Jeff Byrd, Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway (BMS) president and general manager, passed away Sunday following a lengthy illness. He was 60. Byrd had been at the helm of BMS since January 1996 when Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased the Bristol facility.
According to a statement released by the speedway, under Byrd's leadership, the track became the most popular venue on the NASCAR tour. Prior to his move to BMS, Byrd served 23 years in the sports marketing department at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., departing as vice president of business development. He began his career as a sportswriter at the Winston-Salem Journal.
A 35-year veteran in the sports marketing profession, Byrd was involved in the development and implementation of a multitude of sports and event marketing programs across the sports spectrum.
Byrd was involved with a number of charitable groups, and he and his wife Claudia organized and spearheaded the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities, a non-profit agency dedicated to aiding children in need in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
A community appreciation service for Byrd was held on Thursday, October 21, in the infield at Bristol Motor Speedway. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Jeff Byrd Foundation, c/o Kingsport Community Foundation, 625 Market St., Ste. 1400, Knoxville, TN 37902. Donations can also be made through the website, www.easttennesseefoundation.org.