85th Anniversary of Georgia's First Stock Car Race

Stock Car Racing at Lakewood Speedway, circa late 1930's.

Courtesy Peach State Speed Archives

NASCAR may be wrapping up it's 75th Anniversary, but did you know Georgia had stock car racing 10 years prior?

By Cody Dinsmore


On Armistice Day, 1938, the first Stock Car Race was held in the state of Georgia. If you are unfamiliar with the date, we now know it as Veteran’s Day, or November 11th.  

Held at the Lakewood Fairgrounds, just south of Downtown Atlanta, a field of mostly stock cars with many of the drivers being bootleggers, would race around the dusty one mile track. At the day’s end, Lloyd Seay, of Dawsonville, only 18 at the time, would be declared the victor.

But how did it happen? 

We’ll go back a few months prior, and 60 miles north of Atlanta, to Dawsonville.  It all started when Frank Christian, a Dahlonega born businessman, was traveling south to Atlanta on Hwy 9. In the times before expressways and GA 400, the curvy two-lane Highway 9 was the only way to reach Atlanta from the Mountains. Along south Dawson County, where present day Rock Creek Park stands, Frank spotted a huge dust cloud off in the distance in the cornfields near the Etowah River. Curious, he pulled off the road and noticed dozens of cars parked and even more people were sitting atop them. He pulled up, got out and witnessed several cars chasing each other in a carved out patch of field. He asked several onlookers what exactly was going on. The spectators told them these were the local boys, seeing who had the fastest ‘trip’ car, otherwise known as a moonshine hauler. Frank Christian was no stranger to the impact moonshine had on the area. While he was born in the nearby mountain town of Dahlonega, he had numerous businesses in Atlanta; and it was said that he too had some moonshine runners on his payroll. 

But what he just could not believe was the amount of folks that had gathered in a dusty cornfield to watch their friends and neighbors play around in their hot-rodded tripping cars. And as many successful businessmen are, he saw ‘Dollar Signs’. After hanging around the cornfield observing for a bit, he climbed back in his car and continued down Hwy 9 to Atlanta. The whole way, thinking of what he could do to not only make money, but have a proper and better place to watch those trippers run circles. 

Christian turned to the City of Atlanta, who owned the property that housed the Lakewood Fairgrounds. Also there among the fairgrounds was the Lakewood Speedway, a one mile dirt track. Automobile racing was no stranger to the track or Atlanta for that matter. Auto racing at Lakewood had been going on since 1917, and horse racing before that. The cars known then as ‘Big Cars’ were purpose built open wheel cars, like you would see at Indianapolis. Lakewood was a well known and liked track among fans, racers and the AAA, who sponsored many of the races there starting in 1933. Atlanta had also seen several other tracks for automobile racing including one at Paces Ferry in the late 20’s, and the infamous Atlanta Motordrome, which opened in 1909 at the current site of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  But Stock Car Racing hadn’t made an appearance yet in the Peach State, or atleast with stock cars as we know it. Stock Cars had begun racing on Daytona Beach as early as 1936, but again, hadn’t quite made it north yet. 

Knowing that Lakewood had the perfect track, complete with concrete grandstands and within a few miles of Downtown Atlanta, Frank Christian worked a deal with City & Fair officials to rent the track to host a stock car race. A date was picked and Christian went to work to find enough drivers to make it an exciting show. 

As you can imagine, telling someone, especially a bootlegger that “My car is faster than your car!” or “I’m a better driver than you!” will usually lead to an “Oh Yeah?!?”   So it wasn’t hard to find willing daredevils who wanted to prove that THEY were the best driver. 

Lloyd Seay & Roy Hall, two well known names of Stock Car racing in the coming years, were both some of the best trippers for their cousin, Raymond Parks. Both have numerous stories of their skill evading the law on the twisty roads with their hopped up Fords.  With the pleading of his cousins, Parks obliged and had the legendary Atlanta mechanic, Red Vogt modify two liquor hauling cars for the upcoming race at Lakewood. 

Vogt was an interesting character and Parks was one of his best customers. Red had a saying, “Money buys speed”. He not only worked on local bootlegging cars in the ‘back room’, but coincidentally enough, also worked on the revenuer’s cars. The difference? The bootleggers had a far greater budget for their car than the law did and Raymond Parks was no exception. Vogt maintained all of Parks’ cars used for business, which were several dozen strong. And Vogt was no stranger to racing either. In fact, he was the chief mechanic on the car that won the coveted Indianapolis 500 earlier that year. Coincidentally enough, he was also asked to be technical advisor for this upcoming stock car race at Lakewood, a title that would draw criticism from fellow participants due to three cars he built being in the race. 

Other participants included Atlanta area bootleggers Bob Flock & Harley Taylor. A motorcycle racer, Jap Brogden. Mexican movie star, Ramon Cortez. A newcomer from Alabama, Red Byron. Service station owner and part time race promoter from Daytona Beach, Bill France and finally,  a full blooded Cherokee Indian stunt driver that went by the name “Chief Ride in the Storm”.  From within the 30 car field, quite the cast of characters were present. 

