Georgia Beginnings of NASCAR
by Mike Thies www.SouthEastWheelsEvents.com
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Get a glimpse of what it was like being a “Moon Runner” driver in the heyday of moonshine and prohibition by visiting a true Georgia treasure; the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame! It is located in Dawsonville, GA, a town that makes a serious bid for the right to be considered the primary birthplace of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing). Dawsonville was also the home to a number of significant personages tied to the early days of stock car racing. One prominent Dawson county guy, Ray Parks, used his liquor business to finance early racers from Dawsonville, such as Lloyd Seay. Jim Croche’s song, “Rapid Roy, That Stock Car Boy”, was written about the famous Roy Hall, another racer funded by Ray Park.
Ray Parks participated in the organizational meeting of NASCAR in late 1947. He is given credit for coming up with the name, along with the Atlanta mechanic, Red Vogt. Vogt set up race cars for many of the top talent in the early years of NASCAR, including yet another
Dawsonville native, Gober Sosebee. In recent years, much significant contributions to the sport have been on the part of other Dawsonville natives, Bill Elliott and his brothers on his crew; Ernie (as engine builder and crew chief) and Dan (as a transmission builder). “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville,” also known as “Million Dollar Bill,” has become one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR and has won NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award a record sixteen times.
From the modest origins of the dirt tracks around Georgia, NASCAR racing has matured to immense heights, both nationally and internationally. The museum clearly credits the early “Moon Runners” with the beginnings of stock car racing; running moonshine to make a living and racing dirt tracks for stock cars on the weekend. Runners often used the same car and there were regular arguments about whose “tanker” was the fastest. Various Georgia race tracks became the best places to find out for sure. Currently, throughout the whole U.S., NASCAR is second only to the National Football League in terms of sport on television ratings in the United States. Additionally, NASCAR races are broadcast to die hard fans in over 150 countries.
The Museum in Dawsonville does an excellent job taking visitors through the early inception of stock car racing, with its unlawful seeds in moonshine running, to its current level of international notability. It has memorials to NASCAR racing greats, and a number exhibits featuring the cars of the moon runners that became NASCAR’s first drivers and team owners. Here is a list of a few of the exhibits a person can see at the Museum:
There are numerous car shows and festivals held at the Museum and these are always a great time to come and visit the place. Look for the car shows which are listed on www.SouthEastWheelsEvents.com. Check it out as well at the Museum’s website at http://www.garhofa.org.