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Georgia Is On The Rise Again In NASCAR

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 3 2011

Red Byron was the pride of Georgia racing back in his day. A new breed is creating pride these days. (Photos courtesy of NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Now that the majority of the NASCAR teams are headquartered around Concord, N.C., and the new, official NASCAR Hall of Fame is in Charlotte, there’s a perception that NASCAR has its roots in the Carolinas.

But there are plenty of Georgians who beg to differ.

As writer and historian Brandon Reed pointed out in a very good article on his GeorgiaRacingHistory.com website, Georgia drivers dominated the early days of NASCAR. By his stats, 38 of the 52 events sanctioned by NASCAR in its inaugural year of 1948 were won by Georgians, all of whom are now members of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

It all started at the beach-road course in Daytona on Feb. 15, when Red Byron, driving a car owned by Raymond Parks and prepared by Red Vogt, won the main event.

Also winning races that year were the Flock brothers, Fonty, Bob and Tim, along with Gober Sosebee and Billy Carden. In 1948, NASCAR sanctioned races for Modified drivers. The Strictly Stock division that evolved into the Sprint Cup Series didn’t begin until 1949.

Reed also determined that of the 165 top-three finishers in those races, 92 were from

Tim Flock was the Cup champion in 1952.

Georgia. And that happened even though there often were multiple events held on the same day at different tracks long before the days when drivers could use jets to double-dip like they do today.

Georgians also took the top three spots in the final points standings with Byron winning the title, followed by Fonty Flock and Tim Flock.

In recent years, Georgians haven’t had a whole lot to celebrate, that is until the past couple of weeks when the relatively small Georgia gang has shown some of the kind of strength that the Flocks and Byron and Sosebee and Carden showed back in the day.

It started a week ago at Road America when Reed Sorenson, of Peachtree City, won the Nationwide Series race. Then, one-time Alpharetta resident Joey Logano won the Nationwide race at Daytona.

But the real head-turner came Saturday night when Unadilla’s David Ragan got his first Sprint Cup win, and got it at Daytona, where back in the early days of NASCAR, his grandfather was part of the old Georgia Gang.

“My grandfather, I never met him, but he owned a car,” David Ragan said in his late-night winner’s interview at Daytona. “He never drove any, but he owned a car in the ‘40s and ‘50s.”

Ragan’s father Ken and uncle Marvin caught the racing fever as kids and eventually tried their hands at Cup racing but with little success.

Ken Ragan, racing as an independent in cars owned by his brother, drove in 50 Cup

David Ragan making Georgians proud. (File photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

races from 1983 to 1990 but never even had a top-10 finish.

Once again, the racing fever spread to a new generation of the Ragan family.

“That’s what ultimately what sparked my interest,” David Ragan said of his father’s racing and the friends they made during that time.

Ragan’s win was the first in Cup for a Georgian since Bill Elliott won at Rockingham in the fall of 2003.

And it’s quite likely that down in the heart of peach-growing country, the locals are celebrating the Fourth of July by honoring the Peach State’s newest Cup winner.

“Everybody back home in Unadilla, Georgia – maybe the streets are rocking and rolling tonight,” Ragan said.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 3 2011
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  • Mr. Tony Geinzer says:

    I hope Sprint Cup is in Atlanta for the future as Atlanta is a lovely town and I hope there’s a future owner from Atlanta one day.