Rarely in life does a person get the chance to be a witness to history. Even more rare is the opportunity to be a part of that history as it occurs.
Attendees of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame’s 14th annual induction ceremony got a chance to be a part of both as the world of racing got together on Saturday, Aug. 11 to pay tribute to another group of legends.
“I’ve been here since day one, and this is easily one my favorite days of the year,” said Gordon Pirkle, GRHOF president.
Beginning in 2002 with the creation of the hall of fame and the induction of its first eight members, from legendary drivers such as Lloyd Seay to media representatives along the lines of James Mosteller, the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame has recognized the contributions of people at all levels of the sport.
This year’s class of inductees featured three of the sport's drivers: Charlie Hughes, Russel Nelson and Rance Phillips; a member of the most dominant racing team of the 1980’s, Dan Elliott; and an inventor that changed forever the way drivers handled their vehicles, Dick Anderson.
WSB’s Doug Turnbull hosted the ceremony for the fourth year, and along with NASCAR commentator Rick Minter, introduced each of the recipients.
The first award of the day, the GRHOF Driver of the Year award, went to Spencer Davis.
Davis was unable to attend the event due to competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at the Michigan International Speedway. Fittingly, that race was broadcast live on the big screen of the hall of fame while the ceremony continued, and the crowd was able to track Davis as he finished 22nd on the day.
The Jimmy Mosteller Media Award was then presented to Greg Fielden of Surfside Beach, S.C.
Fielden spent 24 years broadcasting racing events, and in that time, “worked for virtually every TV network that televised Winston Cup events.”
Upon his retirement from television, he began a career as an author in the field of NASCAR and racing history. Fielden has written 16 books about the sport, with his latest being ‘The Greatest Show on Dirt,’ a history of the National Dirt Racing Association.
“It’s great,” said Charlie Hughes about being inducted as part of the 2018 class. “Just about like the feeling of winning a big race.”
Hughes should know that feeling having won an astonishing 42 races in 1976 alone, and 23 of those in a row. Hughes’ racing career spanned 31 years from 1966 until 1997, starting and ending on the North Georgia Speedway where he won the track championship in his final race.
Hughes was a dominant force in dirt Late Model racing with countless victories at some of the most prestigious tracks across the country to include a documented 37 wins at Dixie Speedway. He was also inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2005.
Hailing from Buford, the day’s second, and posthumous, inductee, Russell Nelson, started his racing career in 1960 at the Peach Bowl Speedway in Atlanta.
During his career Nelson garnered 364 checkered flags on just about every short track in north Georgia. Russell also experienced regional success winning the Rattler at South Alabama Speedway as well as driving down victory lane at Birmingham International Raceway and Montgomery Motor Speedway.
Also inducted posthumously was Rance Phillips, nicknamed “The Fugitive.”
Phillips’ hometown was in Waycross and he began his racing career in 1964 after winning his first race in only two attempts.
Over the next 40 years, Phillips went on to win over 700 feature races and claim 19 track championships.
Phillips was also previously been inducted into the Jacksonville Racing Hall of Fame (2009) and the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame (2011).
Phillips' three children, Lynn, Randy and Nancy, accepted the award on his behalf.
“It’s an honor and a pleasure to see him receive all the recognition. It’s awesome” said Randy Phillips.
Being honored in his hometown of Dawsonville, Dan Elliott needed very little introduction to the crowd. Following in the steps of his father George, along with brothers Ernie and Bill, Dan Elliott “was an integral part of a family team that pulled off some of the most impressive feats in NASCAR history,” according to the GRHOF.
Responsible for working on the engines and transmissions for the team, Dan also served as the tire man on pit row during the team’s record breaking run to win the first Winston Million in 1988.
“It really makes you reflect on all that was accomplished." Elliott said during his acceptance speech, “And the support from this town, from Dawsonville, has meant so much and it did so much. Thank you.”
Although inventor Dick Anderson does have a racing victory under his belt, having won first in his class and second overall at the 1990 Mexican Road Race, driving is not his claim to fame.
Founding Carrera Shocks in 1964, Anderson invented the coil-over shock absorber. He also invented the shock dynamometer, the remote adjustable shock, the lightweight shock and an electromagnetically enhanced shock absorber that is used by the military.
In addition to redefining the mechanical aspects of the vehicles, Anderson was a pioneer in roll-couple theory and calculation going so far as to develop an “Electronic Calculator” that gave drivers the ability to understand not only what their cars needed to handle better but why.
Anderson’s love and passion for the sport of racing was evident in his acceptance speech, in which he found a story to touch upon everybody in the room. Whether it was an almost bawdy reference to some past prank, or a fond memory of a driver no longer with us, Anderson brought a smile to almost everyone’s face with his journey down memory lane.
In the end, as he wrapped up his comments, Anderson captured the reason for the moment and put the perfect ending on the 2018 Georgia Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“No matter what kind of racing you do, it’s hard,” Anderson said.