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Racing legends enshrined at GRHOF
GRHOF inductees
Georgia Racing Hall of Fame inductees for the 2017 class from left to right Doc Bundy, Jabez Jones, Garry Dingler and Mike Love pose for photo following Saturday’s ceremony. - photo by Amy French

In a ceremony that celebrated both the rich history of racing in Georgia as well as the future of the sport, the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame inducted five new members over the weekend during its annual banquet.

This year Doc Bundy, Garry Dingler, Bobby Johns, Jabez Jones and Mike Love became a part of the legacy that is Georgia racing.

“This is what it is all about—to honor these people who make the sport I love so much what it is,” said President of the GRHOF Gordon Pirkle as the event kicked off on Nov. 11.

WSB radio traffic reporter and NASCAR reporter Doug Turnbull emceed the event after arriving late—due to traffic.

Dawsonville Mayor Pro-Tem Jason Power welcomed visitors and honorees to Dawsonville and Turnbull explained the rigorous process by which drivers, owners, crew chiefs, mechanics and major contributors to the sport must go through to make it into the hall.

A committee of 10 people select 50 nominees before another panel of 31 narrow that list to 15. In the end a group of 21 then select the final five for induction. 

The first award of the day went to the GRHOF volunteer of the year, Brad Davis. Davis was inducted by David Sosebee who called Davis a man of few words but someone who was always available to help. When asked if he’d like to say anything, Davis simply replied, “Thank you.”

Next to be honored was Casey Roderick as he was named Georgia Driver of the Year. 

Roderick offered heartfelt thanks explaining that he has struggled the last couple of years, but felt he was finally getting back on track.

“I just kept believing something would come along and be able to get back on track and enjoy what I do out on the race track and be able to do what I love,” Roderick said. “I have a lot of people to thank for this award. In the last four years it’s been a heck of a journey for sure.”

Roderick had 18 victories along with 27 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes on short tracks across the Southeast. The 25-year-old Lawrenceville native was the unanimous choice for driver of the year. 

Though most of his wins were in the Pro Late Model division, Roderick has also had success in the Super Late Model division. 

He has also had starts in NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck series.

Next was the Jimmy Mosteller Media Award that went to veteran motorsports writer, Jonathan Ingram.

The award is designed to honor racing journalists for lifelong contributions to the sport. Ingram is considered one of America’s top writers in the sport after 41 years writing for organizations including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Sports Xchange and among others.

Ingram was awarded by fellow veteran racing writer, Rick Minter.

“There are a lot of hard working people in the media,” Minter said about Ingram. “He’s a serious journalist.” 

Ingram relayed stories of his relationship with the award’s namesake as well as about trying to coax Bill Elliott out from under his car at the Coca-Cola 600.

“Bill is serious about his racing,” Ingram said. “These days we are all waiting for the siren to go off at the pool room once again as Chase wins his first cup race.”

Ingram said he was grateful for the honor.

“I can’t believe the good fortune I have had an opportunity to share stock car racing stories with readers,” he said.

GRHOF volunteer Faye Abercrombie was thanked repeatedly by inductors and honorees alike so it was no surprise when she was recognized with the Annie Dean Samples Award.

It is given each year to someone who follows in Samples’ footsteps as a pioneer with the organization and supporting it. Abercrombie volunteers on Fridays and Sundays and serves as secretary for the board.

This year’s president’s award was given to Frank Abercrombie by Pirkle who said it is tough to choose a recipient because of all the great volunteers at GRHOF. 

“Thank you Gordon, I sure didn’t expect this,” he said. “I really do appreciate this and appreciate being associated with the hall of fame…I hope there are more volunteers who will come after me to keep this place alive.”

One of Georgia’s most successful engine builders, Dingler was the first of the five to be inducted. 

For over 40 years Dingler built racing engines and worked as a crew chief for top racers within Georgia and across the nation. 

