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‘Unreal’ support: Community rallies around Gordon Pirkle after double pneumonia diagnosis
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Gordon Pirkle holding up a sign that Dawson County High Schoolers brought him while he is recovering from double pneumonia. - photo by Jacob Smith

“I’m feeling great. Boy, I’ve never felt that sick,” Dawsonville racing legend Gordon Pirkle said to the Dawson County News on Monday. 

Pirkle started feeling chest pains around Feb. 12 and when his symptoms did not recover, his family brought him to the hospital. Luckily, he did not test positive for COVID-19, but instead turned up an equally distressing diagnosis of double pneumonia.

With the amount of COVID-19 patients at local hospitals, doctors sent him home with hospital-grade antibiotics and a commitment to stay hydrated.

“A lot of times, you don’t see people in that age group come out of the hospital,” Pirkle’s daughter, Hayley Garrett said. “I had a lot of people praying that they wouldn’t make him stay too long.”

Pirkle described the pain through his chest to be so harsh that he could not even rest his hands on his chest or stomach. Now, almost two weeks since first feeling sick, Pirkle says that he feels much better and is able to walk around his home and is improving every day. 

Throughout the last 10 days, Pirkle said the amount of support he received from the Dawsonville community has been “unreal.”

“I guess the word got out because everyone seems to want me to get better,” Pirkle said. 

Students at Dawson County High School made Pirkle a get well soon poster and multiple people have come by offering to drive him around town or spend time with him. 

“The love and the support and the prayers have been unreal,” Garrett said. “He’s even getting calls from California wishing him well. It just means a lot to know there’s so many people that are worried about him.” 

Pirkle said he’s itching to get back to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame but knows he would not be able to last a full day back at work yet. Garrett said that if his improvement continues, maybe a few hours here and there would not hurt him. 

The diagnosis came right at the start of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series. The series kicks off every year at Daytona International Speedway, a trip Pirkle used to make every year. Pirkle said he had no plans of going again this year but was still able to cheer for Dawsonville native Chase Elliott in the first two races at Daytona. Elliott finished in second place in the Daytona 500 and then a few late mistakes caused him to fall to 21st at the end of the Daytona Road Course. 

If there’s one thing friends and family know about Pirkle, it’s that nothing will keep him away from being at the Dawsonville Pool Room when Elliott wins his first race this season. Not even double pneumonia. 

“He’s gotta get back so he can sound that sireen,” Garrett said.