The Georgia Gang Dominated In NASCAR’s First Year

Fonty Flock led most of the Feb. 15, 1948 event at Daytona Beach, but crashed hard after a spindle broke on his Ford. Red Byron picked up the win in the first NASCAR sanctioned event.

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Feature Stories 6/24/11

The question has come up many times over the years as to just how important the Georgia Gang was to the beginning of NASCAR.

If you look beyond the initial early years of modified stock car racing, which would eventually evolve into modern day NASCAR, you need look no further than the results from that first official season of racing in 1948.

Since that year was centered around the traditional modifieds rather than the strictly stock series, which would evolve into today’s Sprint Cup Series (and which did not begin until 1948), there’s generally not a lot publicized about the 1948 season.

But one look at those results shows clearly how important the drivers from Georgia were to that inaugural season.

In fact, in NASCAR’s first season, 38 of the 52 events were won by members of the Georgia Gang, with each of those now being members of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

It all started with NASCAR’s inaugural event, held on February 15, 1948, on the beach at Daytona, when Georgia Gang member Red Byron, piloting a Ford owned by Atlanta’s Raymond Parks and wrenched by Atlanta’s Red Vogt, picked up the win.

From there, the next four races would be won by brothers Fonty Flock and Bob Flock, with Fonty winning three in a row.  But even more interesting is that, in those first five races, only two non-Georgia drivers placed in the top three places.

A good argument could be made for the Georgia Gang continuing their dominance, despite losing one of two events that were held on the same day, April 18.  While Floridian Skimp Hersey won at Jacksonville, Florida, Fonty Flock recorded the victory at Greensboro, North Carolina.

From there, the next four races were won by Byron, with wins at North Wilkesboro, Lexington, NC, Wadesboro, NC and Richmond, Virginia.

Red Byron poses for a photo the day of the July 25, 1948 NASCAR race at Columbus, GA. Photo from the R.T. Milford collection

NASCAR ran three races on the same day on May 23.  Georgia’s Gober Sosebee won at Macon, but two non-Georgia drivers visited victory lane as well, with Bill Blair winning at Danville, Virginia and Johnny Rogers winning at Dover, New Jersey, technically breaking the Georgia Gang’s strangle hold on victory lane.

Bob Flock would pick up the win in the next event, held May 29 at Greensboro, NC.  But the Georgia Gang was locked out of victory lane on May 30, when two events were held.  Marshall Teague won at North Wilkesboro, NC while Paul Pappy won at Jacksonville.

But over the next two months, the Georgia Gang dominated NASCAR.  Starting on June 4 with a win by Bob Flock, drivers from the Peach State would win ten races in a row, with Byron, Fonty Flock and younger brother Tim Flock picking up wins at Greensboro, NC, Lexington, NC, Birmingham, AL, Columbus, GA and Martinsville, VA, just to name a few.

The Georgia rout was finally snapped by a young driver from Virginia named Curtis Turner, who won on July 18 at North Wilkesboro and on July 25 at Greensboro, NC.

But that same day as the Greensboro event, Georgia’s Billy Carden scored a NASCAR victory at Columbus, Georgia.

Turner would win again at Lexington, N.C., before Fonty Flock carried the Georgia colors back to victory lane on Aug. 8 at Daytona Beach.

New York native Al Keller took the win on Aug. 15 at Langhorne, PA, while Georgia’s Gober Sosebee made his second trip to victory lane on Sept. 5 at Columbus.

From there, the Georgia Gang would experience their longest drought of 1948.  Curtis Turner won both races held in one day at North Wilkesboro, then split a double bill at Charlotte with Buddy Shuman on Sept. 12.

Bob Flock, pictured left, and Red Byron, pictured right, were potent drivers for Atlanta car owner Raymond Parks. Both men wrote a lot of NASCAR history in 1948. Photo courtesy Eddie Samples

Fonty Flock would break back into victory lane next, winning back to back events on Sept. 19 at Occoneechee, then splitting a two race date at Lexington, North Carolina with Gober Sosebee.

The last non-Georgia wins came on Oct. 3, when Shuman and Turner won in a double feature at Elkin, North Carolina.

On that same day, Billy Carden and Red Byron won double events at Macon, Georgia.  From there, Fonty Flock and Byron would win the final six races of the year, with wins at Greensboro, NC, North Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Columbus.

But maybe even more impressive than the wins themselves are the sheer numbers when you look at the top three finishers in each event.

Of 165 positions for the top three of each event, 92 were from Georgia – almost 60 percent!  That’s with multiple events on the same day at different tracks.

Georgia drivers swept the top three in the NASCAR points that inaugural year, with Byron winning the title, followed by brothers Fonty Flock and Tim Flock.

So obviously, just by looking at the numbers, the contribution of the Georgia Gang to NASCAR in its first year is obvious, and when you look at who the best of the best were in that 1948 season, there’s no question – the Georgia Gang was the group to beat.

Brandon Reed is the editor and publisher of Georgia Racing

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