- Written by webmin
Too few people know it, but one of the most important single persons in the history of American auto racing passed away last weekend. Raymond Parks was the final surviving attendee at the 1947 meeting during which NASCAR was founded; he died in Atlanta just two weeks after his 96th birthday.
photo by Eddie Samples
People who really counted in big-time stock car racing were well aware of Parks’s enormous importance. Though NASCAR iconography solely credited Bill France Sr. with the association’s powerful growth, Parks opened his wallet again and again to keep France from foundering financially during NASCAR’s first years. Parks was a bootlegger, raised in Dawson County, Georgia, who later went legit through legal liquor sales, real estate and vending machines. He brought fellow Atlantan Red Vogt, the sport’s first superstar car builder, into the sport. With Vogt and driver Red Byron, Parks assembled NASCAR’s first championship-winning team.
Because Parks made a lot of his fortune on the other side of the law, NASCAR was less than generous in recognizing what he did, especially monetarily, to keep it alive and flourishing. France and his son are both in NASCAR’s new Hall of Fame; Parks isn’t. We reached out to Brandon Reed at the Georgia Racing History site, www.georgiaracinghistory.com, who graciously furnished these photos of the birthday party thrown for Parks only two weeks ago. The guy shaking Parks’ hand is the great David Pearson. The cake shows an early service station in Atlanta where a lot of the Parks/Vogt legend came to be, with driving help from Bob Flock, another Parks acquaintance for the home-whiskey days. Racing historian J.B. Day has re-created the Vogt-built Modified that Flock drove for Parks in the pre-Grand National era of NASCAR. Despite a lifetime that would have been worthy of a Burt Reynolds screenplay, Parks was always, unwaveringly, the very picture of a courtly Southern gentleman.