in NASCAR”S new hall seemed to follow a trend as Parks was honored, but not inducted, into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2008.
The IMHOF was founded by Big Bill France on the grounds of his Talladega racetrack.
Reporter Brandon Reed for MainStreet Newspapers, Inc, made the following comment:
"Back in April , 1949 NASCAR Cup champion Red Byron was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, Alabama.
As part of the induction, Raymond Parks, owner of Byron’s championship winning racecar, stood side-by-side with 2007 Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, both with their championship trophies.
They were joined shortly thereafter by all the past championship winning car owners and drivers who are members of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
It was a nice tribute to the history and heritage of stock car racing.
It was also very hypocritical.
That’s because Raymond Parks, often referred to as “The Godfather of NASCAR” is not currently a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame."
It appeared that the powers-that-be at the NASCAR HOF recognized the unfortunate slight given to Parks by their flawed voting methodology.
They have to be commended that they had the courage to honor Parks at the Grand Opening of the Hall.
It is to be hoped that Raymond Parks will finally get the recognition he deserves in 2011, but it will be too late for him to enjoy it.
Parks is survived by his wife, Violet; his brothers, Virgil, John and Walter; his sisters, Lucile, Aileen, Louise, Mary, Corene, Lorene, Genevieve, Gertie, Sally and Betty; three grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and five great-great grandchildren.
If the reader would like to read more on Raymond Parks please read my earlier article on Bleacher Report:
Raymond Parks: NASCAR's Double Inaugural Championship Car Owner.
Please also read my follow-up:
NASCAR HOF to Receive Part of Raymond Parks' Trophies.
I also recommend the book “Driving with the Devil” by Neal Thompson. Please go to the book page on the author’s web site were you will be able to read (for free) the first chapter of this outstanding book:
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