Down through the years, a lot of people often have wondered what would Raymond Parks have accomplished if he’d had a full career in motorsports.
Parks always has been at the top of everyone’s list of motorsports champions. He had one intention and that was to win, and he hired the best possible people available to help him accomplish his goal.
Some of the people who worked for Parks during his career were Red Byron, Bob Flock, Fonty Flock, Roy Hall, Ed Samples, Lloyd Seay, Jack Smith, Gober Sosebee and Red Vogt.
Parks, a businessman from Atlanta, Ga., got established in motorsports as a car owner with his Parks Novelty company sponsoring most of the cars he owned. Then World War II interrupted his racing career.
“When Raymond got out of the war and came back,” said Ray Fox, a hall of fame mechanic-car builder from Daytona Beach, Fla., “he came back with a vengeance, more determined to do and accomplish things he felt like he already should have done.”
Before World War II, Parks entered the March 1940 race at the beach course in Daytona Beach with Roy Hall as his driver. Hall won the race in the pits.
In 1941, Parks sponsored Hall and Lloyd Seay, a pair of hotshots from north Georgia, in the March race. Hall won the race and Seay finished seventh. In the second race later that same month, Hall finished second behind Smokey Purser.
The July 1941 race at the beach saw Seay finish fourth and Hall eighth in Parks’s cars. Seay won the August race in 1941.
Parks’s cars won all five beach races in 1945 and 1946.
When Bill France, Sr. formed NASCAR in 1948, Parks teamed with Byron and mechanic Red Vogt, whose garage in Atlanta long had been the destination of moonshine runners and government officials who wanted their cars to run faster. They won two of the eight races in Parks’s No. 22 Oldsmobile to edge out Lee Petty for the first NASCAR title in 1949.
“I don’t think we really knew what we had done in that first year,” Parks said when he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. “Everything was new for everyone involved and we had no idea that winning that first title or winning that first NASCAR-sanctioned race (Feb. 15, 1948) in 1948 was such a big deal.
“For us, really, it was just another race we wanted to win and got it accomplished. That was the same way it was for the title.”
In 1999, the late Bill France, Jr. sent Parks a letter on his 85th birthday. “Your place in NASCAR history is unique and enduring,” read the letter. “To own the car that won the first NASCAR-sanctioned race in history and then the first NASCAR Modified division championship in 1948 is a lasting accomplishment. To advance with your driver, Red Byron, to win the first NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship in 1949 was an amazing, historic accomplishment.”
Parks is alive and well and was honored by NASCAR before this year’s Daytona 500.