Talladega, Alabama — the largest track on the NASCAR schedule and the site of the most recent Cup Series race this past weekend. There is quite a lot in common that Talladega and Dawsonville share, and it's not just that they're both small towns in the south.
Several Dawsonville natives have tried to tame the track, but the first to come to mind is none other than Awesome Bill from Dawsonville. Talladega was the track that helped Bill Elliott truly become "Awesome".
Back in the 80s, when the track was known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway, Elliott would obliterate the competition on more than one occasion. He won 6 straight pole awards from 1985 and 1987, breaking his own speed record on several occasions. He would eventually capture 8 total poles, with the other two coming years later. While he only won two races at the track, the most memorable by far was the 1985 Winston 500. The race where he went against all odds and brought the Coors Thunderbird back from two laps down under green!
This story continues below.
After setting what was then a new track record in qualifying, Elliott led early, but by lap 48, his car was smoking as it was coming into the pits. His quick-thinking brother and crew chief, Ernie, saw the problem and replaced the oil pump belt, but it took nearly two laps to do so. Somehow, over the next 110 laps, Elliott made up nearly 10 miles on the field and retook the lead by passing the leaders once more. Elliott would go on to win the race in one of the most dominant performances NASCAR had ever seen.
The year prior, another Dawsonville driver found himself with a successful run at the Alabama oval but was cut short of victory. Second-generation driver, David Sosebee, competed in a part-time schedule in both the ARCA Series and NASCAR Cup Series. Sosebee was a true independent that relied on used parts, volunteer crew and local sponsors. At the first Talladega race of 84, Sosebee led for two laps and finished 6th in the Arca race. When the tour returned for the summer race, Sosebee was ready to prove himself. He had bought a used Tim Richmond driven Pontiac that raced in the cup series the year before and had won at Pocono. Now #81, Sosebee would start 7th on the field but managed to take the lead by lap 6. For the next 50 laps, it was the David and Davey show.
Future star and Hall of Famer, Davey Allison would swap the lead back and forth with Sosebee as they ran away from the other competitors. When you look at the race statistics, it must have been one heck of a race to watch, Sosebee would lead for two laps, then Allison for three, then Sosebee for four laps and so on. There were only three leaders for the whole race, Sosebee, Allison and the eventual winner, the legendary Red Farmer. As fate would have it, on a late caution, Sosebee lost third gear — meaning on a restart, he'd have to go from 2nd gear to 4th. While other competitors had the proper gears, it would take Sosebee about a lap to fully get back up to speed and lost the draft.
In the record book, it shows that the #81 Sosebee Racing Pontiac finished 18th, but you have to know the race's backstory to truly appreciate it. David would run well at the high banked track, especially for usually being in an underfunded car and being able to run with the more funded ones. He would record another top 10 at Talladega with a 4th place finish driving a Ford sponsored by Bill Elliott Ford/Mercury in the spring race of 1988, again, won by Red Farmer.
Which brings us back to the 21st century, Dawsonville has yet again two more drivers that have tried their hand at Talladega, Chase Elliott and Spencer Davis. The latter finished third in his only start on the track during an ARCA race in 2017, while the second generation Elliott has one NASCAR Cup Series victory there in 2019.
This past Sunday, luck just wasn't on his side.