Gordon Pirkle spent most of last week preparing for the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame's 2013 induction ceremony only to learn that the spotlight would be on him.
"I don't believe this. They pulled one on me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said, accepting the hall's "first, last and only Founder's Award."
Hall of fame board member Brandon Reed presented the honor Friday night, as well as a portrait of Pirkle that will be display at the museum in Dawsonville, where the banquet was held.
"Last year, the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame celebrated its 10th anniversary," he said. "We would not have made it that far, or even gotten started, without the vision of what can be said to be the heart and soul of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
"[Pirkle's] given his time, his money, his strength and his heart to this place. He asks only in return that people remember the names of the racers enshrined here."
Pirkle's extended family was in attendance for the presentation. His son Gordon "G.P." Pirkle Jr. said having a racing hall of fame in Dawsonville, where many say the moonshine runners of yesteryear spurred what has since become NASCAR, was his father's dream.
"The night the hall of fame opened, he had just put his mother in the grave. He said, ‘This is the worst day of my life. I just put my mother to rest. But this is the best day of my life, this is a 20-year dream of mine finally come true,'" the son recalled.
Daughter Haley Garrett said she couldn't think of a more fitting tribute to her father.
"He's worked really hard. He has so much history in his heart that everybody needs to hear about it," she said. "All my life, racing has been No. 1 in him. He loves it.
"He loves racing more than anybody I know and he knows the history of it and he wants to preserve it."
The museum in Dawsonville is recognized by the state as the official home of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, which honors prominent members and their contributions to motorsports heritage.
This year's class of inductees included Charles Barrett, Hank Blalock, Frank Christian, Freddy Fryar and Huston Platt.
The hall also named Chase Elliott the 2013 Driver of the Year. His father, Bill Elliott, winner of the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Series and 2002 Georgia Racing Hall of Fame inductee, accepted the award on his son's behalf.
"Racing has changed a lot. I look out here and all the guys that paved the road, not only for me, but for Chase, it's incredible," said the elder Elliott, who added that his son could not attend the awards ceremony due to a prior commitment with Hendrick Motorsports.
He, too, praised Pirkle for his work with the hall of fame.
"We all lose sight of where racing came from," he said. "Gordon's commitment to make this place work and continue on and support all the guys that's made racing what it is today, that's the most important part of this whole deal and what this is about."
Also recognized during the ceremony were several individuals for their work in preserving Georgia's racing history.
Marvin, Linda and Cody Dinsmore of Dawsonville were named the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame 2013 Volunteers of the Year, while Ronnie Edwards received the Annie Dean Samples Spirit Award.
Jim Mintor was given the Jimmy Mosteler Excellence in Journalism Award and the President's Award went to Aline McClure, a longtime volunteer at the museum.
DCN staff writer David Renner contributed to this story.