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Curator's Corner / NASCAR 75th Anniversary

NASCAR’s First Super Team

A pair of trophies in the Whelen Hall of Champions are a testament to the talents of Red Byron, Raymond Parks and Red Vogt.

Every era of NASCAR has had dominant teams. Petty Enterprises, Holman-Moody Racing and Wood Brothers Racing in the 1960s and 70s, Junior Johnson & Associates in the 70s and 80s. Richard Childress Racing in the 80s and 90s, and more recently, Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, among others.

This is not a new phenomenon.

NASCAR’s first super team dates back to the days before the sanctioning body was officially incorporated 75 years ago.

In NASCAR’s first season of 1948, Red Byron drove this 1939 Ford Coupe, owned by Raymond Parks and prepared by ace mechanic Red Vogt. NASCAR Hall of Fame, Gift of Violet Parks

Team owner Raymond Parks (NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017), driver Red Byron (Class of 2018) and mechanic Red Vogt began racing – and winning - in the 1930s. World War II put U.S. auto racing on hold, but as soon as the war ended, the competition returned.

When driver-turned-promoter William H.G. France (Class of 2010) convened a meeting of stock-car racing stakeholders at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Dec. 14, 1947, Parks, Byron and Vogt were all there as participants. The meeting directly led to the creation of NASCAR. Vogt was credited with coming up with the sanctioning body’s name, an acronym for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

But it’s what the trio accomplished on the track that turned heads.

Car owner Raymond Parks amassed an impressive number of trophies in a very short time. NASCAR Hall of Fame, Gift of Violet Parks

In NASCAR’s first season of 1948, they raced pre-World War II Ford coupes in what was called the Modified Division (now NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour). Byron drove the Parks-owned, Vogt-prepared No. 22 Ford Coupe in 34 of 52 races that season, including the first sanctioned NASCAR race on February 15, 1948 on the old Daytona Beach-Road Course.

Byron won that first race on Daytona Beach and over the course of the 1948 season won 11 times and finished in the top five in 25 races. A victory in the final event of the year at Jacksonville, Florida, allowed Byron to edge Fonty Flock to become NASCAR’s first championship driver.

A brilliant mechanic, Red Vogt built high-performance engines for moonshine runners, law-enforcement officers and racers – anyone who wanted to go fast. NASCAR Hall of Fame, Gift of Violet Parks

The following year, NASCAR added another class, known then as the Strictly Stock Division, which over time evolved into today’s Cup Series. The 1949 Strictly Stock schedule was short, just eight races in five months from June to October. To compete in this division, Parks’ team switched from Fords to Oldsmobile 88 coupes powered by the innovative “Rocket 88” overhead-valve V-8 engines.

Once again Byron won the series championship on the strength of a pair of race wins on the Daytona Beach-Road Course and at Martinsville Speedway, as well as four top-five finishes in six starts.

Red Byron barreled through one of the tight turns on the Daytona Beach-Road Course en route to victory in the 1949 Strictly Stock Division race. NASCAR Hall of Fame, Gift of Violet Parks

Two years, two different series, two Daytona race victories, two championships.

Raymond Parks, the oldest of 16 children and a millionaire businessman in Atlanta, provided the team with the resources to win.

Red Vogt, who could squeeze ever bit of power out of any engine, built the fastest cars in the sport’s earliest days.

And Red Byron, nearly crippled after an onboard explosion during a bombing mission over the Aleutian Islands during World War II, drove like a man possessed.

Add it all up and you had NASCAR’s first true super team, although not for long.

Car owner Raymond Parks (from left), mechanic Red Vogt and driver Red Byron were a formidable team in the late 1940s. NASCAR Hall of Fame, Gift of Violet Parks

After 1949, Parks would field cars in just 10 races between 1950 and ’55, while Byron raced in just nine events in 1950-51 before retiring permanently.

Although Parks, Byron and Vogt are longer with us, the two championship trophies the team won in 1948 and ’49 are part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Permanent Collection, on display in the Whelen Hall of Champions area of Heritage Speedway.

These priceless treasures are here for the education and entertainment of our guests, part of our mission to preserve the history and heritage of our sport.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.