NASCAR Hall of Fame’s legacy – Red Byron’s Ford #22

NASCAR Hall of Fame’s legacy – Red Byron’s Ford #22

For many, the number 22 may represent a deficient number or a pentagonal number. For others, it may symbolize chaos and disorder. But for NASCAR fans, the number 22 holds importance because it was Red Byron’s number, a World War II hero, and the first champion of the NASCAR Strictly Stock Division.

Let’s take a sneak peek into the life of Red Byron, the man behind the blisteringly fast number 22 on NASCAR tracks.

Insight into Red Byron’s early life

Robert Nold Byron, commonly known as the Red Byron, was one of the best drivers in the late 1940s. He didn’t really start off as a stock car racing driver, but was a dirt track racer, racing around the Anniston and Talladega areas.

His passion for racing would come to a halt as war loomed around the corner. At the age of 26, he became an engineer on the early B-24 Liberators, American heavy bomber aircraft, in the Second World War. Byron was a mechanical genius, and he was responsible for fixing anything that went wrong on the B-24.

An unfortunate incident occurred during a mission over the Aleutian Islands where an explosion in the aircraft nearly cost Robert his leg. His left leg was severely shredded with shrapnel from the bomb explosion near the fuselage. You could say it was the destiny of a man born during the First World War.

The doctors managed to save his leg from amputation, but it never got any better than that. Byron spiraled into depression after spending 27 months in a military hospital and not fully recovering from his leg. His family suggested that he get back into racing as a way to rediscover happiness, and he did.

Rediscovering his passion for motorsports

Byron was discharged from the hospital with his left leg in a steel brace and a will to conquer the race tracks. He drove around the United States in a Ford with a hand-operated clutch that he had designed.

Byron was too fast, and in 1946, he entered a stock car race at the Seminole Speedway. His team designed a clutch pedal that could easily attach to his left leg, and to everyone’s surprise, Byron beat Roy Hall, a pioneering American stock car racing driver, and Bill France, a NASCAR promoter and racer. The Seminole Speedway victory cemented Byron’s ambition to become a legend in the stock racing car world.

Byron participated in the NASCAR Modified Series in 1948 and won the championship with a tricked-out 1939 Ford. Little did Byron know that he was about to make history a year later. In 1949, NASCAR announced the Strictly Stock Division, nowadays popularly known as the Sprint Cup Series.

Throughout his life, after the hospital discharge, Byron was constantly popping aspirin to subdue the pain, but it was the adrenaline from racing that truly pushed him forward to new heights. Byron went on to win two of the eight races, securing a score of 842.5 points and becoming the first champion of the Strictly Stock Divisions, a record that can never be broken.

After winning the Strictly Stock Division title, Byron scaled back his racing activities due to his declining health and never truly achieved anything as great as the 1949 victory. However, he remained involved in racing, secretly tinkering around in a garage to put together an American car that would be able to win the notorious 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Unfortunately, he had a heart attack at 45 in 1960 and died at a hotel in Chicago where he was supposed to speak with Anheuser-Busch about starting his own sports car team.

Red Byron’s entry into the Hall of Fame

Over his brief racing career, Byron accumulated several wins and titles to his name. However, his achievements came after his death when, in 1966, Byron was selected to the National Motorsports Hall of Fame and, in 1998, he was named one of NASCAR’s top 50 greatest drivers.

In 2018, Red Byron made it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and his legendary black No. 22 Ford is just inside the main entrance (located in Charlotte, North Carolina.) If you glance inside the Ford, you’ll see his left leg’s bracket bolted to the clutch.

Today, many may have forgotten Byron, but it is our responsibility to recognize the man who left racing behind to serve his country and then chose racing over pain. Byron achieved more in his brief history than any other NASCAR champion. He won the first-ever NASCAR championship, which will forever be instilled in the minds of motorsports enthusiasts around the world.

Here is the information if you want to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum:

400 E M.L.K. Jr Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28202
P: 
704-654-4400

Admission: $25, 3-7 $12 8-12 $18
Combo packages available from $34 to $39 
Plan: 1-2hr
Open: WINTER HRS Oct 27 – Mar 31 Daily 10am – 5pm, No General Admission on Tuesdays

nascarhall.com

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Schwanke Car, Tractor, and Truck Museum

Schwanke Car, Tractor, and Truck Museum

The Schwanke Car, Tractor, and Truck Museum have a 60 Year Collection of tractors, cars, trucks, gas engines, gas pumps, signs, and more! Over 400 units on display.
Schwanke Gift Shop Includes Pedal cars, pedal tractors, signs, tractor books, and much more.

3310 1st St S
Willmar, MN 56201
P:
320-235-4341
Email: schwankemuseum@gmail.com

Admission: $6
Plan: 1hr
Open:
May – September
Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm
Saturday 8am – 12pm

The gift shop is open year-round:
Monday – Friday  8am – 5pm
Saturday 8am – 12pm

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Paquette’s Historical Farmall Museum

Paquette’s Historical Farmall Museum

Paquette’s Historical Farmall Museum or “Stew’s” museum is located in Leesburg, Florida. There are a variety of tractors, farm implements, and other antique memorabilia on display.

Several of the guides at Stew’s worked for International Harvester in capacities such as dealers, mechanics, or manufacturers. Others have farming backgrounds and actually worked with many items similar to what we have on display.

Tours can last from 2-3 hours depending on the interests of the guests, pack a lunch and stay all day! Catered lunch can be arranged for groups of 20 or more for an additional fee. Meals are served in the Show Barn where you’ll be treated to a movie of International Harvester clips. You will also enjoy the atmosphere of the Show Barn which houses many antique signs and collectibles.

