George Elliott A Deserving Inductee To The GRHOF

George Elliott, pictured right, celebrates a victory at Rockingham in 1984 with, left to right, sons Dan Elliott, Bill Elliott and Ernie Elliott. Photo courtesy GRHOF

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Feature 8/19/11

Ask most anyone who knew him, and you will hear that Dawsonville, Georgia’s George Elliott was the epitome of a hard worker and a fine gentleman.

George Elliott was born April 7, 1924 in Dawsonville.  While he may be best known as the father of NASCAR champion brothers Bill, Ernie and Dan Elliott and the grandfather to up and coming stock car racer Chase Elliott, those who knew him say he was the epitome of a hard worker and a fine gentleman.

It’s these qualities that led him from being a race team owner on the north Georgia short tracks to his family becoming one of the most beloved and successful teams in NASCAR history.

George owned a Ford dealership and a speed shop, and from that worked his way into racing.

Elliott started out his racing career as the owner a short track team, competing all over the southeast.  From there, he worked his way into NASCAR racing.

While he succeeded on the short tracks in north Georgia, including a stint as part owner of Jefco Speedway in Jefferson, Georgia (now known as Gresham Motorsports Park, run by his son, Dan) he had his eyes placed firmly on NASCAR and getting into the higher ranks of racing.

Elliott fielded cars for Dan Lingerfelt and Aaron Gailey, picking up wins in the NASCAR Sportsman division in the late 1960’s, including a major win at Atlanta’s Lakewood Speedway, where Lingerfelt bested great racers such as T.C. Hunt, Joe Lee Johnson, Curtis Turner and “Tiger Tom” Pistone. Elliott would celebrate many times with his drivers in victory lane, and was well known for working barefoot in the pits.

George’s first stint into what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup division actually came in 1966, when Don Tilley drove Elliott’s #53 Ford to a 42nd place finish at Rockingham, North Carolina. The car completed just 48 of the race’s 500 laps, collecting $505 for the effort.

His second start as a Sprint Cup owner came at Talladega in 1971, when Clermont, Georgia’s Harry Gailey drove George’s #94 Ford to a 31st place finish, snagging $990 at the pay window.

Coincidentally, George’s late grandson, Casey Elliott, would use the number at short tracks around the north Georgia area.  His son, Bill Elliott, would also later use the number 94 when he started his own team.

Georgia's Charles Barrett piloted this #09 Torino for George Elliott in 1973. Photo courtesy the Barrett Family

George made a big push into Sprint Cup competition in 1974, as fellow Dawsonville native Charles Barrett piloted the #09 Ford in four races while family friend and future Georgia Racing Hall of Famer Jody Ridley drove Elliott’s Ford in one event.

Elliott’s car showed promise. Barrett recorded an 18th place finish at Atlanta, and then followed that up with a top 10 at Talladega, including leading nine laps during the event.

Mechanical woes foiled possible good runs for the Dahlonega Ford Sales team at Charlotte and in the fall race at Atlanta, where they ran 27th and 40th, respectively.

Jody Ridley’s lone stint for Elliott that year came at Rockingham, where a bad clutch relegated the team to a 31st place finish.

After the team’s lone start in 1974, with A.J. Reno behind the wheel, ended with a 45th place finish, the team turned to some family talent for the next year.

Bill Elliott celebrates his 1982 win in the Katherine's Kitchen 200 with his father George (right) at Georgia Int'l Speedway. Photo courtesy the Robert Turner Collection

George’s son, Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott, made his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut at Rockingham in 1976 driving the famed #9 car. A bad oil pump handed the team a 33rd place finish.

Elliott would make three more starts that year for his father, with mechanical woes foiling them every time. At Atlanta they finished 36th, at Talladega 38th and at Charlotte they placed 23rd.

Of note are two races in 1976 that George ran where his drivers were of world-class caliber. Former Formula 1 and Sports Car start David Hobbs, who would go on to become a world renowned race announcer, ran a Coca-Cola sponsored #9 Ford owned by Elliott at Michigan, where he placed 17th.

World Champion sports car ace Al Holbert also piloted George’s car that year, with Days Inn on board as the sponsor, to a 40th place finish at Charlotte after suffering an engine failure.

From 1977 through 1981, George would have no other driver in his Sprint Cup effort other than his son, Bill. The team competed in a total of 54 events, recording two top five and 23 top ten finishes, along with one pole at Darlington in 1981.

The team’s best finish would be second at Darlington in the famed Southern 500, where Bill was bested only by David Pearson.

The Elliott family team, Bill, George, Ernie and Dan, were tough to beat in 1985. Photo courtesy the Ray Lamm collection

After the 1981 season, George sold his team to Harry Melling, and the rest is history. His sons would go on to become some of the most successful people in the sport of stock car racing, and he would continue to serve as the family patriarch.

No matter if it was a short track event or the Daytona 500, George was always there to support his family.

George Elliott passed away in September of 1998. But his legacy is one that is clear for all to see at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in his hometown of Dawsonville, Georgia.

And on Oct. 21, George Elliott will add more history to his family’s record books, as he will become the third member of his family to be inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.  It’s a long awaited honor, and a deserving one for a man known as one of racing’s hardest workers and greatest gentlemen.

Brandon Reed is the editor and publisher of Georgia Racing

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