Tommie Irvin of Baldwin, Georgia, is a true pioneer of the sport. Irvin was born in rural Habersham County, Georgia, where he went to school and played football, basketball and baseball. He was joined the army in 1943 at the age of 18, and would serve as a sergeant in Company K 254th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Division. He was awarded several medals, including a bronze star, and was honorably discharged in 1946.
Irvin raced locally in the late 40s and early 50s, and was one of the first drivers, along with his friend Swayne Pritchett, to obtain a license from NASCAR shortly after the sanctioning body formed in 1948. Irvin raced all over, including at the famed Daytona Beach road course, where he once ended up running out into the ocean. Irvin was the Southern Racing Enterprises Association champion in 1954, but says his biggest win came at Atlanta’s famed Lakewood Speedway in 1955.
In that same year, Irvin opened Banks County Speedway near Baldwin, a track that would remain in operation until the early 70s. Irvin also raced at Soldiers Field in Chicago, IL, for legendary car owner Andy Granatelli.
Irvin passed away on Dec. 5, 2010.