At 95, Raymond Parks doesn’t get out as much as he used to.
Renowned as the first team owner in NASCAR, the Dawsonville native traveled with family and friends to Alabama April 23 where he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega.
Parks had never attended a race prior to November 1938 when his two cousins, Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall, convinced him to enter a car at the Lakewood Fairgrounds, near the gas station he owned in Atlanta.
If Seay had not won that day, Parks said he probably wouldn’t have stayed in racing.
But Seay won and so did just about everybody else, including NASCAR founder Bill France and Red Byron, who won the inaugural NASCAR Grand National Championship driving for Parks.
Without Parks’ contributions to the sport in its formidable years, local racing historian Gordon Pirkle says NASCAR would not be what it is today.
“He was a big part of it and from right here in little old Dawsonville,” he said.
Longtime friend Grady Rogers calls Parks an All-American story.
“It’s a story about grabbing your boot straps and pulling yourself up out of sharecropping and moonshining, and all that, and becoming something special. He truly was one of the pioneers of stock car racing,” said Rogers.
NASCAR President Mike Helton, the first person outside the France family to take over the day-to-day operations of NASCAR, presented Parks’ induction into the hall of fame.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.