June 5, 1914 – June 20, 2010 Age: 96
Home: Dawsonville, Georgia
NASCAR pioneer Raymond Parks dies
NASCAR pioneer Raymond Parks, who was owner of the car that won its first championship, has died at the age of 96.
Parks was the last living member of the group that formed NASCAR in 1947 in a hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla.
"The NASCAR community is saddened by the passing of Raymond Parks. Raymond was instrumental in the creation of NASCAR as a participant in the historic meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach. He was also our first championship owner. Raymond is a giant in the history of NASCAR and will always be remembered for his dedication to NASCAR," NASCAR chairman Brian France said in a statement.
Parks teamed with mechanic Red Vogt to produce championship-caliber equipment, and in 1948 his driver, Red Byron, won the modified championship. Then in 1949, Parks and Byron again teamed up to win the Strictly Stock -- the predecessor to today's Sprint Cup -- title.
Raymond Parks, owner of NASCAR's first championship winning car and an integral part of the series' formation, has died. He was 96.
NASCAR said Parks passed away at his home Sunday morning in Atlanta. Parks, who was confined to a wheelchair, attended a reception May 20 for the induction of the inaugural Hall of Fame class and was warmly received throughout the industry that evening.
"It was good for the industry and so many current fans to see the man in person," NASCAR president Mike Helton said at Infineon Raceway, site of Sunday's race. Helton called Parks "the heart and soul or the spirit that got NASCAR started."
Parks was the last living member of the group of men who created NASCAR in 1947 during a meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla. He fielded the car that Red Byron drove to the inaugural Cup Series championship in 1949, NASCAR's first season of competition.
"Raymond was instrumental in the creation of NASCAR as a participant in the historic meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach," NASCAR chairman Brian France said. "Raymond is a giant in the history of NASCAR and will always be remembered for his dedication to NASCAR."
Born in Dawsonville, Ga., in 1914, Parks left home when he was 14 years old and began running moonshine, which earned him a nine-month stint in the federal penitentiary in Chillicothe, Ohio, from 1936 to 1937 on conspiracy charges.
Parks later became a legitimate businessman, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II as part of the 99th Infantry Division.
His business success was built through real estate ventures, vending machines, gas stations and convenience stores, and some of his properties were later sold to Georgia Tech.
His NASCAR career began as owner of the first elite race team, which was built with mechanic Red Vogt and Byron behind the wheel. His teams ran only four seasons in the Cup Series - 1949, 1950, 1954 and 1955 - getting two wins, 11 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 18 events.
Parks at times fielded cars for Fonty Flock and Curtis Turner before eventually pulling out of the sport.
The Hall of Fame, which opened last month, features several of Parks' donated trophies.
"I'm proud of my involvement in NASCAR over the years and with the opportunity to partner with the NASCAR Hall of Fame," Parks said in a statement when he donated his collection last year.
Parks was not among the inaugural five members inducted into the Hall of Fame last month.
"It would have been really nice if he had lived until he had gone into the Hall of Fame," said team owner Rick Hendrick. "His contribution to this sport was so, so great that would have been really cool for that to have happened."
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press
Funeral Pictures - Courtesy Eddie Spurling
Raymond Parks (June 5, 1914 – June 20, 2010) was the owner of Red Byron's car which won NASCAR's first Strictly Stock (now Cup) championship in 1949.
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. Born in Dawsonville, Georgia, Raymond was the oldest of his father's sixteen children, six of whom were born to Leila, and ten of whom were born to Leila's sister, Ila. Parks left home at age 14 and began driving moonshine. He served nine months of a one-year and one-day sentence in the federal penitentiary in Chillicothe, Ohio, from 1936 to 1937. Parks served in World War II during the famous Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He served in the 99th Infantry Division and was briefly stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Most famous for being a moonshine runner who helped to start NASCAR, Parks was the car owner for moonshine runner and nephew Lloyd Seay. He won the first two ever NASCAR championships. Parks was the last living member of the group who created NASCAR at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1947, but June 20, 2010 Parks died at age 96.
He was one of eight drivers inducted in the first class of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in 2002, along with his cousin Lloyd Seay, Byron, Tim Flock, and Bill Elliott. He was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2009.
