The Georgia Gang Were Kings Of The Beach

Red Byron

Red Byron became a driver for Raymond Parks following World War II. Photo courtesy GARHOFA

When the war was over, the Georgia Gang again readied to come south to try to take over Daytona Beach.

But the old guard wasn’t what it had been.  With Lloyd Seay gone, Raymond Parks needed a fresh driver for his Red Vogt tuned Ford.

Enter Robert Nold “Red” Byron, of Atlanta.  Byron had begun racing in 1932, racing mostly in open wheeled cars.  Byron had his sights set firmly on Indianapolis, but was waylaid by the outbreak of World War II.  Byron enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was critically wounded while being shot down over the Aleutian Islands.

Byron recovered, but with a badly injured left leg.  Vogt constructed a stirrup that would allow Byron’s leg to be bolted to clutch pedal.

Byron and Roy Hall took Parks’ cars to Daytona for the first post-war race on the beach on April 14, 1946.  While Hall took his usual hell-bent-for-leather approach to the sands, Byron was more calculating, trailing his teammate by about 100 feet in the early laps.

Two other Georgia Gang members gave some thrills during the event.  Atlanta’s Jack Ethridge hooked a rut in the sand and went flying, his car coming to rest not far from the north turn grandstands.  He was uninjured.

Roscoe Thompson, another Atlanta pilot, went sailing over the south banking and into the palmetto bushes.  He too was uninjured.

Meanwhile, a battle was brewing between Hall and Byron.  Byron had closed on his teammate, but could not make the pass.  But then Hall had trouble.  With the fans crowding the track, his car stumbled slightly entering the north turn.  Faced with driving into the surf or into a crowd of spectators, Hall chose the water.  He was able to get the car back on track, but not before losing the lead to Byron.

Hall caught and passed Byron in a couple of laps, but soon his day went sour when his Ford threw a wheel, sending him over the south turn.  He was not injured, but his day was over.

Byron led the final 25 laps for the win.  The Georgia Gang was back in force.

Roy Hall slides his Ford through the south turn en route to a victory. Hall made it out of jail in Daytona Beach just in time to race.

The next event at the Beach came on June 20, a 100-lap event.  Rapid Roy Hall was deemed a favorite.

But just three days before the event, Hall was arrested by Daytona Beach police officers for reckless driving.

As the story goes, Hall came into town at around 4 a.m. after driving non-stop from Virginia.  He immediately hit Main Street and began cutting doughnuts in the main intersection and smoking his tires.

After being arrested, he reportedly explained to the arresting officer that the hotel rates in Daytona Beach were too high.

He got out in time to qualify for the event, and would go on to dominate the race, leading all 32 laps and going the distance without a pit stop.  His average speed of 92.1 mph topped the old record set by his late cousin, Lloyd Seay back in 1941.

When racing returned to the beach in 1947, it was the Georgia Gang again that dominated the sands.

The January 26 event was billed as the Battle of the Champions.  Red Byron, again driving for Raymond Parks, led the charge for the Georgia drivers as Roy Hall was back in jail.  1946 National Stock Car Champion Ed Samples was expected to be a threat in his Ford, along with Bob Flock and Dawsonville native Gober Sosebee.

Samples took the early lead, only to give it over to fellow Georgian Jack Ethridge five laps later when his engine went south.  Ethridge would lead for the next 15 laps until his engine, too, gave up.

Byron, meanwhile, played a waiting game, letting attrition bring the race to him.  He took the lead when Ethridge’s car faltered and never looked back.  Byron won by more than a lap over second place.

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