By: Candice Smith @Chief187s
My breath is shallow, my heart is heavy, my eyes are watery.
Death once again rears its ugly head in the NASCAR garages.
This time it is cancer that ravages one of our own, but racing accident or illness or anything in between doesn’t matter. What is left is loss.
I did not know Steve Byrnes. Our paths never crossed so I won’t regale with what a wonderful human being he was, how kind and generous he was, or how bright that mega-watt smile was in person.
Others who knew him as a friend and/or colleague can do that with firsthand knowledge. I’ll read those and celebrate the man that was.
What I can do is tell you that Steve Byrnes was around when I started watching NASCAR in 1990. Byrnes was already a name in NASCAR reporting. As a fan of the sport I always enjoyed the human interest segments delivered on race day.
Byrnes worked with Ned Jarrett on Inside Winston Cup. I devoured those shows and especially enjoyed Byrnes’ personality, professionalism, and realism interviewing the top drivers of the day, especially my driver Dale Earnhardt. Byrnes always found the interesting stories to tell and share.
Once Dale Earnhardt died I left my NASCAR fandom for a number of years but when I returned in 2007 Byrnes was there to greet me on my television. His personality was the same if not even more authentic. He introduced me to a new roster of drivers and got me back on track about the sport.
For me Byrnes bridged the gap between the old and the new.
He added humanism to the sport when some felt it was becoming too commercial. Byrnes showed the fan that our heroes in the racecars were real men (and women).
I am relieved that Byrnes is no longer suffering.
But my heart bleeds for his widowed bride and their son. I ache for all the lives he touched personally and all of his fans who will miss him terribly.
I am one of them.
There are few people who can reach an audience as large as Byrnes did and keep it real.
Byrnes’ legacy will never cease.
The ripples he left on this Earth will keep reverberating.
If you were lucky enough to know who Steve Byrnes was, you were lucky.
Godspeed, Steve. Say hi to Dale.