In memoriam: Steve Byrnes among the best & brightest of NASCAR media personalities at Daytona & other tracks

Headline Surfer® YouTube downloads / Videos by FOX Sports /
Video 1: NASCAR Race Hub remembers the life and career of Steve Byrnes, who died at the age of 56 after a long bout with cancer. Full Episode - April 21, 2015.
Video 2: Favorite memories of Steve Byrnes - NASCAR Race Hub - April 22, 2015.
Photos for Headline Surfer® / Steve Byrnes' motorsports broadcasting career is wrapped around NASCAR and tracks like Daytona International Speedway and star drivers such as Tony Stewart.

Steve Byrnes / Headline Sufer®Steve Byrnes with Tony Stewart / Headline Surfer®DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In thinking of NASCAR beat writers and analysts names like ESPN's Bob Pockrass, the Daytona Beach News-Journal's Godwin Kelly and the AP's Jenna Fryer come to mind.

Whether doing a feature profile on a driver, reporting on penalties handed out following a race or even daily tweets on any number of subjects, these three come to mind.

On the television side, analysts and reporters like Dr. Jerry Punch, Jaimie Little and even Alan Bestwick who switched to IndyCar Racing with ESPN come to mind.

An analyst who could match wits with the best of the names listed above, was Steve Byrnes, the soft-spoken FOX Sports NASCAR analyst who died Tuesday, April 21, after a courageous fight with cancer. He was 56 years old.

"His level of professionalism was matched only by the warmth he showed everyone he met," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a prepared statement from Daytona Beach. "He battled cancer with tenacity, and was a true inspiration to everyone in the NASCAR family. Simply stated, we'll miss Steve dearly."

NASCAR CEO Brian France reacts to passing of FOX analyst Steve Byrnes / Headline Surfer®NASCAR statement on passing of Steve Byrnes / Headline Surfer®Byrnes had been a mainstay with FOX's NASCAR coverage since 2001.

Before that he covered auto racing for CBS, TNN, TBS and The History Channel, dating back to the 1980s.

Pinnacle of Steve Byrnes interviews: Sit-down with late Dale Earnhardt's mom on Richard Childress bringing back No. 3 for grandson-racer Austin Dillon 

Headline Surfer® YouTube download / Video by FOX Sports /
Video 1: Martha Earnhardt Reflects on the Earnhardt Family Racing Legacy - NASCAR Race Hub
Video 2: Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s Mom Doesn't Want to See a Black No. 3 On Track - NASCAR Race Hub

One of Byrnes' best pre-set interviews was with Dale Earnhardt's moth, Martha Earnhardt. It was a poignant interview with the matriarch of the Earnhardt family done on the eve of last year's Dayton 500.

One of the touchy questions was whether she had an issue with Richard Childress having his grandson, Austin Dillon, assigned the No. 3, the iconic number synonymous with the seven-time NASCAR champion and 1998 Daytona 500 winner.

In just over 4 minutes, Byrnes covered a lot of ground on sensitive topics with her, like seeing the No. 3 back on the track again at Daytona: "I have mixed feelings because I was told I would never see another No. 3 on the race track after Dale died," she said, adding, she understood it was Childress' number when he raced and this was his grandson. But she made a point that she wouldn't be pleased if the paint scheme on the car was black like her son's.

Reflections on Byrnes' passing

NASCAR writer Marty Smith reminisced in a column after Byrnes' death when he he was told the diagnosis after visiting the doctor: It was early August 2013 when Byrnes' doctor called with the news: throat cancer, which had spread to a lymph node. Byrnes wasn't panicked, especially. But his life rushed at him like a freight train, thoughts of and fears for his family, not so much himself.

Smith reflected on how Byrnes felt after the reality of the situation at hand -- cancer. "When you hear that word -- I'm not going to lie -- I had uncomfortable moments," said Byrnes, 54, a veteran Fox Sports motor-sports broadcaster. "'Will I see my son grow up?' He's 11 now. 'What's going to happen to my family?' You think all those deep thoughts that we don't really ever want to deal with."

Goofy & serious sides to Byrnes' on-air persona: Interviewing cardboard cutout to serious chat with ex-crew chief Todd Parrott on his illicit drug use

Headline Surfer® YouTube downloads /
Video by jgonascar / Steve Byrnes interviews a cardboard cutout.
Video by Mark Traina / Todd Parrott opens up about his suspension from NASCAR last year. He tells all about his drug use, being fired and going through NASCAR's Road to Recovery Program. He has since been reinstated by NASCAR and hopes his story will inspire others who may be battling addiction. This feature aired Wednesday March 19th, 2014 on NASCAR Racehub. Produced by: Mark Traina.

The cancer had been an ugly turn for Byrnes the past 20 months and casual racing fans might not have even known about it until his passing as he was low key, despite the uncertainty as to when his wife and son would have to go on without him -- never mind the role of broadcaster.

Byrnes, a fixture in NASCAR coverage knew when to be goofy like the time he imitated the schtick of pro wrestler "Nature Boy" Ric Flair as the "stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun!"

Byrnes once interviewed a cutout cardboard of a racing figure. But there was the serious, down to-earth brass tacks interviewer who sat down with former crew chief Todd Parrott about his illicit drug use and how that forced him out of racing.

Steve Byrnes with his son, Bryson / Headline Surfer®Steve Byrnes final tweet / Headline Surfer®Photos for Headline Surfer® /
Steve Byrnes, FOX Sports NASCAR analyst, is shown with his son, Bryson, 11, in his his Twitter profile image. Byrnes, host of NASCAR RaceHub on FOXSports1, play-by-play for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, died of throat cancer on Tuesday, April 21. Besides his son, he leaves behind his wife, Karen, at home in Fort Mill, SC. Also shown here is Byrnes' final tweet. 

Byrnes' approach on serious topics like drug use endeared him with fans who appreciated the flashy antics once in a while, but more so for substance of his interviewing.

Perhaps ESPN's Pockrass said it best of Byrnes legacy in the world of motorsports in a tweet: "Best & sad last 20 months. Awesome to see how Steve Byrnes impacted lives, earned love from fans he never even met.

Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.