The Fast 15 semi-finalists for the 2015 class of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame have been selected, and the strong resumes of that group show once again that Georgia has as rich a racing heritage as any state in America.
Topping the vote, done by an all-star panel of 30 Georgia racing experts, was Baldwin’s C.L. Pritchett, one of the nation’s all-time great dirt-track drivers. Pritchett, whose received 20 votes, raced from 1967 to 1990 and amassed a win total of between 800 and 1,000 and finished in the top 10 in more than 90 percent of his races, according to racing historians.
Second on the list, with 19 votes, was the late Billy Clanton, a dirt racer and car builder from Riverdale, Ga., who saw his three sons follow him into the sport and continue his legacy. His son Joey raced in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series, while son Shane is the current points leader of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series.
Also among the Fast 15 are two of the best female racers ever to take to the track. Tammy Jo Kirk of Dalton was a successful flat-track motorcycle racer who moved to stock cars and won the 1994 Snowball Derby, short-track asphalt racing’s premier event. She also raced in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series.
Ethel Flock Mobley joined her brothers Fonty, Bob and Tim on the dirt tracks of the early days of the sport.
Sports car legend Jim Downing, an accomplished driver who also worked with his brother-in-law to build and market the HANS Device, is among the Fast 15 along with renowned engine builder James Lyle, multi-time track champion Mike Love, dirt legend Stan Massey and short-track legend Jabez Jones. Joining them are Russell Nelson, Harold Fountain, Sam Sommers, Harold Fryar, and Dick Anderson.
The Fast 15 were chosen from a list of 50 nominees. The voting now moves to a 20-member panel that will select the five that will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m.
For many Fast 15 voters, choosing just 15 from the 50 candidates proved more difficult than expected. It seems that there are far more Georgia racing legends than many realize.
“Picking only 15 was tough,” said veteran sports journalist Ed Hinton, a first-time Hall of Fame voter. “I wanted to nominate about 20. My eyeballs hurt from reviewing all the records, over and over…
“I narrowed it down by two criteria: races won, and pure showmanship — that is, contributing to the color of Georgia motorsports.”
Here’s a look at the Fast 15 for the 2015 Georgia Racing Hall of Fame:
Dick Anderson– Chamblee – He was the founder and owner for 32 years of Carrera Shocks. He produced the first coil-over shocks and was the first to mass produce several types of shocks for drag racing. He built the first tie-rod end shocks for NASCAR. He started the first Oval Track Trade Show and won first in his class and second overall in the 1990 Mexican Road Race.
Billy Clanton – Riverdale – His career began at Newman Speedway in April, 1966. From then until the 1990s, he was for the most part a full-time racer – between racing cars himself and preparing them for others. He worked with Hall of Fame member Roscoe Smith for a time, then ran his own Billy Clanton Race Cars after that.
He primarily raced at tracks across Georgia but often traveled to races elsewhere. He was a regular competitor in the World 100 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, often building a new car each year for that prestigious race.
His biggest career victory came in a June, 1984, National Dirt Racing Association race at Rome International Speedway, and while he did not keep records of his career wins, they’re estimated to be more than 200.
But his greatest legacy is what he did to help others further their racing careers, starting with his own family. His sons Rusty, Joey and Shane all have gone on to find great success in racing as has his son-in-law Rodney Dickson.
Jim Downing– Atlanta – Born Jan. 4, 1942, he opened Downing/Atlanta race shops shortly after graduating from Georgia Tech. From 1978 to 1993, the Downing/Atlanta team and the engine builder Rick Engman scored more Mazda victories in IMSA than any other team. Scored 40 IMSA victories, and 5 IMSA driving championships (1981 International Sedan, 1982 Camel GTU, 1985, 86, 87 Camel Lights) Two time 24 Hours of Daytona winner(1993-Camel Lights, 2001-Grand-Am SRP), two time Sebring 12 hour winner (1980-Camel GTU, 1992 Camel LIGHTS) 1996 winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans(LMP2). The Downing/Atlanta team designed and built the RX-7 that 23 races and five GTU championships between 1982 and 1987 for Downing, Jack Baldwin and Tom Kendall. He continues to compete in SCCA. Downing was also instrumental in creation of the HAS device, responsible for saving countless lives in motorsports crashes around the world. He has been the recepient of numerous awards for the HAS device.
