Steve Byrnes passes away at age 56
April 21, 2015, Staff report, NASCAR.com
RELATED: NASCAR statement on Steve Byrnes' passing
WATCH: President Obama offers condolences to Byrnes' family
Steve Byrnes, a NASCAR television reporter and host for over 30 years, passed away on Tuesday from complications related to his battle with cancer. He was 56.
The native of New Carrollton, Maryland began covering NASCAR in 1985 as host of TNN's "Inside Winston Cup Racing" and also served as a pit reporter for the cable network as well as CBS.
MORE: Drivers, teams react to loss of Byrnes
In 2001, he joined the NASCAR on FOX team as a pit reporter and hosted the weekday show "Totally NASCAR" on FOX Sports Net. He continued covering races for FOX and hosted several shows across SPEED and FOX Sports 1, and in 2014, he was named the play-by-play announcer for FS1's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said, "NASCAR extends its condolences to the many friends, FOX Sports colleagues and family of Steve Byrnes. Whether you had the privilege of knowing him or if you watched him on television for the last three decades, Steve's work ethic and authenticity made him a beloved individual inside and outside the garage.
"His level of professionalism was matched only by the warmth he showed everyone he met. He battled cancer with tenacity, and was a true inspiration to everyone in the NASCAR family. Simply stated, we'll miss Steve dearly. Our thoughts are especially with his wife Karen and son Bryson during this difficult time."
President Barack Obama said this about Byrnes during a ceremony honoring 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick at the White House: "I also want to offer my condolences to everybody in the NASCAR community on the passing of legendary reporter and broadcaster Steve Byrnes," Obama said. "I know a lot of fans' thoughts and prayers today are with his wife Karen and his son Bryson."
Seven-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty also offered his thoughts on Byrnes' passing.
"Steve was a person who had a real passion for his job and that's what made him stand out as one of the best at what he did. He was always humble too, and I never saw him treat anyone unfairly. That's just how he did his job and lived his life. He always treated myself, our family and our race teams with great respect and I admired him for that. He will be missed by many and our families' thoughts and prayers are with Karen, Bryson and the rest of his family."
NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley said, "On behalf of the NASCAR Hall of Fame team, I want to extend our deepest sympathy to Karen, Bryson and the entire Byrnes family on the passing of Steve Byrnes. As accomplished and professional as Steve was as a broadcaster, Steve was an even better person, husband and father. Just last Thursday evening, after being readmitted to the hospital, Steve was texting me to get information to help one of his nephews. I thoroughly enjoyed the many years we frequently crossed paths and shared information while patrolling Pit Road and even more so the times we spent together talking about NASCAR or other interests we shared.
"I was thrilled when NASCAR added Steve to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel and was so looking forward to his insights and sage wisdom as a part of this process. The courage and class with which he fought cancer should serve as an inspiration to all. Steve will be dearly missed but always remembered with great admiration and respect."
Eric Shanks, president and COO, executive producer, FOX Sports said, "We lost a beloved member of the FOX Sports family today, and we extend our prayers and deepest sympathies to the Byrnes family. It was an honor over the past year to learn just how much Steve was loved and respected throughout the NASCAR community, which was evident this weekend in Bristol. Not even day-long heavy rains could dampen the outpouring of emotion on display."
In January, NASCAR named Byrnes to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel.
"It's an emotional thing for me," Byrnes said. "My whole adult life has been immersed in NASCAR, and it means the world to me."
Byrnes was initially diagnosed with head-and-neck cancer in August 2013, and he was successfully treated for the disease in the fall of that year.
In 2014, Byrnes returned to the FOX NASCAR team to cover his 30th Daytona Speedweeks and continued in his role as host of FOX Sports 1's "NASCAR Race Hub" until taking a leave of absence last October after a reoccurrence of head-and-neck cancer.
"I struggle for words because it sounds so cliché but every day is a gift," Byrnes told "NASCAR Illustrated" last fall. "I'm trying so hard right now to rather than be scared or worried, to live in the moment. Every time I start to worry about the future, it makes me realize -- particularly this second go-around -- that the only promise … if you wake up in the morning, that's a good thing and you should be grateful for that. It sounds corny or cliché, but there is no promise for tomorrow. I'm trying to make the most of every single day."
Before his passing, Byrnes spent as much time as possible with his wife, Karen, and their son, Bryson.
"People talk about a bucket list," Byrnes said in the "NASCAR Illustrated" interview. "My bucket list is that my son and my wife know how much I love them, so that when my time does come there will be no mystery. They're not gonna have to wonder how Dad or Steve felt about them."
The NASCAR family rallied around Byrnes and his family. Among the many gestures of support by many in the industry, Red Horse Racing's Timothy Peters drove a Toyota Tundra with the reporter's name above the passenger side window to Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway last October after winning a Truck race.
Days after his birthday on April 13, Bristol Motor Speedway named its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in his honor, the Food City 500 Supports Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer. When discussing the naming of the race, a humbled Byrnes also shared his signature sense of humor.
"It's more than overwhelming," Byrnes said. "My first reaction was there must be somebody else named Steve Byrnes who spells it with a 'y.' "
Bristol Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell, whose track hosted last weekend's race that was renamed in Byrnes' honor, said:
"Our hearts are heavy with the news of Steve Byrnes' passing. We are blessed that the NASCAR industry had the opportunity to come together at Bristol to convey our love and support for Steve and his family this past weekend. He was a man of faith, incredible talent and a positive influence, setting a great example on how to live an impactful life filled with love and kindness. His spirit was inspirational and we hope our thoughts and prayers lift up his loved ones as he did for so many others."
This weekend's race, the Toyota Owners 400 (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, FOX) is at Richmond International Raceway and President Dennis Bickmeier says that Byrnes will be honored at the track this weekend.
"A thoughtful comment or a word of encouragement from Steve is always something I will remember and appreciate, especially as a young PR person many years ago just starting in motorsports. His dedication and passion for the people he worked with and around, and especially the fans he informed, are better today because Steve was so good at what he did week in and week out.
"He will be missed. Please remember the Byrnes family in your thoughts and prayers. We will work with the NASCAR Community in advance of our race this weekend in honoring Steve."
The President and General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway Marcus Smith also extended his deepest condolences to the Byrnes family.
"On behalf of all of us at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports, Inc., our hearts go out to the Byrnes family, his friends and his co-workers today. He was a great friend, and was well-liked and respected by everyone in our sport. Steve's courageous fight against cancer was an inspiration to us all. God's peace was visible in his eyes."
When asked about the support he received and the passion he has for NASCAR, Byrnes explained how he would like to be remembered.
"I just want people to know that I care that much back," Byrnes told "NASCAR Illustrated". "At the end of the day, when my career is over, that I really did care. I wasn't doing this just as a job."
Memorial contributions in Byrnes' honor may be made to the folllowing organizations.
Church of Christ at Gold Hill Road
1055 Gold Hill Road
Fort Mill, SC 29708
Charlotte Christian School
7301 Sardis Road
Charlotte, NC 28270
One Daytona Blvd, 6th Floor
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
Bryson Byrnes Scholarship Fund
Charlotte Christian School - Byrnes Fund
Attn: Barry Giller
7301 Sardis Road
Charlotte, NC 28270