From the Mountain Roads to the Sandy Shores


By Cody Dinsmore

When it comes to areas of the country that have produced winning drivers at Daytona Beach, there are none more victorious than those from Dawsonville Ga.  Throughout history, there are seven individuals from the tiny North Georgia town that have returned home with a Daytona trophy in some form or fashion. And it’s not just inclusive to one version of the track versus the other. Most seasoned fans remember Bill Elliott’s all-out assault on Daytona Speed Records in the mid 80’s, but few remember the names that were victorious in days before. 

Dawsonville first had representation in Daytona starting as far back as 1940. Roy Hall, driving for his cousin, Raymond Parks, claimed victory in the March 1940 edition of racing on the beach. Both had been racing a relatively short amount of time, starting in November of 38’. The stock car craze hit the southeast hard and the Parks team of Roy Hall & Lloyd Seay, with Red Vogt as chief mechanic, started entering every race they could find. Bill France, who sometimes drove a third Parks entry, encouraged the team to come to Daytona to try the races. The track was unique, with two miles on the hard packed sandy shores, and two miles on highway A1A.  

While Georgia had it’s first stock car race in November of 1938 at Lakewood Speedway, Daytona held their first stock car race on the beach in 1936. The city of Daytona Chamber of Commerce promoted the first event, and Bill France himself started co-promoting the events starting the following year. Daytona Beach was no stranger to motorsports and fast cars. Speed trial runs as far back as 1903 had been happening on Daytona and neighboring Ormond Beach. Sir Malcom Campbell set a speed record on the beach in 1935 at an unbelievable 276.82 mph in his Campbell-Railton Blue Bird.

When Roy Hall won in 1940, it was his first of three Daytona wins, and started a trend of Georgia drivers winning big at Daytona. Hall also won in March of 1941 and again in 1946. For the March 1946 race, Hall, being the wild man he was, arrived in Daytona from Atlanta in a brisk 6 hours flat! Remember, this is long before the days of 6 lane interstates. Legend has it, “Rapid Roy” arrived in town early in the morning and proceeded to perform burnouts and cut donuts near the Daytona Police Station. He wanted to get the law’s attention and earn an arrest. His reasoning? Hotel prices were too high. He was promptly released the next morning for race qualifying and went on to claim his third Daytona victory the following day. Only Roy Hall….

His other cousin, Lloyd Seay, also driving for cousin Raymond Parks, won his only race at Daytona on August 24th, 1941.  The young Seay, only 21 years old, had tried to claim victory on the sandy course four prior times. The most famous of his attempts was the July 1941 race where he put his 39’ Ford Coupe, completely on the right side wheels through the North Turn. The daring “Hell Drivers” type stunt was something Seay loved to perform. Oftentimes, he would flip the car trying to bicycle the turn, relying on brave spectators to come out and help flip the car back over. In the March 1941 race, Seay flipped twice, and still finished 4th! In the August event where he finally took home the trophy, he started 15th, but was in the lead by the end of the first lap and never relinquished it. For Seay, it was his first of three wins in a 9 day span, but tragically was shot dead just over a week later on September 2nd.

At the July 1941 Daytona race, a relative unknown was first to the checkered flag, Bernard Long.  Driving a #9 Ford coupe, he claimed victory after reportedly only his second start in stock cars. Contrary to the common way many racers of the day made their way into racing, Bernard took his winnings from the Daytona race and invested in a new moonshine still back in Dawsonville and subsequently retired from racing. Most drivers of the era found stock car racing after years of hauling moonshine. Long went about it backwards. 

Raymond Parks was perhaps the most successful Dawsonville native at Daytona. In addition to his own cousins Roy Hall and Lloyd Seay, Parks experienced victory with drivers like Red Byron, Bob Flock and even Bill France himself. Earning 11 total victories on the beach, exclusively in the decades of the 1940’s. Raymond himself even had a bird’s eye view of the competition in 1948 for the inaugural NASCAR race. He started his team’s backup car, and even ran as high as third, but had to hand off his car after one of his drivers, Bob Flock, experienced mechanical trouble. His cars finished 1st and 3rd in that race. 