Early on he worked with GRHOF member Peter Hamilton while Hamilton won the outside pole for the 1973 Daytona 500, the Sportsman 100 at Birmingham and the Snowball Derby in Pensacola. 

Dingler was also a part of the team when Dick Brooks won the Talladega 500 in the car fielded by Jimmy and Peter Crawford.

In the late 70s, he won two of short track racing’s premier events – the Snowball Derby with Ronnie Sanders and the World 100 with Doug Kenimer. Sanders and Kenimer are also members of the Hall of Fame.

Sanders was on hand to induct his friend Dingler and told stories of Dingler carrying a briefcase around the race track that was full of crayons, magic markers, card board and a hole punch—to make tickets for the two.

“He knows everything about a car,” Sanders said. “He’s quite a character too.”

Dinger told the audience that he had always hoped to make the playing field level.

Next to be inducted was Jones who had a career that covered 30 years of racing, and included more than 350 wins as a driver and owner. 

He began building race cars in 1953 and at one time won 17 straight events Athens Speedway in 1970. He raced to another 14 straight wins at Anderson Speedway in 1971.

Charles Head, prior winner of the Mosteller Award, inducted Jones and explained that he had been one vote shy of entering the hall for several straight years.

“It’s finally here,” Head said.

Head told stories of Jones’ innovation in the sport, including being the first driver to use a five-point harness. His military background gave him the insight to institute safety measures like that as well as the window net. 

Because Jones thought his mom would not want him hauling moonshine, he instead drove as a decoy car for other moonshiners.

He competed at tracks across Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida and was one of the original organizers of Georgia-Carolina No. 1 Racing Association.

Inductee Love thanked all who have come before him and those who will be around after. 

Considered one of the most versatile drivers, Love had championships on both dirt and asphalt tracks.

He won more than 450 feature races including 26 track championships and two Winston Racing Series titles.

In his first year of racing he won 13 out of the 30 races he ran.

By 1986, Love had won 13 track championships, including multiple at Lanier Speedway, Anderson Motor Speedway, Athens Speedway and Lavonia Speedway. 

In 1987 he made the switch to asphalt racing as several local tracks had been paved, but he was able to continue his winning ways.

Love was named as one of the All-Time Top 25 drivers in NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series in 2006. Other drivers on that list include Denny Hamlin, Ted Christopher, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle.

Love brought up his crew to thank them. 

“These are my guys. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

The final inductee of the afternoon was Bundy who said he felt like the red-headed stepchild as the only sports car racer being inducted. 

He told the story of his childhood racing hero that he had a chance to meet at a young age. He hid behind his dad but he picked Bundy up, put him in his car and said “It’s time to start racing boy.” 

From there Bundy was hooked. 

Bundy is not only a successful sports car racer but has worked as a television announcer.

He began is driving career in 1980 when he earned a National Championship as rookie driving a Porsche 924 for Holbert Racing. He then won the GTO Category at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1982 in a Porsche 924 Turbo.

He co-drove with Bobby Rahal and Jim Trueman to win a six-hour GTP race at Mid-Ohio in 1983.

He would go on to win two races for the Corvette GTP team of Rick Hendrick, including a victory at Road Atlanta in 1986.

During the 1990s Bundy drove the Esprit X180R for Lotus in the International Motor Sports Association's (IMSA) Bridgestone Supercar Championship. In 1992 he won the Drivers Title and Championship for Lotus.

Bundy continues to drive for the Regogo Racing Team in vintage events.

Johns was the final driver inducted. He was inducted posthumously by NASCAR champion Rex White. 

White and Johns were great friends from the mid-50s until Johns death last year.

Originally from Miami, Johns lived a number of years in Atlanta and competed on local tracks.

Johns raced in the NASCAR series now known as the Monster Energy Cup Series where he had 141 career starts and two wins—at Atlanta and Bristol. He also finished the 1960 season third on the points list.

He twice qualified for the Indianapolis 500 and finished seventh and 10th in 1965 and 1969.