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This Week in Racing History: The 2021 GRHOF Class is one to be remembered
Georgia Racing Hall of Fame

This Saturday the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame will welcome its newest class into the Hall. They include Gene White, Mike Rich, Ray Stonkus, Scott Russell and Wade Knowles. It's been a long time coming for these men to be inducted, as they originally were supposed to be the 2020 Class. And as we all know, with events at a minimal for most of 2020, the GRHOF Board voted to move the 2020 class into 2021.

This class is one of the most accomplished and significant in recent memory.

Take Gene White for example. He was born in Marietta and raced early on at the Peach Bowl Speedway in Atlanta. He even competed in the first Daytona 500 in 1959. He found his calling as a car owner, fielding cars in the Indy 500 and other USAC races. He also became a distributor for Firestone Tires and was one of the 'go-to' people across all forms of motorsports for many years. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was helping to create the modern crushable fuel cell, replacing normal steel gas tanks. This came in 1965, after seeing many racing stars lose their life in a fiery crash. It has saved countless lives since then.

This Saturday the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame will welcome its newest class into the Hall. They include Gene White, Mike Rich, Ray Stonkus, Scott Russell and Wade Knowles. It's been a long time coming for these men to be inducted, as they originally were supposed to be the 2020 Class. And as we all know, with events at a minimal for most of 2020, the GRHOF Board voted to move the 2020 class into 2021.

This class is one of the most accomplished and significant in recent memory.

Take Gene White for example. He was born in Marietta and raced early on at the Peach Bowl Speedway in Atlanta. He even competed in the first Daytona 500 in 1959. He found his calling as a car owner, fielding cars in the Indy 500 and other USAC races. He also became a distributor for Firestone Tires and was one of the 'go-to' people across all forms of motorsports for many years. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was helping to create the modern crushable fuel cell, replacing normal steel gas tanks. This came in 1965, after seeing many racing stars lose their life in a fiery crash. It has saved countless lives since then.

Mike Rich, of Blairsville, Ga., was a tire changer for the #9 Melling Racing team. Like Gene White, Rich is also responsible for saving hundreds of lives, but not by creating something. Rich was unfortunately killed on pit lane, which subsequently enforced new rules for virtually every sanctioning body in motorsports. Mike worked for the Melling team for only three seasons but was known for his drive to be the best tire changer in NASCAR. In fact, his first full year as a tire changer was the year that the Dawsonville-based Elliott team claimed the Winston Cup Title. Pit lane, across all forms of motorsports, is safer thanks to Mike Rich.

Ray Stonkus, of Flowery Branch, was a highly successful car builder and crew chief. When you look at who he worked with over the years, it's a who's-who list. Stonkus worked with fellow GRHOF Inductee, Pete Hamilton and won the 1967 NASCAR Sportsman Championship. In 1969, Stonkus and Hamilton both moved to Georgia where they won the 1969 NASCAR Grand American title, driving for fellow Inductee, Gene White. Stonkus was later known for his short-track cars. If you wanted to be successful, you wanted a Stonkus built car. His cars won hundreds of races driven by the best in the business for five decades.

Scott Russell, of East Point, was one of the most successful American Motorcycle Riders. He is only the third motorcyclist to be inducted into the GRHOF. Russell won the Daytona 200 five times throughout the 1990s. He was only the third American to ever win the World Superbike Championship in 1993. He also won the 1991 AMA title with an undefeated season. Scott has also spent time as a color commentator on tv broadcasts.

Wade Knowles, of Tyrone, Ga., competed on dirt tracks for over 20 years. Knowles and his #66 late model won at dirt tracks all across Georgia, the East Coast and even as far as South Africa. His career started at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Ga., and served as his home track throughout his tenure as a driver. He has 59 career feature wins at Dixie. Wade competed in the famed Hav-A-Tampa dirt series, even scoring a few wins against the best dirt-late model racers of the time. He retired in 2006 with an estimated 200 wins on dirt. 

It's an incredible class and each member played a part in creating and chapter of Georgia Racing History. 

They will formally be Inducted Saturday, Aug. 7. Call the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame at (706) 216-7223 for more info.

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