With the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 ready to be inducted on Friday, five icons of the sport will be etched into the memories of fans for years to come. Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Mark Martin, Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick have all earned their place in the NASCAR history books, and they will join some of the past legends of NASCAR in the Hall on Friday.
One of the pioneers of NASCAR, Raymond Parks was the first successful owner, and one who helped pave the way for future owners and fellow Class of 2017 Hall of Fame Inductees, Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick.
From a nearby town of future Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, Parks was born on June 5, 1914 in Georgia. Parks started out life in the same way many of NASCAR’s pioneers did – he was a moonshiner. He spent nine months in a federal penitentiary in 1936, and continued to craft his liquor running even before getting into racing ownership.
Parks’ ownership career began long before NASCAR was formed. He was able to take advantage of his successful business model in real estate to stock car racing. He utilized the skills of drivers Roy Hall and Lloyd Seay, arguably two of the most successful stock car drivers before the NASCAR era.
It was in the late 1940s, though, when Parks garnered more of his public success with driver Red Byron. Parks and Byron won the first ever NASCAR championship in the Modified Series in 1948, and followed it up in 1949 by winning the first ever NASCAR Strictly Stock Series (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) race and championship. The pair won two races together before Byron had to retire due to his declining health in the early ‘50s.
Parks died on June 20, 2010 at the age of 96 in Atlanta, GA. He was, at the time, the last surviving person present at the meeting in the famous Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla. that helped form NASCAR in December 1947.
Parks only made 18 starts as an owner in Premier Series competition between 1949 and 1955, but the U.S. Army veteran packed a punch in a short time, and it was enough to earn him a well-deserved spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a NASCAR pioneer.