Robert "Red" Byron won the first NASCAR sanctioned race on a beach-road course in February 15, 1948. He went on to win eleven races that year and finished in the top three twenty-three times, and he also won the very first NASCAR Championship.
Red Byron got his start in the early '30s in unorganized races at a little known track at Talladega. When World War 2 broke out Byron served as a tail-gunner on a B-24 pulling off 57 missions before his plane was shot down over the Aleutian Islands on run number 58. Red spent 27 months in military hospitals while doctors tried to rebuild his left leg. The doctors didn't think that Red would ever walk again but in February 1946 Red returned to racing again at Seminole Speedway near Orlando, FL. He drove a car owned by Raymond Parks and because of his injured left leg, he had to have it put in a steel stirrup, which was bolted to the clutch. Byron won that race beating out such drivers as Bob and Fonty Flock, Mad Marion McDonald, Roy Hall, and Bill France. He also won his next race at Daytona beach-road course, beating out Roy Hall again.
After a short career in AAA cars, Byron returned to stock cars in 1947 and won half of the 18 races he entered. He finished third in points and only competed in less than half the races that year.
Red retired from racing in the early '50s to head a sports car racing team. He passed away in 1960. He was inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1966 and in 1998 he was named one of the top-50 NASCAR drivers.
Red Byron ran in 6 races in 1949 winning two and earning 842.5 points to be the first driver to win a NASCAR championship. He was followed by Lee Petty, Bob Flock, Bill Blair, and Fonty Flock to round out the top 5 that year.