Friday, April 24, 2015

A Tribute to Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes on pit road. Credit: FOX Sports
Though you’d never hear it from the man himself, Steve Byrnes deserved every ounce of praise he received.

The Maryland native entered NASCAR by accident, yet stayed with serious intentions. He kept at it not only because he loved it but because he also fell in love with racing. Steve started his legacy during a hands-on era that preceded hashtags and iPhones. Some of Steve’s best conversations, he told me, occurred around a hotel pool, where he, other reporters, and drivers hung out after a long day at the track. He brought that personal touch to his work and made everyone feel like family.

In the close-knit sport of NASCAR, that warmth was reciprocated.

Everything he did had to be perfect, and that is what made him phenomenal at his job. You knew whatever interview he conducted was comprised of numerous takes, long hours and copious amounts of passion.

He gave it his all — no matter the instance.

Cancer is a sinister disease, one that sneaks up and destroys stability. Steve went against the odds and remained positive. He smiled, accepted the challenge, and battled hard on two separate occasions. By all accounts, there should’ve been a fairy tale ending. We should be celebrating his remission and watching him return to work as we did before. He had the support of thousands, many repaying him for the loyalty he gave throughout their lives.

It was us versus a medical diagnosis. Sometimes, the numbers don’t win.

After building an illustrious career and fighting an incredibly strong fight, Steve passed away Tuesday at the age of 56. He is the standard — for NASCAR reporting and for living life to the fullest. He used his time of struggling to reach out to others and give a new face to a horrible disease. Making it personal, he showed what it was like to go through treatments, mustering energy to post smiling selfies as chemicals filled his body. That signature smile never wavered as he walked through the darkest depths.

NASCAR took this past Sunday to honor his courage. And now, we revel in his contributions to the coverage of racing, the fight against cancer, and the spirit within thousands of people. The world of journalism lost a remarkable worker, yes, but our sport says goodbye to a man who gave us all hope.

I’m forever thankful we experienced the highs and lows with him. He went the distance, and we went it as well.

That’s what families do.  


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