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Georgia Racing Hall of Fame inductees announced

Gazaway, Padgett among those chosen for 2008

POSTED: July 28, 2008 5:02 a.m.
The votes are in and the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame class of 2008 has been chosen.  This year's inductees are former NASCAR vice president of competition Bill  Gazaway, short track racer Jack Jackson, 1965 NASCAR Rookie of the Year Sam McQuagg, Peach Bowl champion Charles Padgett, drag racing pioneer Randy Payne, NASCAR legend Wilbur Rakestraw, car owner Dub Smith  and track promoter Mike Swims.  The eight inductees were chosen from the initial "Sweet 15" nominees, who had been whittled down from over 40 nominees that were submitted to the Hall of Fame voting committee.  Following are brief bios on each of the 2008 inductees.  Bill Gazaway: Bill Gazaway, of Newnan, joined NASCAR in 1960 as a team owner, with his cars making seven starts. Tiny Lund made four starts for Gazaway, with Joe Caspolich making one start. Gazaway himself piloted the car in one event, at Atlanta, falling out after one lap with rear end trouble.  Gazaway is best known for being the man who controlled NASCAR's competition side for almost 20 years. Gazaway first went to work with NASCAR as a technical inspector in 1963, becoming assistant technical director in 1967 before becoming technical director for the tour in 1967. Gazaway became director of racing operations and competition director in 1979, and then became vice president of competition in 1984. He held that position until his retirement from NASCAR in 1987.  Gazaway made big contributions to the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association as the person who spearheaded the GARHOFA Georgia State prestige license plate, the funds from which helps to support the preservation of automobile racing in the state of Georgia. Gazaway also served on the Hall of Fame voting committee, which votes to choose inductees.  Jack Jackson: Jack Jackson is a rags to riches story. He was born and raised in the Techwood area  of Atlanta when it was government housing. He started racing in the early 50s in the jalopy division at the legendary Peach Bowl Speedway in Atlanta, moving quickly up to the sportsman division, where he became a multi-year champion. He raced at Columbus, LaGrange, Canton and won the first race at the original Dixie Speedway in Jasper, Ga. But, after about 1963, Jackson raced mostly at the Peach Bowl. He continued racing there until the track closed after the 1971 season.  Jackson was a long time employee of the city of Atlanta.  He is the founder of the annual Peach Bowl Speedway reunion.  Jackson and fellow Hall-of-Famer Jimmy Mosteller were the founders of the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association.  Sam McQuagg: Columbus, Ga.  native Sam McQuagg got his first taste of racing in the mid 1950s, when he decided to participate in a spectator race at a small local dirt track in his street car.  He won that race and was hooked.  McQuagg quit his construction job and became a racer on the local dirt tracks. He was a constant winner at Valdosta and at Auburn-Opelika, Ala.  McQuagg entered his first NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) event at Valdosta in 1962. In 1965, McQuagg made 14 starts in NASCAR's top division, recording two top five finishes and five top 10 finishes, enroute to being named the rookie of the year.  McQuagg was leading the Southern 500 that year when he tangled with Cale Yarborough, sending Yarborough's car over the fence and outside the racetrack. Footage of that crash would be shown as part of the opening of ABC's Wide World of Sports for several years afterwards.  McQuagg won his only Cup event the following year in the Firecracker 400  at Daytona Beach, Fla., piloting a Ray Nichels-owned Dodge that was equipped with the first spoiler in NASCAR history.  McQuagg ran his last NASCAR event at Charlotte in 1974, following a four year absence from the sport. Away from the track, he was a commercial pilot. He retired in 1997.  Charles Padgett: Charlie Padgett came from a racing family.  One of five racing brothers, Padgett, of Jasper, started his career at a track in Dalton and ran at practically every track in north Georgia at the time. He was the Southern Racing Enterprises Modified Champion in 1956, racing at Canton, Dallas, the Peach Bowl, Banks County Speedway, Gainesville Speedway and Toccoa Speedway.  Padgett raced quite a bit at the Peach Bowl, but really came into his own at the legendary Athens Speedway in Athens. There he won the July 4 Mid-Season Championship event in 1964  and 1966 and the Labor Day Championship event in 1964 and 1965.  He also competed at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock.  Padgett retired from racing in 1980 and opened the Airport Speedway go cart track in Jasper in 1981.  He and his wife operated the track for the next 20 years.  Randy Payne: Randy Payne, of Rome, picked up the nickname "Mr. Big Stuff," after piloting his famed Torino Cobra to many victories in the late 60s.  Payne won many races in his division while racing his powerful Ford, including the first sanctioned drag race held in Canada.  Some credit Payne, along with fellow Hall-of-Famer Hubert Platt and Atlanta's "Dyno Don"" Nicholson for inventing match drag racing in the south in the mid 60s.  Payne and Platt were teammates, taking on all comers in their hot rod Fords.  Payne was nominated driver of the year by Car Craft magazine four years in a row, and is also a member of the East Coast Drag Race Times Hall of Fame.  Wilbur Rakestraw: Wilbur Rakestraw, from Dallas, Ga., was another driver from a family of racers. Rakestraw was a Ford loyalist, and raced his number 999 (in honor of Henry Ford's first race car, piloted by Barney Oldfield)  across the south. Rakestraw raced with the Southern Racing Enterprises organization all over the south. Rakestraw competed in 30 Cup events between 1956 and 1961, picking up one top five finish at Columbia, S.C., and recording six top 10 finishes.  Among those starts were the first three Daytona 500s, in 1959, 1960 and 1961.  His best finish in that event was 22nd in 1959.  Rakestraw also competed in several NASCAR Convertible series events in 1958 and 1959. In 1958, Rakestraw competed in seven Convertible races, picking up three top fives and four top 10s.  Rakestraw retired from driving after 1961.  Dub Smith: Walter Dewey "Dub" Smith was one of the unsung heroes of racing. The father-in-law of Hall-of-Famer Bruce Brantley, Smith  was the owner of a highway grading company who started putting money into racecars in the early 1950s. With Atlanta mechanic Harvey Jones turning the wrenches, Smith's cars won  many races at the Peach Bowl in the early 1960s with John Sudderth behind the wheel.  In the late 1960s, Smith was part of the efforts to revive Lakewood Speedway, along with Ernie Moore and former Atlanta Mayor William B. Harsfield.  Moore died in the late 1980s.  Mike Swims: Mike Swims of Woodstock, may have been one of the most important promoters in dirt track racing.  Swims was born into the sport, working with his family at both the Dixie speedway in Woodstock and the Rome Speedway since his teenage years. Swims served as vice president and general manager of both facilities, and was one of the founders of the Hav-A-Tampa dirt late model series in 1990. Swims was instrumental in lining up national television coverage of the series, bringing dirt track racing into a national spotlight.  Swims also served as a consultant to the Lucas Oil Late Model series.  Under his guidance, both Dixie and Rome Speedways flourished, drawing competitors from all over the country for their annual "Shootout" dirt late model events.  Swims died in September of 2007, following a seven year long battle with cancer.  He is a member of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame induction ceremony and banquet will be held on Oct. 24 at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville.  For more information, visit the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame's Web site at www.thunderroadusa.com.   
 

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