Spectators paid the $1 admission to the fairgrounds when gates opened at 9am, on track activity wouldn’t start until 2pm. Several thousand folks from Atlanta and North Georgia came out and picnicked while awaiting the exciting buzz of V8 Fords being raced by their friends and heroes. You have to remember, in this era, Bootleggers were heroes to many. Not only for the product they delivered, but for their Robin Hood esc presence. 

Once the racing started at Lakewood, moonshiner Harley Taylor was in command early. By the halfway point, many of the 30 car field fell victim to mechanical failures or wrecks including Taylor.  

Skilled drivers such as Lloyd Seay, & Roy Hall had no problem navigating through traffic. Bill France, one of the few in the field that had some actual stock car racing experience via Daytona also made quick work of the field, but wasn’t as daring as the bootleggers.  Red Byron, who was driving a ten year old Ford roadster, was also methodical in his driving, but fell short at the end. 

About 135 miles into the 150 promised, the race was flagged and declared official due to approaching darkness. Lloyd Seay, with a broken arm, was declared the victor and pocketed a whopping $100. Before the race, many participants expressed concern that Seay would be a hazard due to his left arm being in a sling, but that definitely wasn’t the case. Byron even contested that he was the real winner as he only stopped once, to fill his radiator with water, while Seay had two flat tires throughout the race. Nonetheless, the 18 year old Seay, was awarded the trophy. All this excitement gave Raymond Parks the ‘bug’ or ‘fever’ of stock car racing and for the next decade, was a big part of his life. A few months later, Parks would purchase two new 1939 Ford Coupes from Beaudry Ford in Atlanta to be immediately taken to Red Vogt to be turned into dedicated racers. Over the next three years, the team of Parks, Vogt, Seay & Hall were nearly unbeatable at any track they went to across the south and up the east coast. 

So what happened to those involved in this first showing of stock car racing?  Frank Christian also caught the racing bug like Raymond Parks. Frank’s wife, Sara, would drive after the war and would commonly be recognized as one of the first women in racing. Frank would go on to own cars driven by the likes of Bob & Fonty Flock, Curtis Turner, Herschel McGriff, Speedy Thompson, Gober Sosebee & more. All told, Christian won 22 races in what is now known as the NASCAR Cup Series. Fonty Flock gave him the 1952 Southern 500 victory as well as the very first Cup Series Victory for Chevrolet in 1955. 

Lloyd Seay & Roy Hall were two of stock car racing’s first superstars in the Pre WWll world. Seay was declared 1941’s National Stock Car Champion, at Lakewood nonetheless, but was killed just one day later near his home in Dawsonville. Hall would go on to win Daytona Beach three times and, too, was an unofficial Stock Car Champion. 

Red Byron, although lost his protest of that race at Lakewood would come back to race for Raymond Parks following WWll and would win Nascar’s first race, and first two championships. 

Bill France, would drive for Raymond Parks in Red Vogt prepared cars numerous times before the war. Following the war, he would turn his attention to promoting races and trying to organize racers and tracks. Eventually, he brought together drivers, owners, and mechanics to the Streamline Hotel in Daytona to formally organize NASCAR in December of 1947. 

Red Vogt ran his 24 hour garage on Spring St in Atlanta for many years. He was the go-to guy for Flathead Ford wizardry. He was chief mechanic for every one of Raymond Parks’ victories including the 1947 NSCRA title with Fonty Flock, and the 1948 & 1949 NASCAR titles with Red Byron. He would later build cars for Frank Christian with Fonty driving in the early 50’s, and eventually moved to Daytona in the mid 50’s, still building winning racecars on the NASCAR circuit for Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner and others. 

Raymond Parks, like others in this story, caught the racing bug and made it a priority in his budget. His cars were always first class, shiny paint, straight body panels and fenders, as well as advertising his businesses on the car - simply unheard of in that era. If it was a racecar owned by Parks, you could bet it had more money invested in it than half the field combined.  As mentioned above, Parks experienced dozens of victories and championships from his drivers. He would loan money to France to help start and keep Nascar afloat in it’s infancy, often loaning his personal car for a pace car and putting up purse money to ensure the event’s success.

Many of the names mentioned are inducted to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame including Parks, Vogt, Byron, Hall, Seay, Flock (Bob, Fonty & Tim), and Christian (Frank & Sara).

At the current time of writing, the trophy given to Lloyd Seay at Lakewood, for the first stock car race in Georgia, November 11, 1938, is on display inside the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville. It is the oldest trophy on display. 

Do you think any of these men knew what the sport of stock car racing would look like 85 years later?

Lloyd Seay, #6, on grid in his 34' Ford Roadster at Lakewood Speedway.

Below, the actual trophy won by Lloyd Seay at Lakewood Speedway, November 11, 1938. On display at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy Peach State Speed.

Another early racer on grid at Lakewood, Norman Wrigley. Like Seay, in a 34 Ford wrenched by Vogt.