Parks Timeline - 1938-1955 Car Owner
- 1938 Wins first race at Lakewood (GA), 1934 Ford, driver Lloyd Seay
- 1939-1942 With drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall won races on one-mile and longer length tracks, fastest speeds for long tracks and ranked one and two in the national rankings
- 1942-1945 Member of the 99th Infantry Division of the US Army
- 1945-1950 Cars driven by Red Byron and Bob Flock
- 1947 Car wins the Modified Championship, 1939 standard coupe, driver Fonty Flock
- 1948 Repeats Modified Championship, driver Red Byron
- 1949 Wins first NASCAR Championship driver Red Byron
- 1995 Inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame at Darlington
- 1996 Inducted into the Jacksonville Raceways Hall of Fame
- 2002 inducted in the first class of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame
- 2009 inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame
Send Other Park Award Info Here
The Godfather of Stock Car Racing
Written by Gerald Hodges — The Racing Reporter Thursday, December 14, 2006
In every sport, there are those who excel and become synonymous with their given profession.
If one were to list the all-time greats in stock car racing, 91-year-old Raymond Parks of Atlanta, Ga., though originally from the hills of north Georgia, would be at the top.
Bill France is often referred to as the founder of NASCAR, but that is a myth. A mechanic named Red Vogt, who worked for Parks in Atlanta, is the one who suggested the name, according to his son, Tom Vogt.
In a 2000 interview, Parks said France often called on him for advice and money in the 1940s and early ’50s.
Stock car racing didn’t have its origins with NASCAR. It is a Southern sport that came into being during the Great Depression. Folks who lived in rural areas couldn’t travel into the cities for a baseball game or movie, simply because there weren’t enough large towns.
The roads were rough, transportation was limited, and since smaller towns rarely had a theater, families were forced to visit, or sit around home.
For those people who were lucky enough to live near an enterprising farmer who would turn a cow pasture or empty field into a racetrack, then they had something extra and exciting to watch on Sunday.
“Had I stayed in north Georgia, I would surely have wound up like some others, including kinfolks, as a drunk, or in prison,” said Parks.
Parks’ first brush with the law occurred near Dawsonville, Ga. He was stopped by the local sheriff and spent three months in jail for hauling corn liquor in his family’s 1926 Model T Ford, when he was just 14 years old.
After being released, Parks left home and worked hard in the whiskey-making business in the hills between Dawsonville and Atlanta, and saved his money.
Two years later, at the request of an uncle, he moved to Atlanta to help run Hemphill Service Station. But it wasn’t just the idea of an honest job that appealed to Parks. His uncle also ran a part-time bootlegging business.
While NASCAR and the France family have attempted to distance themselves from those early moonshiners and rowdy race car drivers, they forget who started it all.
Within a couple years after arriving in Atlanta, Parks had made enough money through running and selling illicit alcohol and the numbers racket to buy out his uncle.
Even though Parks was never caught in the act of moonshining or racketeering, the Atlanta police arrested several of his carriers and runners. Parks along with one of his workers, “Bad Eye” Shirley, pleaded guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence.
The pair spent a year in the same federal penitentiary in Chillicothe, Ohio, that Junior Johnson would later wind up in. Parks and “Bad Eye” were released in 1937.
Parks’ racing career began in 1939 after being encouraged by two of his cousins, Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall, who often hauled moonshine. Both were also anxious to test their driving skills in the races that were springing up around Atlanta and north Georgia.
Drivers who were in the business of delivering illegal whiskey didn’t know they were also “in training.”
Desiring to help Seay and Hall, Parks went looking for the best mechanics he could find. He finally located two men who many considered the best in the business. They were Red Vogt and Buckshot Morris.
Vogt’s garage on Hemphill Avenue in Atlanta was soon to become the headquarters for drivers needing that extra edge in their racing machines.
“Racing was a lot different back then,” continued Parks. “It was really just getting started. I guess Lakewood (near Atlanta) was the first real track that we raced on. There were dozens of other tracks that would spring up in pastures or on farms, with just some fence wire separating the fans from the racing.
“Sunday afternoon was a time that most people relaxed. It was normal for those who had fast Fords or other type moonshine cars to want to get together. They might decide to go out on a highway outside of town and see who had the fastest car.
