How Racing's First Superteam Won the Inaugural NASCAR Cup Championship in 1949

NASCAR 75: One of a series of 75 stories that helped define the first three quarters of a century of NASCAR.

nascar's 1st super team 1949
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  • The biggest bootlegger in Atlanta, if not Southeast, and always flush with cash, team owner Raymond Parks, pictured above left, liked winning.
  • A flight engineer, driver Red Byron, right, tended to look at racing from an engineering perspective.
  • An obsessive perfectionist, NASCAR's first master mechanic Red Vogt, center, was renowned for producing prodigious horsepower from flathead Ford V8s in Modifieds.

    There would never be another driver, mechanic and car owner trio quite like Red Byron, Red Vogt and Raymond Parks, the three men who combined to win NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock championship in 1949.

    World War II veteran Byron suffered a shrapnel wound on board a B-24 bomber, which left him with some metal in his left leg, a limp and constant pain. But he got on well with his mechanic not only because Vogt built a special clutch pedal with pegs where he could rest his left foot.

    A flight engineer, Byron tended to look at racing from an engineering perspective. He claimed the eight-race Strictly Stock points title on board an Oldsmobile, winning at Martinsville and Daytona. But when his points were docked for competing in non-NASCAR events during the 1950 season while contending for another title, the soft-spoken, hard-driving Byron switched to sports cars.

    red byron
    Red Byron racing in a Strictly Stock (NASCAR Cup) race in 1949 on his way to the first Cup Series championship.
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    An obsessive perfectionist, Vogt was renowned for producing prodigious horsepower from flathead Ford V8s in Modifieds. A cam specialist, he surely employed some tricks of his trade in the engine of the winning “stock” Oldsmobile.

    At his two-car garage on Spring St. in Atlanta, Vogt had been building cars for bootleggers on one side and for Revenuers on the other since the 1930s. “The bootlegger cars were always faster,” he said, “because there were so many regulations you had to follow on the government cars.”

    The biggest bootlegger in Atlanta, if not Southeast, and always flush with cash, Parks liked winning and the attendant publicity. In 1948, his team captured NASCAR’s “other” first points championship, this one for Modified cars, with Byron winning 11 of 52 races.

    red byron
    Red Byron won the Strictly Stock race at Martinsville in 1949 in a Raymond Parks entry.
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    A man of few words who always dressed in a suit, tie and fedora, Parks was a stock car racing pioneer, a man of many firsts. He got hooked on racing when Lloyd Seay, one of his whiskey trippers and a fellow Dawsonville, Ga. native, won the first stock car race on Atlanta’s Lakewood Mile in 1937 on board a 1934 Ford Roadster purchased by Parks. “If he hadn’t won,” said Parks, “I might not have ever gotten the racing fever.”

    The first multi-car team owner, Parks began barnstorming the East Coast with a trio of Modified Ford entries prepared by Vogt before and after the war, when Alabaman Byron first caught his attention, and was a mainstay in NASCAR founder Bill France’s efforts to promote the Beach & Road Course races in Daytona with his three-car entries.

    France himself sometimes drove one of Parks’ Fords to victory. Driver Gober Sosebee and the late Parks’ wife Violet later confirmed that the bootlegger on occasion supplied France with a briefcase loaded with cash to help his promotional efforts.

    Always wanting to be in the middle of the racing action, during the first Southern 500 at Darlington in 1950 Parks helped change tires on his Cadillac entry driven by Byron while wearing his ever-present dress shirt and tie. But he soon retired from racing due to increased public scrutiny of bootlegging, a business he unrepentantly continued to pursue in shot houses around Atlanta—until he briefly became a guest of the federal government at the big house in Chillicothe, Ohio.

    raymond parks
    In this 1952 image, Raymond Parks shows off his early racing trophies. The man loved winning.
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