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Bristol boss Jeff Byrd....

  Bruton Smith's 'family' loses one of its best, Bristol president Jeff Byrd (far left). (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



    Jeff Byrd, who ran Bristol Motor Speedway for Bruton Smith since Smith's purchase of the legendary stock car track in 1996, passed away Sunday following a lengthy illness.
   He was 60.

   Byrd's NASCAR career began in the early 1970s as a journalist for the Winston-Salem Journal; he moved to R. J. Reynolds' sports marketing department in 1973, and from there to Bristol.
   Byrd is survived by his wife of 36 years, Claudia, daughter Belton Caldwell and her husband Jerry, son Christian Byrd and his wife Amy, seven grandchildren and an extended family of more than 70 fellow employees.
   Smith said "From his days as a sportswriter to his time at R.J. Reynolds to the last 14 years, Jeff Byrd was one of the greatest promoters both stock car and drag racing has known. To say his passing leaves a void would be an understatement.
   "Simply put, Jeff got it. He understood that more than what happened on the track, it was the experience that fans took home with them that stayed in their memories.
   "And those fans, and the people he worked with at Bristol Motor Speedway, were truly  like family to him. Because of the mindset that he possessed, Jeff  will stay in our hearts and memories forever."

  Bristol's Jeff Byrd, at 60 (Photo: Bristol Motor Speedway)

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