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Volunteer Speedway champion Byrd retires from driver's seat

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 26, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Tim Byrd is going out on top.

The Jonesborough racer won his fourth Volunteer Speedway track championship in 2019. During the offseason, the driver of the blue No. 24 Chevrolet decided that after winning an exciting battle over Johnson City’s Tim Maupin for the Crate Late Model title, it was time to hang up the helmet.

“I’ve won a lot of races and four championships, but there’s a time and place for everything,” said Byrd, 51. “My wife and I used to camp. I still love racing, so we’re going to camp and still go watch some races. I want to get out and enjoy my grandchildren.”

Like most local racers, Byrd stays busy through the week with a full-time job.

His job is more demanding than most. He and his father run Charles Byrd and Son Logging. For Tim, the job duties range from the physical demands of cutting trees, driving trucks and operating equipment to the mental stress of working in the office and dealing with paperwork.

“You burn up all week working and then burn up on Saturday nights at the race track,” Byrd said. “Racing is still enjoyable, but it takes a lot of time, effort and work. The racing is so competitive and the Crate cars are so close. If you’re not right on the money every time, you can’t win.”

There is always a question if race car drivers will stay retired. Byrd plans to still be around the track, although more as a crew person. He has no doubt there will still be the itch to drive, although he has been able to resist it to this point.

“I’m going to go with Nate Martin, who bought my old car, and (crew chief) Mark Hamby and help them out, but I want to be able to sit back and enjoy it,” Byrd said. “I’ve been offered rides and I’ve had people wanting me to practice their cars. I could probably get a good ride next week if I wanted it.

“But I’m the type if I’m not running every weekend, I don’t think I will be at the top of my game. If I’m going to run, I’m going to do it every weekend, not once a month. It will be real tough to be around it, but you have to set your head with what you’re going to do.”

Now that he’s had a chance to reflect on it, last year’s championship battle has special meaning. Maupin led the points standings for most of the summer before Byrd overtook him. It came down to the final race and Byrd finished third in the final race to win the championship by two points.

“It was good, close racing,” Byrd said. “We’d run good all year and had a few bad races. I felt like we deserved the championship because we were fast every time out of the gate. We were fast at the end of the year and was a great season.”

When he looks back, the best racing memories revolve around family and friends. Byrd has been going to races as long as he can remember.

“I enjoyed going with my father. He won a lot of races back in the day,” Byrd said. “I grew up there at Bulls Gap, Newport, Kingsport and the other tracks around. I guess my most memorable race was after my good friend Johnny (Sells) passed away last year.

“He had married my aunt Penny and they were happy before he fell over with a massive heart attack. He loved being around the race cars and winning the next race after he passed away was special.”

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