Harold Fountain– Martinez – After winning numerous features in the 1960s and 1970s, he was the 1974 Savannah Speedway Champion, South Carolina State Late Model Stock champ, Myrtle Beach Speedway champion. He won the Permatex feature race at Savannah, and finished fourth in National LMS points. He finished ninth in World Service 300 LMS event at Charlotte. In 1974 he finished third in South Carolina State LMS and was second at Savannah in 1973. He was track champion at Greenville-Pickens in 1971and won the Permatex Race at Savannah Speedway that same year.
He started racing in 1948 at Warner Park in Chattanooga and continued until May of 1971, when he was killed in a racing crash at Gadsden Speedway in Alabama.
His brother Freddy Fryar was inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.
Bobby Johns-Miami, Fla. – A long-time competitor in north Georgia, he won several races at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, and won two NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Atlanta (1960) and Bristol(1962). He r ecorded 21 top 5s, 36 top 10s, and two poles between 1956-1969. He was the first NASCAR driver to make competitive laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He piloted Smokey Yunick’s famed Hurst Floor Shift Special in testing and qualifying for the 1964 Indy 500.
He twice raced in the Indy 500, finishing seventh in 1965 and 10th in 1969.
Jabez Jones-Toccoa – He began building race cars in 1953. He owned cars driven by Sam Sosebee, T.C. Hunt and his son, Jabe Jones. His career spanned some 30 years, with more than 350 career wins. Set a track record at Anderson Speedway in 1969 that stood until the track was paved in 1987. He won 17 straight events at Athens Speedway in 1970 and 14 straight events at Anderson Speedway in 1971. He won the Sportsman Award at Anderson Speedway in 1971.
He was instrumental in the careers of several drivers, including Herman Wise. He was one of the original organizers of Georgia-Carolina No. 1 Racing Association in 1973 and competed in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. He raced against legendary drivers, such as Bud Lunsford, Charlie Mincey, C.L. Pritchett, Charles Barrett, Katron Sosebee, Tootle Estes, Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Red Farmer.
Tammy Jo Kirk– Dalton – She began her career racing motorcycles. She raced in the AMA Grand National Championship, becoming the first woman to reach a final in 1983 at the Knoxville Half Mile. She won a class C flat track race at Knoxville, Tenn. She moved to late Model racing at the behest of GRHOF member Jody Ridley. She competed in the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro division, winning the series Most Popular Driver award in 1994. She became the second woman to win a NASCAR Touring series event in 1994 by winning the Snowball Derby (then an All Pro Series event). She was the first woman to win the Snowball Derby. She moved to the NASCAR Craftman Truck Series in 1997 with Geoff Bodine Racing. She continues to mentor young motorcycle racers, both male and female.
Mike Love – Maysville – He ran up more than 450 victories and 26 track championships, plus two Winston Racing Series Championships in his career. He began racing in 1972 at Athens Speedway and won 13 out of 30 races that first year. By 1986, Love had won 13 track championships, including four at Lanier Speedway, four at Anderson Motor Speedway, three at Athens Speedway and two at Lavonia Speedway. He started asphalt racing in 1987 and won six more championships from 1987-89, all at Lanier and Anderson. He won titles at Lanier and Lavonia in 1991 and won the Lanier National championship in 1992.
James Lyle – Maysville – When it comes to meticulous preparation of racing engine, James Lyle has few equals. In a career that started in 1964 and continues today, Lyle’s engines have won more than 2,000 races at all levels of motorsports, including stock car racing, drag racing and tractor pulling. His list of clients includes some of racing’s all-time great drivers, including Bud Lunsford, C.L. Pritchett, Buck Simmons, Russell Nelson and many more. Some of his greatest success came with Bill Elliott and the No. 9 team from Dawsonville. With Lyle preparing the short blocks, the team dominated races in the mid-1980s, with the reliability of Lyle’s short blocks contributing a great part to many of those wins. In addition to his engine work, Lyle is a leader in his hometown and serves with the fire department and in other capacities.
the mid-80s, continued to build power plants for drivers all over the southeast.
