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Swayne Pritchett

Swayne Pritchett (left), seen here with mechanic Jack Edwards, was an early star in the beginning of NASCAR. Photo courtesy the Pritchett family

Swayne Pritchett, of Baldwin, Georgia, was born in 1922, and early on, was fascinated by speed. After World War II, Pritchett became involved in racing. His son, Harold, recalls seeing his father finish third at the old Habersham County Speedway north of Mt. Airy, Georgia.

Driving his blue and white number 17 Ford, Pritchett caught the eye of many race fans and promoters around the south. He raced on Daytona Beach in 1947 and raced on Bill France’s pre-NASCAR circuit in 1947, finishing 17th in points.

In 1948, Pritchett became the 23rd driver to obtain a license for France’s new racing organization, named NASCAR. Racing out of Jack Edward’s garage in Cornelia, Pritchett prepared to run many of the new NASCAR events.

Pritchett piloted his Ford to a fifth place finish on the beach and road course in Daytona. He took third at Augusta and fourth at North Wilkesboro. By the early part of May, Pritchett found himself in sixth place in the NASCAR point standings.

On May 16, 1948, Pritchett was racing in a non-NASCAR event at the Jackson County Speedway near Jefferson, Georgia. He had won the trophy dash, the heat race and led every lap from the pole position in the feature as he sped to victory.

But on the cool down lap, Pritchett’s car collided with a lap car in the first turn, sending Pritchett’s racer end over end. Pritchett was thrown out of the car as it tumbled.

Pritchett was still conscious when crew members reached him, and was taken to a hospital in nearby Commerce. He died soon thereafter of internal injuries.

Swayne Pritchett was buried at the Leatherwood Baptist Church cemetery in Banks County. He had turned 26 years old one month earlier.

Pritchett’s impact is still felt today. Both of his sons, C.L. and Harold, would become champion racers in their own right, winning across the southeast and keeping the Pritchett name in racing.

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