JEFFERSON, GA – The Class of 2014 inductees to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame boasts one of the most successful dirt track campaigners in the state’s history, a historic driver turned car builder, a veteran wheelman who ruled the short tracks and competed in NASCAR, a legendary Super Modified driver and a legendary pioneer drag racer.
With fans packing the grandstands, the five new inductees into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame were announced Saturday night on the frontstretch of the historic, high banked half-mile Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, GA, as the speedway hosted “Georgia Racing Hall of Fame” night as part of a big night of racing at the famed speedplant.
The five new inductees include multi-time dirt track winner and champion Leon Archer of Griffin, GA, race driving winner turned champion car builder Roscoe Smith of Griffin, GA, short track ace and former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jack Pennington of Winston, GA, Super Modified race and championship winner Charlie Burkhalter of Athens, GA and pioneer drag racer and NASCAR car owner Julius Hughes of Atlanta, GA.
The announcement was made during the opening ceremonies of the PPG Paints Top Gun Sealants 100 Pro Late Model race at Gresham Motorsports Park, which also hosted a huge Hall of Fame autograph session featuring several past Hall of Famers, including Charlie Mincey, Ronnie Sanders, Warren Johnson, Hubert Platt, Charlie Bagwell, Hoyt Grimes and Bruce Brantley, along with members of this year’s class. Also on hand were other members of the “Fast 15” semi-finalists, including former AMA Motorcycle and Stock Car champion Tammy Jo Kirk and veteran stock car ace Harold Fountain.
The 2014 Georgia Racing Hall of Fame Induction banquet will be held on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 at 2 pm at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, located inside the Dawsonville Municipal Complex in Dawsonville, GA.
A limited number of seats for the banquet will be available. For more information, call the Hall of Fame at (706) 216-RACE (7223) or go online to georgiaracinghof.com.
Here’s a closer look at the 2014 inductees into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame:
Leon Archer – Griffin, GA – Born Dec. 27, 1939, where he still lives with his wife Sandra and son Mickey. He ran his first race at Zebulon Speedway in 1967, won for the first time at Newman Speedway in 1968 and before he retired in the mid-1980s won more than 250 feature events in his dirt Late Model cars. He was the first champion of the National Dirt Racing Association in 1979, and his car No. 222 remains one of the iconic car numbers in stock car racing. Archer won races at numerous tracks across America including Senoia Raceway, West Atlanta Raceway, Dixie Speedway, Rome Speedway, East Alabama Motor Speedway, Anderson (SC) Speedway, Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, N.C., Lavonia Speedway, Hartwell Speedway, Thunderbowl Speedway in Valdosta, Swainsboro Raceway, 441 Speedway in Dublin, LaGrange Speedway, Concord Motor Speedway, Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., Atomic Speedway in Knoxville, Newport Speedway, Smoky Mountain Raceway, Hagerstown (MD) Speedway, Myrtle Beach (SC) Speedway. He also won numerous poles and set a number of track records over the years. While he got the majority of his victories in cars he owned and prepared himself, he also found victory lane in cars owned by others including Barry Wright, Billy Thomas, Fred Johnson, Darrell Monk and Denny Ross. For nearly all of his career, Archer was a full-time racer, and spent countless hours working on his cars and developing innovative chassis set-ups at a time when there was little technology to be purchased.
Charlie Burkhalter – Athens, GA – Deceased – Successful competitor in the north Georgia area – raced and won many times at the Athens Speedway, Toccoa, the Peach Bowl, Jefco (Gresham Motorsports Park), Banks County, and other tracks all over the southeast. Championship Super Modified (Skeeter) racer – Won races and titles against Hall of Famers Charlie Mincey, Bud Lunsford, Buck Simmons and others. Passed away in May of 2010.
