ATLANTA (AP) — Raymond Parks, owner of NASCAR's first championship winning car and an integral part of the series' formation, has died. He was 96.
NASCAR said Parks passed away at his home Sunday morning in Atlanta. Parks, who was confined to a wheelchair, attended a reception May 20 for the induction of the inaugural Hall of Fame class and was warmly received throughout the industry that evening.
"It was good for the industry and so many current fans to see the man in person," NASCAR president Mike Helton said at Infineon Raceway, site of Sunday's race. Helton called Parks "the heart and soul or the spirit that got NASCAR started."
Parks was the last living member of the group of men who created NASCAR in 1947 during a meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla. He fielded the car that Red Byron drove to the inaugural Cup Series championship in 1949, NASCAR's first season of competition.
Born in Dawsonville, Ga., in 1914, Parks left home when he was 14 years old and began running moonshine, which earned him a nine-month stint in the federal penitentiary in Chillicothe, Ohio, from 1936 to 1937 on conspiracy charges.
Parks later became a legitimate businessman, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II as part of the 99th Infantry Division.