Editor's Note: Raymond Parks, age 96, passed away last night in his sleep. The man was a giant in stock car racing.....Raymond Parks: The Godfather of Stock Car Racing
|Written by Gerald Hodges|
|Monday, May 24, 2010 at 7:47 am|
After World War II, the federal law enforcement agencies had become more intense about stopping the illegal liquor that was flowing into Atlanta from the Dawsonville area and other towns in northern Georgia.
The government men had learned many of the revenuers’ tricks that had fooled them before. They better understood how the bootleggers and runners operated. And one of those ways was to provide faster cars and develop the driving skills of those who did the chasing.
It was because of this increased pressure that runners began holding their own wild contests against each other. At first, it was all in fun. But more and more spectators began to crowd into farmers’ fields to watch a Sunday race between rival drivers, in their souped up and modified passenger cars.
As long as the competition was just between two or three drivers, it was for bragging rights as to who had the fastest car. When other folks gathered, money was bet on who would win, and pretty soon, the drivers were racing for prize money.
While the sport of racing certainly evolved, Raymond Parks of Atlanta should be credited with bringing it out of the cow pastures and into the lives of Southern families, who desperately needed an emotional outlet from their dirt poor lives.
Parks had to serve a short stint in prison, and after his release, he decided to turn the “driving duties” of his moonshine business over to other people. Two of those drivers were his cousins, Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. Along with Red Vogt, a hot-tempered mechanic, this trio became the hottest and most successful racing team in the 1940s.
“Red Vogt was the mechanic that did all the work on the cars,” Parks said in an interview in 2000. “I knew he was the right mechanic, because he worked on my cars before I got into racing. We had a long relationship.
“The garage he ran was a public garage. He did all the work on my stock cars as long as I was in it, but he worked on a lot of other people’s cars.
“We decided to start racing in 1938 at Lakewood Speedway. We were all standing around the garage one day and decided to fix up a car for Lloyd to drive. It was a ’34 Ford Roadster, and he won the first race he ran at Lakewood.
“That was really something, seeing my car win. I knew after that first race I wanted to get into it. The next day I went out and bought two ’39 Ford Coupes from the Ford dealer in Atlanta. I paid five hundred and twenty-five dollars apiece for them. I took them to Red and told him to get them ready for February. Roy Hall and Lloyd Seay were going to be the drivers. They were from up around Dawsonville, where I was born, too.
“We went all over North and South Carolina, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Florida. We raced just about every Sunday, somewhere.
“I don’t recall any big sanctioned races. They were all just individual tracks that put on their own racing show. Sometimes tracks would get together, and one track would stage a race one week, and the other track would hold one the following week. That way they didn’t compete against each other.
“I always got paid. We might get a trophy for a heat race, but the main race always paid a purse. I never experienced any promoter running off with the money, or not paying me.
“I was in service for three years during World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge. I met Red Byron for the first time after I got out of the service. He had come into Red Vogt’s garage, and we just started talking. Bob Flock had been driving for me after the war. Bob had a wreck in one of the cars and hurt his back, and Fonty Flock, his brother, drove for me in 1947 and won the Modified Championship that year.
“Then Red won the Modified Championship in 1948. In 1949, he won NASCAR’s first championship.
“I guess one of the biggest differences in racing now is the way they travel. I could drive from Atlanta to Langhorne, Pennsylvania, overnight, but it was always Red Vogt’s job to get the cars to the races. It took him longer. I think they towed the cars most of the time, but they might have used a trailer, or flatbed truck some. He took whatever spare parts; tires and wheel, and other things that he thought would be needed. It was pretty hard to find motels. I could always get a downtown hotel room, but Red and the drivers usually slept in the cars. I don’t think they spent many nights in regular beds away from Atlanta.
“Most of the time we ran Montgomery Ward tires. Every time we went to Daytona, we’d load up on tires and bring them back to Atlanta, and use them at other races.
“Red was the manager for it all. It was his job to get the cars there, see to it that the drivers had what they needed to run a good race, and collect the money after the race. I always left as soon as the race was over. It was up to Red to get them back to Atlanta.
“That was a good time in my life. I got a lot of fun out of it. There wasn’t as much pressure as drivers have now. There weren’t any sponsors to please or worry about. I don’t think there was ever a problem between any of the drivers over pay. We all understood each other.”
This article was taken from the book “The Jimmy Mosteller Story” by Gerald Hodges. For additional information, go to www.jimmymosteller.com.