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Georgia Racing Hall of Fame inducts 2016 class
S-GRHOF Induction pic1
This years inductees pose after the ceremony on Saturday. From left: Billy Thomas for Jimmy Thomas, Dick Brannan, Sam Sommers, Ricky Williams and Stan Massey. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

The quiet heroes of another era gathered on Saturday afternoon at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame to honor this year's five inductees and award winners.

Inducted on Nov. 12 were Ricky Williams, Stan Massey, Dawsonville's Dick Brannan, Sam Sommers and Jimmy Thomas.

"This hall of fame makes it possible for people like Ricky Williams, who won't toot their own horn, to get the recognition they deserve," said presenter and veteran NASCAR reporter Rick Minter.

Minter joined WSB's Doug Turnbull and GRHOF president Gordon Pirkle in talking about this year's inductees and other award winners.

Pirkle called himself the most blessed man in Georgia to do the work he does at the hall of fame.

"These are my heroes," he said.

Bubba Pollard of Senoia was awarded the first ever GRHOF Driver of the Year.

"We love racing more than we love anything," Pollard said about his family. "We eat, sleep and breathe it."

Minter, a good friend of Williams', introduced Williams and his long list of accomplishments that include more than 350 wins throughout his over 40 years on the track.

Minter cited Williams' humble demeanor and the way that each of these drivers inspire the younger generation of drivers.

Williams is known for his victories across Georgia and Alabama and leads all drivers with 96 confirmed victories at the old West Atlanta/Seven Flags Speedway in Douglasville.

His major victories include the Coca-Cola 200 at Dixie Speedway in 1984, the Miller High Life Road to Charlotte at Dixie Speedway in 1984 and the Stroh's NDRA Qualifier at Dixie Speedway.

Driver Stan Massey, known as "Handsome Stan," raced up until 2000 in a career that spanned more than three decades behind the wheel.

Massey ended his career with 188 confirmed wins and countless others that were not documented.

He raced all throughout the Southeast with his biggest career victory coming at the Dixie Speedway against the top dirt racers in America.

"I consider myself very lucky to be here today," Massey said. "I couldn't have done everything I've done without my father."

Dawsonville native Dick Brannan was recognized by Preston Bonner, grandson of fellow hall of famer Phil Bonner, who was friends with Brannan for more than 50 years.

"What an honor to induct someone like Dick Brannan who is probably one of the most famous drag racers ever for Ford Motor Company and one of the most unique idea men," Bonner said. "This is a legend right here, ladies and gentlemen."

Brannan's name is considered nearly interchangeable with Ford Motor Company's efforts in drag racing. He was involved in the development of the Ford 427 engines, as well as that of the 1967 Ford Fairlane 427.

He is also known for his work with A.J. Foyt and Donnie Allison in developing the racing version of the 1968 Ford Torino.

Other credits during his time with Ford include work on the Ford Cobra Jet 428 engine and the 429 BOSS engine.

His accomplishments on the track include more than 200 wins in races sanctioned by the NHRA, IHRA and AHRA.

During those races he set 89 strip elapsed time or speed records.

His membership in the GRHOF is one more for the list that includes the Super Stock Magazine Hall of Fame, the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame and the Drag Racers Reunion Hall of Fame.

Brannan talked about getting his job at Ford in Dearborn, Mich. in 1963.

"It was a different world then than it is now," Brannan said.

Inductee Sam Sommers was introduced by Larry Sams who told tales of Sommers once getting paid in all coins after a race at Myrtle Beach.

Sommers began his racing career in 1965 and won eight of the first 11 races he entered.

His career included racing in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas and eventually took him into the highest level of NASCAR racing in 1976-1978. He ran 30 races in the series that is now known as the Sprint Cup. During that time he had two top-five and nine top-10 finishes.

Sommers retired in 1985 and is also a part of the Jacksonville Raceways Hall of Fame.

Billy Thomas, the son of Jimmy, accepted the award on his behalf. Jimmy Thomas passed away in 1980.

Billy said that as he looked through the categories to qualify for a nomination, his dad could have easily qualified in each one.

Thomas was successful in almost every aspect of auto racing-crew chief, car owner, mechanic, NASCAR official, car builder and track owner.

"Jimmy was a master at building race cars," said Robert Jenkins, an associate of Thomas' since 1970.

Not only did he build cars, he built, owned and operated race tracks.

He ran the Rocket Speedway from 1954 until 1959 and owned the Columbus Super Speedway. He later owned and operated the East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, AL. His family still runs it today.

"The sport that he loved so well, it became his life work," said Billy Thomas. "He set high standards in everything that he did."

Also during Saturday's event, the Jimmy Mosteller Media Award was presented to motorsports journalist Joe Cawley of Augusta.

The Annie Dean Samples Spirit Award went to Aline McClure.

Volunteer of the Year was given to Diane Brown and the President's Award was given to Bipul Gupta.