“Other times, they would find some farmer that would let them go out in his pasture. Maybe it was one or two cars, but usually it was several. And when the cars revved up, the local people would always be there.”
Parks won his first race in 1938 at Lakewood (Ga.), with Lloyd Seay as his driver in a 1934 Ford.
Seay and Hall each won their share of racing, but Seay died on Sept. 2, 1941, after being shot in the stomach, apparently after an argument over a moonshine deal.
World War II shut down Parks’ operations and after serving in Europe with the 99th Infantry Division, he was discharged in 1946, and returned to racing.
Because of his successful business, Parks Novelty Co., which included slot machines, jukeboxes, pool tables and cigarette vending machines, Parks was able to fund his racing ventures better than anyone else at the time.
“Red (Vogt) was one of the best racing mechanics I’ve ever known,” said Parks. “He did all the work and whenever he thought we needed anything, the money was there.”
His other drivers included Red Byron, NASCAR’s 1949 champion, Bob Flock, Frank Mundy and Curtis Turner.
Roy Hall won a June 30, 1946, stock car race at Daytona. Bill France, who was driving at the time, said, “Give that boy some tools and he could make a covered wagon do 60.”
At the end of the 1951 season, Parks called it quits.
“It was money, that’s what it was,” said Parks. “I loved racing, but I had to make a living. My business was doing well, but I was splitting the purses with the drivers and paying all the expenses, including parts, and my money was coming up shorter each week.”
As long as drivers race for a NASCAR championship, Parks will be remembered as the man whose cars won the first title.
During a 1994 interview, Dale Earnhardt Sr. called Parks “the sport’s unsung hero.”
Parks was always a “gentleman” car owner. He owned some of the best cars built just before and right after World War II, and the impact he had on forming NASCAR was great.
Raymond Parks still goes to work every day, even though he doesn’t need to. Most of his legitimate businesses have been sold, except the one liquor store. Stacked throughout the offices are trophies, banners and plaques of races his cars won.
Laying on desks and tables are albums filled with photographs and other memorabilia.
“At the time, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” said Parks. “I might have had a vision, but I certainly never saw where NASCAR was going. It surpassed anything I imagined. I’m just glad to have been in it at the beginning.
“If there’s one thing I regret, it’s the way NASCAR has tried to distance itself from those early drivers. Some of them were as rough as the liquor they hauled, but I always respected them.”
If it hadn’t been for Raymond Parks and a few others, NASCAR would not have survived those first few years.
He helped many other notable racers and deserves to be called, “Godfather of Stock Car Racing.”
Racing with Red Vogt
Red operated an Atlanta garage, maintained race cars for several owners, and built racing engines for many other owners. His cars won untold races on tracks in many small towns on the modified circuit. Those fortunate drivers, who were the envy of all racers, included stock car drivers Roy Hall and Lloyd Seay.
"Driving with the Devil"
A new book, takes you back to those heady days of the Depression when NASCAR began and compares it to today's multimillion-dollar sport. They follow the lives of many of the daredevils who carried 'shine across Prohibition era county lines. Men like Bill France, "Red" Vogt, Roy Hall and Red Byron all were devotees of the hottest car on the road of the day, the huge engine Ford V-8. A mechanical wonder, it could be repaired and even souped up to outrun any cop on the road. It was only with the advent of the radio that the police could finally start to stop some of these rowdies. Escaping a dirt farmer's life was well worth it as the "sport" of outrunning the law paid handsomely and made millions for illegal alcohol.
A Young Raymond Parks
Raymond Parks Driver Red Byron
Fonty Flock in the Raymond Parks #14
Roy Hall, Driver, with the Red Vogt/Raymond Parks Special
Red Vogt Special - Roy Hall Daytona Beach Driver - North Turn
Lloyd Seay (L), Raymond Parks (Mid), Roy Hall (R)
NASCAR Founding Fathers at the Streamline Hotel, Daytona Beach 1948
Raymond Parks (4th from left standing) Big Bill France (Center, rear)
Raymond Parks with JB Day
Raymond Parks with Dale Earnhardt
Raymond Parks with Edsel Ford
Raymond Parks 92nd Birthday Party
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