Officials announced today that Bristol Motor Speedway's March 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will have a new name this season. In honor of Jeff Byrd, the late Bristol President and General Manager who passed away last October, the Food City 500will be renamed the Jeff Byrd 500, Presented by Food City.
"Jeff Byrd was more than a business partner, he was a true friend to our company, our associates and to me and my family personally,” said Food City President and CEO Steven C. Smith. “He spent years putting his guests first and instilling that attitude in his team.
“We are all convinced that Jeff absolutely would not have wanted us to do this, as his focus was always on keeping the guests and sponsors of Bristol Motor Speedway front and center. But that’s one of the reasons that this time, we’re putting Jeff out front. It’s only natural to honor someone who worked so hard to build this facility, this sport and this region.”
Bristol Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell said he was speechless when Smith made the offer to honor Byrd, who guided BMS and its employees for 15 years. “Right after we agreed to the partnership extension, Steve looked me right in the eye and said ‘What are we going to do to honor Jeff?’” said Caldwell. “I told him we were talking about some different things and wanted to know what he had in mind. He said ‘I want to name the race for him.’
“I was blown away. Here was a guy who had just agreed to a three-year contract extension -- and that’s not free -- offering to give up the race name for a year. I absolutely didn’t know what to say."
Darrell Waltrip, the winningest driver in the history of Bristol Motor Speedway with 12 trophies was in Bristol for the announcement. “I knew Jeff Byrd for years,” said Waltrip. “I first met him when he was with R.J. Reynolds and then our friendship grew when he took over this place. For a sponsor to do something like this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen, and I am glad I was here to be a part of it.”