Dawsonville

 

DAWSONVILLE, GEORGIA

Below is excerpt from news article.

Dawsonville Back on the Map

By Ed Hinton, Tribune auto racing reporter, in 2001.  Click here to read full article.

There is no town more tradition-steeped in stock-car racing than Dawsonville, Ga.. Not Level Cross, N.C., home of the Pettys, or Hueytown, Ala., home of the Allisons. Per capita, Dawsonville has produced more dynamic figures in stock-car racing, for longer, than anywhere.

From a weathered tombstone in the town cemetery, Lloyd Seay still smiles, forever young. His little portrait is permanently sealed in glass and beams from the window of a bas-relief etching of a ’39 Ford coupe.

On Sept. 1, 1941, Seay won what was called the National Stock Car Championship at old Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta. That made four wins in four races, one of them on the beach at Daytona, in nine days. On Sept. 2, 1941, Seay was shot dead by a cousin in a quarrel over a load of sugar for making moonshine. He was 21.

Many years later, Big Bill France, founder of NASCAR, would call Lloyd Seay the greatest driver he ever saw.

Then there was Seay’s cousin, Roy Hall, the terror of beach racing at Daytona until he just happened to be caught in a shootout with police in North Carolina, whence he was extradited back to Georgia, where he was wanted for bank robbery.

There was the milder-mannered Gober Sosebee. There was “the first Rick Hendrick,” as Junior Johnson called Raymond Parks, the Dawsonville kid who ran away to Atlanta and made a fortune in whiskey (legal and illegal), slot machines, juke boxes and vending machines and built the first big time stock-car racing team around Seay and Hall.

With Seay dead and Hall in prison, Parks in the late ’40s imported drivers for his team–brothers Bob and Fonty Flock from Atlanta and Red Byron from the then-unknown burg of Talladega, Ala. Parks’ cars won the first NASCAR race, the first NASCAR season championship and then the first season championship for the division that now is called Winston Cup.

A kid who knew them all, George Elliott, grew up not to deal in liquor but instead in auto parts and building supplies. His three sons–Ernie, Dan and Bill–took to the town’s favorite pastime of street racing, from doing doughnuts in the town square to racing on serpentine Highway 9, the old Whiskey Trail.

George couldn’t count the youths he’d known who’d been killed on Dawson County roads, either running liquor or running for the heck of it. So he got his boys off the roads and onto the racetracks. Ernie became a mechanical wizard. Dan ran the family businesses to support the racing. Bill, the youngest, became the driver.

In 1985, powered by Ernie’s engines, Bill put Dawsonville on the map, winning 11 Winston Cup races, including the Daytona 500 and the first Winston Million bonus.

To this day, Bill Elliott remains the last NASCAR driver to be pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated while still alive. Dale Earnhardt made the cover only in death.

The Elliotts were a unique story in sports, blowing the doors off the competition in a NASCAR that was fast turning high-tech yet so deeply rooted in the mountain culture. Bill’s maternal grandmother, “Miss Audie” Reece, once was asked whether she remembered moonshine cars in Dawsonville.

“Moonshine cars?” she huffed. “Honey, I remember the first car of any kind in Dawson County. It was a Model T Ford, in 1917.”

As for modes of transporting liquor, “When I was a young woman, I could sit on my porch of an evenin’ and hear the men down in the hollows, cussin’, driving the mules out, hauling the liquor on wagons.”

 

Other articles on Dawsonville:

  • Story on Elliott’s and Dawsonville at NASCAR.com.
  • Gainesville Times article from 2015