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 Local News  -   Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Moonshine. Fast cars. Victories. At Northeast Georgia History Center, racing's roots revealed
Early stars of NASCAR revel in the old days

The Times

Tom Reed The Times

Jeff Armour and his daughter Kacie Armour look over the car that Gober Sosebee drove to a win on the old Daytona beach course. The car was displayed Tuesday evening as part of the forum on early NASCAR racing at the Northeast Georgia History Center.

Tom Reed The Times

Raymond Parks, left, signs a copy of "Driving with the Devil," a book about early NASCAR racing, for Fred Simmons. Parks, a car owner in the early days of NASCAR racing, was one of the featured guests at the forum. In the background is a replica of one of Parks' cars.

Tom Reed The Times

David Sosebee, right, tells stories about his father Gober Sosebee during Tuesday evening's forum about early NASCAR racing, held at the Northeast Georgia History Center. Gober Sosebee, from Dawsonville, was one of the early stars of NASCAR. Also on the panel were, from left, Charles Mincey, Gordon Pirkle, Dan Elliott and Jimmy Mosteller. Behind Sosebee is panel member Raymond Parks.

Racing forum returns

  • The next Northeast Georgia History Center racing forum, "The Later Years of NASCAR" is scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 14. A mostly new panel of guests will be formed. Capt. Herb Emory, radio traffic reporter and NASCAR talk show host, will moderate.

  • The event will be held at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University on Academy Street in Gainesville. Attendance is free to history center members, $3 for nonmembers.

  • Contact: Northeast Georgia History Center, (770) 297-5900

  • The public address system may not have worked Tuesday at the Northeast Georgia History Center, but the voices of NASCAR's past echoed loud and clear during an hour-long racing forum featuring some of the finest racing minds in the area.

    Raymond Parks, 94, who owned the first car to win a NASCAR championship as well as the first sanctioned NASCAR race, sat a few feet in front of a replica of the 1939 Ford driven by Lloyd Seay of Dawson County that won the 1941 race on the beaches at Daytona. Parks, dressed in his trademark suit and tie and brim hat, didn't say much. Instead, decades of work that led to the explosion of stock car racing spoke for him.

    "He's probably the best-kept secret in racing," Linda Sharp said.

    Sharp, a racing enthusiast, told of a story from Parks' childhood when he was taken to jail as a young boy and befriended the jailer. Parks would hand out cups of moonshine at the jail and quickly learned that he could make money from selling the clear liquid, Sharp said.

    The racing world's roots were grown from moonshiners running the juice on North Georgia roads, mainly in Dawsonville, which is called the birthplace of NASCAR by locals. Tuesday's forum, "The Early Years of Racing," featured many of Dawson County's most well-know racing figures.

    Moderator Capt. Herb Emory, a helicopter pilot for radio traffic news and racing historian, played a taped interview with former racing great Gober Sosebee of Dawson County. Emory conducted the interview after Sosebee had been sent to the hospital following a crash with a telephone poll in which he was knocked unconscious.

    Sosebee, who drove to three wins at Daytona from 1949-51, snuck out of the emergency room to drive in a Macon race that day, which he won.

    "I've had worse wrecks," Sosebee, who died in 1996, said on the tape.

    Sosebee's son and former driver, David, said Gainesville was fortunate to have its old train tracks that run through town because it was easier to ship off moonshine in the train cars.

    "Y'all could just stack it and send it on," Sosebee said. "We had to haul it (in vehicles)."

    Former driver Charles Mincey, also part of the discussion panel, was asked by Emory how many moonshine runs he made.

    "About five years," he said.

    Jimmy Mosteller, one of the most experienced auto racing announcers in the country, also joined the panel. Emory joked with the capacity crowd that filled the history center's rotunda that Mosteller, 80, likely invented the public address system.

    Mosteller recalled the days of dirt racing as the greatest era and said automobile racing remains "the greatest sport in the world."

    Dawsonville native Dan Elliot, brother of legendary driver Bill Elliot, spoke about the growth of NASCAR, which has expanded both nationally and internationally, although some say the sport has forgotten its Southeastern roots.

    "I'm proudest to be able to have been in the middle birth of NASCAR," said Dan Elliot, who served as crew chief and pit crew member on his brother's team. "I can't say I'm really proud it's progressed the way it has."

    Bill Elliot is coming off a season-best 24th place finish at last week's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway and is currently 37th in the points standings, running in just seven of 18 races this season. Dan Elliot said his brother plans to continues to race for points in the No. 21 Wood Brothers' Ford this season.

    Linda Petty, wife of Richard Petty, was unable to attend Tuesday's forum due to inclement weather that would not allow her to fly from North Carolina, said Phil Hudgins, who chairs the history center's forums committee.

    A second forum, "The Later Years of NASCAR", is scheduled for Aug. 14 and will include new panel members involved in the modern era of racing, Hudgins said.

    Contact: mstewart@gainesvilletimes.com, (770) 718-3432

    Originally published Wednesday, July 11, 2007

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