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Food City 500 to honor Jeff Byrd with name change

To honor Jeff Byrd, the dynamic president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway who passed away last October, Food City officials today announced the March 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Bristol Motor Speedway will carry a new name.
Known since 1992 as the Food City 500, the spring event at Bristol Motor Speedway for 2011 is billed as 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 Motor Speedway 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 — and was sitting there offering to give up the race name for a year. I absolutely didn’t know what to say. It was Jeff who coached us to exceed expectations, and it was his effort to stay in the background that made us all so aware of his presence.”
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 the three-time Cup champion. “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,” Waltrip said.