From The Vault, Raymond Parks
by Tom Jensen April 29, 2022
Photographs donated to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Permanent Collection by Raymond Parks’ widow give insight into the earliest days of stock-car racing.
One of the most fascinating stories in the NASCAR Hall of Fame belongs to the late Raymond Parks, who was inducted in 2017.
The oldest of 16 children, Parks left his home in Dawsonville, Georgia, at age 14 to go work at a still. He became a hugely successful entrepreneur, running illegal moonshine, and a number of legitimate business ventures, including supplying gaming and vending machines to bars, owning and operating service stations and convenience stores., and real estate.
Parks began fielding race cars in the late 1930s. After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, Park returned home to his native Georgia and quickly re-immersed himself in the world of stock car racing. Parks attended the NASCAR organizational meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach in 1947 and became friends with and an early supporter of NASCAR founder William H.G. France (2010).
Working with driver Red Byron (2018) and mechanic Red Vogt, Parks was a championship car owner in each of NASCAR’s first two seasons, taking the Modified Division title in 1948 and the Strictly Stock Division crown a year later.
After winning his second title, Parks scaled back his racing activities to focus on his Atlanta business empire. After his passing in 2010 at the age of 96, his wife Violet Parks, generously donated the family’s photos to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Permanent Collection. All the photos presented here are from the family photo collection.
NASCAR has long been a family affair, and even before NASCAR was formed racers in the Southeast knew that Raymond Parks fielded some of the fastest cars around, which allowed him to attract top-notch talent to drive his race cars.
William H.G. France, a/k/a “Big Bill,” wore a lot of hats in the 1940s, doing whatever it took to get stock-car racing off the ground. The NASCAR founder was a tireless promoter, publicist, race official and race organizer. He was also a race-car driver who sometimes piloted Parks-supported cars.
Long before NASCAR started racing, Raymond Parks was a championship team own. In 1941, Parks fielded the pre-war Ford Coupe that his cousin, Roy Hall, drove to the 1941 AAA stock-car championship.
In the early days of stock-car racing, team owners faced many of the same difficulties they do today: It cost money race and it cost even more if you wanted to field a car capable of winning. And when a race went bad, things cost expensive in a hurry.
Without question, Raymond Parks and his team were the ones to beat each time NASCAR raced in its first two years. Both of Parks’ NASCAR championship trophies are on display in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Whelen Hall of Champions.
Atlanta was a hotbed for stock-car racing in the sport’s earliest days, and the challenging Lakewood Speedway – which actually had a huge lake in the infield – was a popular spot for competitors.
With championships in two different divisions of NASCAR in the sanctioning body’s first two years of existence, the team fielded by Raymond Parks for driver Red Byron was NASCAR’s first true powerhouse.
...The team fielded by Raymond Parks for driver Red Byron was NASCAR’s first true powerhouse.
— Tom Jensen
In 1949, Oldsmobile introduced its revolutionary overhead-valve V-8, one of the most powerful engines offered by Detroit’s Big Three automakers. Red Byron used a Red Vogt-prepared, Raymond Parks-fielded Oldsmobile to win the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock Division championship.
Raymond Parks and Red Byron participated in the 1950 Carrera Panamericana, a treacherous road race across Mexico that saw numerous accidents and mechanical failures among the competitors.
Like a lot of young American men, Raymond Parks had his career interrupted by World Wat II. The Georgia native served in the U.S. Army’s 99th Infantry Division and took part in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the war’s decisive confrontations.
Plan your visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and purchase tickets by visiting nascarhall.com/tickets.