Dawsonville’s Elliott family racing franchise began a new chapter in local racing history Monday when Dan Elliott was named General Manager of the newly purchased Peachstate Speedway in Jefferson.
Now known as Gresham Motorsports Park, the original half-mile track opened just outside of Pendergrass in 1967 and has seen many of NASCAR’s greatest legends swap paint over the last four decades.
“I’ve seen Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Darryl Waltrip, all the great ones run there. They raced it just like it was Atlanta International Speedway when it first opened up,” said local racing historian Gordon Pirkle. “It wasn’t as big, but we didn’t need all the race tracks to be big back then.”
Jim and Tony Gresham and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Crew Chief Gene Roberts purchased the track in early December from Paul Kegel. While a complete track makeover is required, the official plans for the track commonly known as the “fastest half-mile paved oval” have not been released.
Elliott, who served as crew chief and on the pit crew for his brother Bill, said the goal is for “Gresham Motorsports Park to become the best racing facility around.
Not only for the fans, but for the competitors, to profile the drivers that are currently in the top of their class and be able to have a facility where new talent is discovered.”
Several local racers currently compete in the Late Model Series, which currently runs at the speedway. “This will benefit a lot of local drivers as far as racing goes,” said Pirkle, who added he’s thought for a long time that someone should look into reviving the track.
“It’s one of the best tracks to watch a race. It’s wider for more passing. It’s a real good place to watch a race,” he said. “It won’t take much to bring it back to par. This is good news for everybody in racing around here.”
In addition to the Late Model Series, Elliott said talks are now underway to determine what other series the speedway will run for the 2009 season.
“We have three different designs that we’re looking at,” said Elliott. “We need to know by the middle of January what our plans will be for the renovation.”
From the beginning, when Elliott went to race tracks with his dad in the early 1970s, through his years in NASCAR, both in the pits and in front of the camera, coupled with his success in building transmissions for the greatest drivers on the circuits, lays the asphalt for something great, even at a time when racing is being hit hard by the economy.
“This is unique, and with the current economy, Jim, Tony and Gene have decided to move forward, make renovations and improvements, and given the time we’re in, it’s kind of unheard of,” Elliott said. “When the economy turns around, we’ll be positioned to be the premiere race track in the southeast.”
Tony Gresham said Elliott’s experience in the business will be a vital part of the track’s success.
“Dan brings a lot of energy to this organization, and he also brings a unique blend of racing experience, first as a fan and also from a businessman’s perspective,” he said.
Elliott said he plans to use every resource he has available to make the speedway the best track in the country.
“This track once hosted some of the most famous drivers that ever raced and if anyone can do that again, I want to be the man to do it,” he said. “I am excited and proud to be a part of the new Gresham Motorsports Park and highly praise the Greshams and Gene Roberts for this awesome opportunity.”
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.