Georgia drivers, car owners, mechanics, and speedways have long played an important role in the establishment, development, and growing popularity of the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) sport.
Many observers consider Dawsonville one of the birthplaces of NASCAR. Indeed,
Hall and Seay
Parks and Vogt, however, continued to play key roles in NASCAR's early success. Both participated in the 1947 organizational meetings at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida, that created the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.
Although in later years Georgia drivers, owners, and mechanics would not play such a prominent role in NASCAR history, Georgians have continued to contribute in important ways. The most significant contributions since those early days have come from another Dawsonville native, Bill Elliott. In 1976 Elliott left north Georgia with his brothers Ernie (as engine builder and crew chief) and Dan (as transmission builder) to try his luck on the Winston Cup (later Sprint Cup) circuit.
Georgia speedways have also played an important role in NASCAR's development and growth. Indeed, every year since 1951 Georgia tracks have hosted at least two and as many as eight (1962 and 1964) races in NASCAR's elite division, known today as the Sprint Cup series. Lakewood Speedway, a one-mile dirt track around a lake in south Atlanta, began hosting stock car races in 1938 and soon became one of the most important stock-car-racing venues in the Southeast, regularly attracting as many as 30,000 fans. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, NASCAR sanctioned events at speedways in Augusta (fourteen races), Macon (fifteen), Savannah (twelve), and Jefferson (two). One of the more interesting and ironic incidents in NASCAR history occurred in 1967 at Middle Georgia Raceway in Macon when federal agents discovered under the ticket booth a whiskey still capable of producing 200 gallons every five days.
Built in 1960, the Atlanta Motor Speedway (actually located in Hampton, twenty-five miles south of Atlanta in Henry County) is the only track in Georgia still hosting Sprint Cup events. Although the track struggled in its early years, by 2004 it was one of the most modern and popular venues on the circuit. It hosts hundreds of thousands of stock-car racing fans at its two annual Sprint Cup series weekends.
On May 11, 2002, the history of NASCAR in Georgia came full circle when Thunder Road USA, a state-of-the-art motorsports museum and home of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, opened its doors in Dawsonville. At the museum's dedication ceremony the Hall of Fame inducted Red Byron, Bill Elliott, Tim Flock, Roy Hall, Raymond Parks, Lloyd Seay, Gober Sosebee, and Red Vogt as its inaugural honorees.
Greg Fielden, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, 5 vols. (Surfside Beach, S.C.: Galfield Press, 1987-94).
Paul Hemphill, Wheels: A Season on NASCAR's Winston Cup Circuit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997).
Neal Thompson, Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR (New York: Crown, 2006).
Dan Pierce, University of North Carolina at Asheville
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