Stan Massey – Mableton – He got his first win at Senoia Raceway July 14, 1972, and his last win came on June 17, 2000 at 7 Flags Speedway. He ended his career with 188 confirmed wins and countless others that, like many a racer of his era, were never documented by him or his supporters. He won four Late Model championships at Dixie Speedway, and won some of the biggest events in dirt-track racing. Massey won weekly races and major events on his home tracks like Dixie Speedway, Rome Speedway, Seven Flags Speedway and Senoia Raceway But he also won races at tracks across the Southeast and on major traveling circuits including the Southern All Stars. His biggest career victories came at Dixie against the best dirt racers in America. Running against the cream of the crop in the 1981 Dixie Nationals sanctioned by the National Dirt Racing Association, Massey prevailed to win a then-record $17,000. And to prove it was no fluke he came back the next year and won the 1983 NDRA Nationals at Dixie. He drove for many of the top car owners of his time including his father Ed Massey, Jack Diemer, J.R. Foster and Ronnie Dobbins.
Ethel Flock Mobley– Atlanta – Deceased- The sister of Tim, Bob, and Fonty Flock, she was the first female race car driver to compete against men in the state of Georgia when she entered a race at Central City Park Speedway in Macon. She was rated as the top woman driver in the southeast United States, having won many competitions in all-women races. She made two NASCAR Sprint Car starts. She raced against her brothers Tim, Bob, and Fonty at NASCAR’s second event ever on July 10, 1949 at the Daytona Beach Road Course. It was the first event to feature a brother and a sister, and the only NASCAR event to feature four siblings. Ethel beat Fonty and Bob by finishing 11th, while Tim finished second. In June, 1949, she entered a racing competition in Florida, competing against 57 men drivers. She finished in eighth place She competed in over 100 NASCAR Modified events in her career. She died June 26,1984.
Russell Nelson – Buford – Deceased. He began racing in 1960 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta in 1960. He was the winner of 364 feature events including races at Lanier National Speedway. He competed against such drivers as Mark Martin, Harry Gant and the Allison brothers.
C.L. Pritchett– Baldwin – He is a second-generation racer, son of pioneer racer and Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Swayne Pritchett. During a career that began in 1967 and ended in 1990, he amassed a win total of between 800 and 1,000 and finished in the top 10 in more than 90 percent of his races, according to racing historians. He also won multiple track championships at multiple tracks and scored major victories on touring circuits including the National Dirt Racing Association, where on August 19, 1978, he won a then-record $10,000 at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. He raced against top drivers including Bud Lunsford, Buck Simmons, Mike Duvall, Doug Kenimer and Freddy Smith, while driving his own cars and for some of the sport’s top car owners including Gerald Voyles, Harley Hill, Morris Partain and Wendell Roach. Inducted into the Cherokee Speedway Hall of Fame in 2008. Built race cars for himself and other top drivers including Doug Kenimer. Won numerous track championships throughout the Southeast. He was recognized in 2015 by the Georgia State Senate, where he was described as “The Last American Hero.” He continues an active part in local dirt track racing as a mentor to young drivers.
Sam Sommers– Sylvania – He began racing at Savannah Speedway in 1965 and won eight of the first 11 races he entered. He would go on to compete and win many races in the Southeast, at tracks in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. He was the 1975-76 Savannah track champion and Georgia state champion. He competed in his first Grand National ( Sprint Cup ) event in 1976. He won the Turkey 200 at Jax Speedway, beating out Tiny Lund and Tom Pistone. He won the pole at the Atlanta International Raceway’s 1977 Sprint Cup event while competing for Rookie of the Year honors. He retired from racing in 1985 and was inducted into the Jacksonville Raceways Hall of Fame in 1995.