Longtime NASCAR broadcaster Steve Byrnes dies

Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Steve Byrnes, a veteran anchor and reporter for FOX Sports' television coverage of NASCAR, died on Tuesday after battling head and neck cancer. He was 56.

Byrnes, who was born in Chicago and raised in New Carrollton, Maryland, had a television broadcasting career that spanned 30 years. He joined FOX Sports in 2001, hosting and reporting for multiple NASCAR programs and serving as a pit road reporter for NASCAR on FOX's coverage of Sprint Cup Series races from 2001-2014.

He most recently served as play-by-play announcer for FOX Sports 1 in the Camping World Truck Series and was co-host of NASCAR Race Hub for the television network.

"NASCAR extends its condolences to the many friends, FOX Sports colleagues and family of Steve Byrnes," NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement. "Whether you had the privilege of knowing him or if you watched him on television for the last three decades, Steve's work ethic and authenticity made him a beloved individual inside and outside the garage.

"His level of professionalism was matched only by the warmth he showed everyone he met. He battled cancer with tenacity, and was a true inspiration to everyone in the NASCAR family. Simply stated, we'll miss Steve dearly. Our thoughts are especially with his wife Karen and son Bryson during this difficult time."

Byrnes passed away two days after the Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which was named in his honor, the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer.

"From the very beginning of NASCAR on FOX, Steve Byrnes was one of the linchpins of the broadcast team," David Hill, 21st Century FOX senior executive vice president, said in a statement. "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."

Prior to joining FOX, Byrnes served as a pit road reporter for CBS, WTBS and TNN's coverage of NASCAR. He also hosted a variety of NASCAR programs for The History Channel and TNN, for which he moved to Charlotte in 1985 and remained in the area ever since.