Julius Hughes – Atlanta, GA – Deceased – Began drag racing in 1955. Joined the Georgia Tech Auto Club in 1956, and, with the help of Hoyt Grimes, built a gas dragster, and competed at Ted Edwards’ Drag Strip thorough the 50s. Raced at the 1955 National Championship Drag Races in Kansas City, MO, winning in his class in a ’32 Ford Roadster, which was later featured in a Hot Rod Magazine article entitled “The Georgia Foursome.” Scored wins in the 1955 Winter National at Daytona Beach and the 1956 Oklahoma City Nationals. From 1955 to 1964, he directed racing events at Ted Edwards’ Dragstrip in Fairburn, GA. Opened the Atlanta Speed Shop in 1960, the first speed shop in Georgia. Won the D/Gas Class at the 1959 Nationals at Detroit driving his famed “Zot” 1955 Chevy. Won AA/Altered class at the 1964 US Nationals driving “Zot II”. Set a National record with a 9.55 ET at 162 mph. In 1964, he began management of the Newton County Drag Strip in Covington. The name was changed to the Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway and became the first NHRA sanctioned drag strip in Georgia. Held the annual “Atlanta $10,000 Drag Race” for the first time in 1964, and continued until 1972. Won the 1965 NHRA Division 2 Top Fuel championship driving the nitro-powered “Zot III”. His last drag race as a driver was in the 1971 Winternationals. During the 70s, he and his son, Julius III, began racing drag boats, campaigning in the “Zot Squirt”. In 1986, Julius, who had been diagnosed with diabetes and had been on insulin since he was 16, had a kidney transplant, which ended his driving career. He would continue as a member of the racing industry. He would become an ARCA and NASCAR car owner, with such drivers as David Sosebee, Rob Mororso, and Jimmy Hensley. In 1989, he was inducted into the NHRA Division 2 Hall of Fame. He would continue to operate the Atlanta Speed Shop until his death on February 15, 1992. He was posthumously inducted into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame in 2003.
Jack Pennington – Winston, GA – Began racing in 1974, competing and scoring wins at Oglethorpe, Myrtle Beach, Gordon Park and other dirt speedways – Won 1979 track championship at Myrtle Beach, winning 12 poles in 13 races during the year – Ran the NDRA series in 1980, winning six times. Won 39 races on the circuit in 1985 – Moved to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in 1990, was runner up for the Rookie of the Year – Led six laps in that year’s Daytona 500 – Returned to dirt, winning the 1992 Stick Elliott Memorial at Cherokee Speedway and the National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway – Inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2006.
Roscoe Smith – Griffin, GA – Born Dec. 13, 1939. Began racing drag cars and go-carts in 1956. Ran several drag cars, including a front engine Hoyt Grimes dragster, a self built 1965 Mustang A/FX, a front runner to Funny Car and Cheating 4bb1 Class, etc, partially funded by the Ford Motor Company. Won Top Eliminator at an NHRA Meet in Phenix City, AL in 1965. Ran two drag racing match races against Richard Petty in 1965. Moved to oval track racing in 1969, winning countless races across Georgia, along with racing in Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. Won Florida State Championship in 1977. Ran in the World 100 at Eldora Speedway in 1976 and 1977. Won several events over the years, including the Pepsi 100 at West Atlanta Raceway and a 100 lap feature at Middle Georgia Raceway. Competed in the next to last race at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, GA. Opened his racing business and sold racing parts and built cars for 25 years. Bought Ernie Elliott’s Standard Speed Supply Company and Bud Lunsford’s Southern Auto Parts Company. Built cars for some of the top racers in the country. Worked with Robert Smalley in organizing the NDRA. Sold his racing business in 1988.
About the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame – The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame is owned by Dawsonville History Museum, INC. The Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 2002, and became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2010. The museum, recognized by the state legislature as the official home of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, recognizes prominent members of Georgia’s racing heritage. The Hall of Fame also plays host to other events saluting the state’s racing history, including the annual Lakewood Speedway reunion. The Hall of Fame and Museum are housed in the Dawsonville City Municipal Complex just outside of downtown Dawsonville, Georgia on Hwy. 53. The museum is open Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Holiday and Summer hours vary. For more information, call (706)216-RACE (7223) or go online to www.georgiaracinghof.com.