If some of the members of your family or group are not tractor lovers or were not in agriculture, they will certainly enjoy the beautiful museum grounds, fresh air, and welcoming hospitality and they may even spot buffalo or miniature donkeys who call the museum home!

615 S Whitney Rd
Leesburg, FL 34748
P: 352-728-3588

Email: stewsstuff@gmail.com

Admission:
Adults – $20.00
Military and Veterans – $15.00 with valid I.D.

Plan: 1hr
Open:
Tuesday thru Saturday
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Last Entry – 3:00 pm

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Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum

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Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum

The Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum is a private collection in Ohio that is free and open to the public.  This is a small museum without regular staff so you do need to call and schedule an appointment to tour the museum.

476 E Kossuth St
Columbus, OH 43206
P: 614-271-0888

Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum Admission:

Free
Plan: 1hr

Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum Hours:

By Appointment (CALL)

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Newport Car Museum Reports Strong Attendance

Newport Car Museum Reports Strong Attendance

Opened just four and a half years ago, the Newport Car Museum in Portsmouth, R.I. has become a recognized worldwide tourist destination, maturing well beyond its basic ability to draw off of visitors to the Gilded Age Mansions and other seaside attractions offered in nearby Newport. Since Covid restrictions were lifted in mid-2020, numbers of visitors have jumped exponentially, and in 2021 alone, the Museum has welcomed nearly 50,000 people through its doors.

“Our hope always has been to put smiles on our visitors’ faces,” said Gunther Buerman, who with his wife Maggie Buerman opened the Museum in June of 2017, “and so far, we have been successful.”

During its relatively short life, the Museum has won numerous awards, and while once it was described as a hidden gem, it is now regularly compared to other acclaimed car museums such as Florida’s Revs Institute and California’s Petersen Automotive Museum. For 2021, it received the Tripadvisor® Travelers’ Choice award and distinction as among the Top 10% of Attractions Worldwide.

“It’s a privilege to see this collection,” said recent visitor Philip Millstein (Cambridge, Mass.). “This is not an old man’s place where you come to see old cars; there’s a vitality here…the colors, the displays, the people who greet you. The Museum is not just gorgeous, it is relevant.”

Initially, the Buermans had no idea how it would fly, this idea of theirs to present as art their own private collection of rare and exotic cars. “The first challenge was securing an amazing space that we could grow into and wouldn’t be perceived as just a garage,” said Buerman, “so we acquired a former missile manufacturing facility on the campus of Raytheon Technologies.”

The 114,000 square foot building, which had to be completely gutted, reconfigured, and transformed into a space worthy of displaying the Buerman’s collection (then 65 strong), came with 17 acres of grounds attached, which would eventually figure prominently into the Museum’s ability to host car clubs, car shows and other special events onsite, as well as offer visitors free parking for as many as 300 cars.

Today, the Museum’s displays cover 80,000 square feet – the equivalent in space of 1 ½ football fields, including the end zones. They comprise more than 85 cars in six Galleries – Ford/Shelby, Corvettes, World Cars, Fin Cars, American Muscle, and Mopars – and a Pop-Up Porsche Exhibit. There are no barrier ropes around the cars, and enhancements to the Museum experience include specially commissioned artwork; historic videos; and an impressive collection of Mid-Century Modern furniture serving as seating. A 2,500 sq. ft. gift shop has become its own colorful gallery, offering up thousands of items curated for car lovers and others.

“The Museum is now sought out directly by those traveling to New England looking for experiences that mean something to them,” said Buerman. “Our audience is in large part car aficionados and art lovers. Some have traveled to see as many different car museums as they can in this country, and they tell us how amazed they are at what they find here. They appreciate the art gallery ambiance, the beauty of the cars, and the rich automotive history represented by each decade of design, starting with the early 1950s.and finishing with new models from the 21st Century.”

The Newport Car Museum Collection at a Glance

The Ford/Shelby Gallery pays homage to Carroll Shelby’s great race cars that were so admired in their day and includes an extremely rare 1965 Ford Shelby 427 SC Cobra, an original Shelby Series 1, and iconic Shelby Mustangs such as the 1965 GT350R and 1970 Boss 429.

The Corvette Gallery features Corvettes from every generation, C1 through C7, starting with a 1954 convertible and finishing with a 2019 ZR1 Convertible. For fun, there’s a brilliant multi-colored 2005 Corvette, hand-painted by artist Romero Britto.

The World Car Gallery features exquisite models such as a 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL, 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder, 2014 McLaren P1, a newly added 2017 Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster, and for a whimsical twist, a 1957 BMW Isetta and 2010 Tesla Roadster.

The Fin Car Gallery offers a walk down memory lane for those who remember such classics as the 1954 Buick Skylark, ‘59 Cadillac Series 62, ‘57 Desoto Adventurer Convertible, and 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible.

The Mopar and American Muscle Galleries resonate with the younger crowd and include a 1969 4-Speed Hemi Dodge Charger R/T, 1961 Chevy Impala SS 409 convertible, 1969 Camaro Z/28, 2018 Dodge Demon, 1964 GTO, 2017 Dodge Viper ACR, and from the 1970s, a Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda and Plymouth Superbird Six Pack.

The Pop-Up Porsche Exhibit consists of nine exquisite models and brings to 14 the total count of that marque in the collection. It includes a 2018 911 GT2 RS, 2011 911 GT3 RS 4.0, 1956 356a Speedster, and 2005 Carrera GT.

The Newport Car Museum is open daily 10-5. Tickets can be bought at the door or online at newportcarmuseum.org. Regular admission: $18/adults; $15/Seniors, Military, Students; $8/Ages 5-15 (with an adult); Free/Ages 4 and under (with an adult).

Barby MacGowan

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