SPEEDROME HALL OF FAME MEMBER JONATHAN BYRD PASSES AWAY The Speedrome mourns the loss of a good friend, Jonathan Byrd. The 2002 Hall of Fame inductee passed away Thursday evening. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Speedrome family go out to...
SPEEDROME HALL OF FAME MEMBER JONATHAN BYRD PASSES AWAY
The Speedrome mourns the loss of a good friend, Jonathan Byrd. The 2002 Hall of Fame inductee passed away Thursday evening. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Speedrome family go out to the Byrd family. "We are sad about his loss, but we are happy now that he is in a much better place", said son Jonathan Byrd II. His father had suffered a stroke in 2004 and been dealing with its effects ever since.
The patriarch of the Byrd family used faith as his foundation for success in life, business, and most importantly his family. The longtime Greenwood, Indiana resident became an entrepreneur with his string of area Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. After many prime years building those to top level locations, Jonathan decided to start his own restaurant. This is where the world's largest cafeteria was born. Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria, just off of I-65, has been the communities dining destination for many years. He also oversaw several other family ventures over the past two decades.
Jonathan Byrd began his racing at the Speedrome in the early 1980's as a car owner and sponsor. His first foray was in the Pro Stock (now Late Model) division with rising star Mike St John. Numerous feature wins came over the next few seasons with Mike, Kenny St John, Jim Fox, Jim Begley, and even renowned NASCAR champion Darrel Waltrip behind the wheel of the famously innovative Pacer racecars. With some nudging from then track owner John Stiles, Byrd began assembling a team in the Speedrome USAC Regional Midget series around the daring and success Rich Vogler.
That racing partnership was magical as they clicked right away with victory trophies pilling up like cords of wood. Vogler proceeded to win track championships and Indy Midget 500 events along the way. The next challenge was across town in the legendary Indianapolis 500. Rich made the race's starting field each of the next five years with Byrd sponsorship, finishing eighth in 1989. He also won the USAC National Midget title for Byrd in 1986 and '87. Vogler was killed in a sprint car accident in 1990 on the very weekend that he qualified for his first NASCAR Cup race.
Jonathan Byrd remained in IndyCar racing after the loss through the 2001 season running the full Indy Racing League series for a few years. He won races with drivers Arie Luyendyk and John Paul Jr. The escalating costs of the sport coupled with his own growing businesses eventually forced him out. During that time, he never forgot his roots. Byrd sponsored cars and events at the Speedrome nearly every year. We will miss this fine friend and race fan forever. I am sure that the car owner, now re-united with his famed driver, are discussing a race already. Again, the thoughts and prayers of the entire Speedrome family go out to the Byrd family.