When NHRA officials, as part of their planning for the upcoming 60th anniversary season, conceptualized the “Track Walk with a Legend” program, the mission was to connect fans with the men and women who made significant and consequential contributions to the foundation of what NHRA is today.

The season opened in Pomona with Southern California icon Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and then it moved east to Gainesville where fans had the chance to re-connect with local-favorite “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, NHRA’s No. 1 all-time driver. All-time NHRA greats, like Shirley Muldowney and Kenny Bernstein, have also participated in the program that has been enormously successful in connecting fans with the “pillars of NHRA drag racing.”

So when the NHRA Full Throttle Series returns to the Tri-Cities for the 11th annual Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, NHRA couldn’t be more pleased to announce that it will be honoring not just a pillar of drag racing, but a pillar in all of motorsports and a pillar in his community, the late Bristol Motor Speedway/Bristol Dragway president and general manager, Jeff Byrd.

“Jeff was a devoted fan of drag racing and was loved by everyone in the community – from those who worked directly with him at NHRA to the extended racing community,” said NHRA President Tom Compton. “The role he played working with us to bring a state-of-the-art drag racing facility to Bristol and the legacy that followed will always be remembered and appreciated.”

Members of the Tri-Cities community in general, and the racing community specifically, will have the chance to pay their respects to Byrd on Sunday morning during NHRA’s “Track Walk with a Legend.” Kenny Bernstein, one of Byrd’s closest friends, and NHRA announcer Bob Frey, will lead the walk down the famous ‘Thunder Valley’ drag strip and honor the memory of Jeff Byrd.

The Ford Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals, June 17-19 at Bristol Dragway, will mark the ninth stop in a year-long celebration that will pay homage to the evolution of the hot rod, the impact of the sport’s legendary racers, and the lifeblood provided by the many millions of loyal and passionate NHRA fans.

“(NHRA Founder) Wally (Parks) created NHRA for the hot rod enthusiasts and the 2011 season, our 60th Anniversary, will be a year-long celebration in their honor,” said Compton.  “Fans, accustomed to an up close and personal experience with the stars of the sport through our open pit environment, will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the stars and see the cars from throughout the 60-year history of the sport.”

Tickets for the 11th annual Ford Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals, June 17-19 at Bristol Dragway, are on sale now via bristoldragway.com or by phone at (423) BRISTOL.