Fox Sports, NASCAR and racing fans were saddened by the death of Steve Byrnes, the 56-year-old motor-sports broadcaster and co-host of Fox Sports 1's daily NASCAR Race Hub program, on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
On Sunday, Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee had renamed the NASCAR Sprint Cup event there the Food City 500 In Support Of Steve Byrnes And Stand Up To Cancer. Fans, race teams, NASCAR and track officials, friends, family and co-workers paid tribute to the much-admired Byrnes, who spent more than 30 years in the TV business after starting as a weekend sports producer for WJLA in Washington, D.C. The Maryland native had led his high school team to the state championship as quarterback and graduated from the University of Maryland in 1981. For more about the tributes flowing in for Byrnes, including a video that aired during the Fox Sports pre-race intro, featuring the #ByrnesStrong hashtag (pictured above), see this USA Today article. It said President Obama offered his condolences and called Byrnes "a legendary reporter and broadcaster."
"A shining example of husband, father, friend and consummate professional, Steve Byrnes will forever be remembered as one of the good guys -- his time with us cherished and appreciated," Fox Sports said, in part, in a statement.
David Hill, Senior Executive Vice President, 21stCentury Fox, said in the statement: “From the very beginning of NASCAR on Fox, Steve Byrnes was one of the linchpins of the broadcast team. His passion for the sport -- his passion for everyone involved with the sport -- shone through week in and week out. But even more than that, Steve was defined by his journalistic integrity and kindness; his ability to communicate everything from complex technical issues to the highly emotive human dramas in this sport, where injury and or death are constantly just one mistake away. The consummate television professional, he established himself as a star on Speed Channel, where viewers simply loved his knowledge, his sense of humor and his easygoing nature, becoming the Mr. Rogers of NASCAR -- a warm voice everyone trusted. Even more impressive, and fully on display last weekend in Bristol, Steve was loved and respected by the entire NASCAR community, from the drivers to the team owners to the front office executives. I am devastated by his passing -- he was not only a trusted and gifted colleague, but a mate -- my heart goes out to Karen and Bryson.”
Said Eric Shanks, president & COO, executive producer, Fox Sports: “We lost a beloved member of the Fox Sports family today, and we extend our prayers and deepest sympathies to the Byrnes family. It was an honor over the past year to learn just how much Steve was loved and respected throughout the NASCAR community, which was evident this weekend in Bristol. Not even day-long heavy rains could dampen the outpouring of emotion on display. Steve served as a friend and mentor to so, so many, that the shadow he cast will have an impact on our industry for many years to come. The only thing that stands out more to me than Steve as a teacher is Steve as a man, and the bravery and dignity with which he carried himself throughout his terrible illness. We’ll miss Steve very, very much.”
Byrnes also was a play-by-play announced for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Fox Sports. Over the years at Fox, Byrnes hosted Totally NASCAR and was a reporter on pit road for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series until the end of the 2014 season. He also hosted practice and qualifying sessions, This Week In NASCAR and The Chase Is On, among other programs.
He covered racing for TNN, CBS and WTBS and hosted a two-hour documentary, The History Of Stock Car Racing, that aired on History Channel. He also served as play-by-play announcer for the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings NFL game on Fox in 2006 and called Sprint Cup Series races for DirecTV Hot Pass in 2007.
He lived in Fort Mill, S.C., with his wife, Karen, and their son, Bryson.