Another Dawsonville native, Gober Sosebee, found success on the sandy shores. While technically a three time winner, only two are official victories in the record book. The first came in the 1949 NASCAR Modified race on the beach. Late in the race, Gober made a stop for fuel, only for his crew to discover someone had stuffed a rag in the neck of his gas can in an act of sabotage. He didn’t have time to waste, so he took off for another lap around the four mile course. Friend and fellow racer that was already out of the race, Jack Smith, realized the problem and readied himself for the next time Sosebee came around. The following lap, Sosebee slowed to the side of the track where the pits were. There, Jack Smith stood ready, gas can in hand. With a hand signal to Gober, he jumped onto the running board of the Cherokee Garage #50 Ford Coupe and yelled “keep going!” Smith then climbed inside the slowly moving racecar and crawled to the cockpit where the fuel tank was, behind the driver seat. Smith instructed Sosebee to keep going and not to worry about what he was doing. Over the course of the next lap, Jack removed the blockage from the can and filled the tank, whilst traveling the course at race pace. With the race in the late stages, Smith suggested he just stay in the car with Sosebee so as to not lose more time by dropping him off in the pits. By not taking time in the pits, Gober inherited the lead and maintained it until the checkered flag fell. As the story goes, when Gober walked up to the pay window to retrieve his winnings, he was informed he was disqualified, as having a passenger was not allowed. Sosebee then informed NASCAR president, Bill France, that there was nothing in the rule book that stated he couldn’t have a passenger. As legend has it, France grabbed the rule book and a pen, and wrote in it, proclaiming “it’s in there now”.

Sosebee returned to the NASCAR modified race at Daytona in 1950 with three fuel tanks in his Ford, determined to not run out of gas. He would again be the first to the checkered flag, but was able to keep his victory this time. The following year in 1951, he entered the same car as before in the newly formed NASCAR Sportsman’s series and again won the race. 

Sosebee also was a participant in the inaugural Daytona 500 on the current track in 1959, driving a 1957 Chevrolet convertible. Sosebee’s win in 51’ was the last for a Dawsonville born driver until 1985 when Bill Elliott shocked the racing world for the first time. 

Bill Elliott and his family staffed team, shocked the garage area during Speedweeks of 85’ as he not only set a new track record in qualifying, but nearly lapped the field in his Twin 125 qualifying race. The following Sunday, he led 136 of 200 laps en route to his first Daytona 500 victory. The first win for a Dawsonville driver at Daytona in 34 years. 

Elliott and his #9 Coors team would claim pole position again in 1986 and 1987. In the 87’ edition of the race, he was the man to beat for Speedweeks. Not only did he win the 87’ Busch Clash, but he also broke his own qualifying record that still stands today at 42.783 seconds and 210.364 mph. For reference, the pole speed for the 2024 Daytona 500 was set at 181.947 mph and 49.465 seconds. In the race, Elliott led 103 of 200 laps to win his second Daytona 500 in just three years. Starting in 1988, NASCAR mandated the usage of carburetor restrictor plates that greatly reduced the speeds could reach in an effort to keep the cars on the ground.

Elliott won just two more points paying races at Daytona, and both were in the July 400 mile race. In 1988, he beat Rick Wilson to the line in a photo finish, and again in 1991 where he won his only race in a car not painted red. On July 6th, 1991, Bill took the Coors Light Ford to a scorching hot victory lane. The race was especially sentimental to the Elliott family. In what ended up being the last victory for the family team, it came a week after family Matriarch, Mildred Elliott, passed away.  Elliott would see victory lane at Daytona just two more times in his career, both in the qualifying ‘duel’ races, in 1992 and 2000. He would claim pole position in 2001 in Dodge’s first attempt in the NASCAR Cup Series in over 25 years. Ironically, Bill’s final Cup Series Start came at Daytona in July of 2012.

Finally on this list is Chase Elliott. The second generation Dawsonville driver has had moderate success at Daytona, in two different divisions, He won the Xfinity series opener in 2016, as well as back to back Duel qualifying races in 2017 & 18’. In 2020, with a modifed schedule due to Covid-19, NASCAR decided to hold a cup race on the Daytona infield road course. Chase won that race en route to the 2020 Cup Series Championship. As of this writing, he has not yet won the Daytona 500, but has finished as high as second in the Great American Race. 

Honorable mention to David Sosebee, the son of pioneer racer Gober Sosebee. While David did not visit victory lane, he did compete several times at Daytona, including his only start in the 500 in 1987. 

So there you have it, seven individuals that have won at Daytona that hail from the tiny North Georgia town of Dawsonville in wins that stretch across an 80 year window across several different divisions and courses. I would argue there’s no other town in the United States that has those kinds of numbers. Even today, you can see some of this history in person at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, where you can view Gober Sosebee’s original 1939 Ford he piloted to his Daytona triumphs along with the trophies he won with it. As well as Bill Elliott’s 1987 Ford Thunderbird he dominated with en route to his second Daytona 500 including all of his Daytona trophies. 

The next time someone mentions Daytona and Dawsonville in the same breath, just think further than just the current driver of the #9.