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.

Dawsonville owns the Museum and has its City Hall in the same building.

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:

  • The Saturday Night Drive-In Theater, which shows a movie about the beginnings of stock car racing while visitors sit in the back seats of vintage cars.
  • There is an exhibit of the racers that have been honored by the Museum throughout the years. The Museum Hall of Fame Room presents and honors all current Georgia Racing Hall of Fame racers, which inducts eight new drivers each year. The Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association is a statewide group where anyone who is a fan of automobile racing can join and help preserve the history of automobile racing in Georgia. For more information on GARHOFA, visit http://www.garhofa.org.
  • The Georgia Racing Heritage Scrapbook Wall displays the news clips and memorabilia showing thepersonalities, technical innovations, drivers, mechanical wizards, outlaws, racing showdowns and legends as they happened in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains.
  • The Elliott Family Legacy Room is a section of the museum that pays tribute to the legendary NASCAR driver and Dawson County native, Bill Elliott. This Room features many of Elliott’s trophies, awards and several famous racecars and awards. Bill Elliott has accumulated forty-four career wins and has been awarded NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award a record sixteen times.
  • The Champions Café is the Museum’s retro-styled diner—with a black and white checked floor and shiny red and white booths—serving southern cooking and ice cold Sweet Tea.

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.

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