Omaha, Neb. - In an earlier edition on Midwest Racing Archives I wrote a story on “Remembering when Iowans were Kings of Dirt” in the 1970’s (http://www.midwestracingarchives.com/2010/04/remembering-when-iowans-were-kings-of.html).
Now I thought I would tell you about another group of drivers who would dominate dirt late model races in the late 70’s and early 80’s. These were the legends from the
Lunsford may not be as well known on a national level as other Georgia drivers but I think any discussion of Georgia Dirt Late Model Drivers has to start with him. His 25-year driving career started in the mid-50’s at his home track in
when it ended Lunsford had racked up a mind boggling 1,139 wins. That’s an
average of 45 wins a season! Gainesville,
In addition to his total domination on the dirt, Lunsford won three NASCAR championships racing at the paved Peach Bowl in
. One year he won 19 of 21 features.
Often criticized for not being a traveler and traveling more it was still not
uncommon for him to race five nights a week in Atlanta Georgia
He regularly defeated all the great drivers from that era including most of
those listed below. South Carolina
In 1974 he built a 1966 Nova that proved his mechanical genius. In 1974 and 1975 the gold and black #49 Nova went to victory lane an unbelievable 127 times. Despite his lack of traveling he was not afraid to run the big races in his region. In 1975 he won the inaugural Dixie Nationals at Dixie Speedway near
and the inaugural race that would become National 100 at East Alabama Speedway.
He forever put an end to the critics when the National Dirt Racing Association visited
in late 1978 and early 1979. On October 28, 1978 Lunsford came from deep in the
field to defeat the NDRA stars at Dixie and when they returned to race at Georgia on April 20, 1979 he
started shotgun on the field and beat them again. Lunsford was inducted into
the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2003. Rome
Unlike Lunsford, Simmons a native of
did get around and he raced for over 40 years. His list of major wins would go
down one arm and up the other. He started his career racing in North Georgia
and Baldwin, Georgia,
winning countless races but became a household name in dirt late model racing
with the advent of the National Dirt Racing Association in 1978. Tennessee
Simmons would become synonymous with the series winning the 1981 NDRA championship, having the most wins in series history with 23 as well as winning the final big NDRA event, the NDRA Stroh’s Invitational in
in 1985. He would even be around to run with the Hav-A-Tampa series winning
twice in that series at Lancaster (SC) in '91 and Laurens (SC) in '94. Kingsport, Tennessee
Along the way Buck would register over 1,000 feature wins as well as win other big races such as; the Turkey 100, Tiny Lund Memorial 200, Super Bowl of Dirt, Hillbilly 100, Southeastern Dirt Championship, Hall of Fame 100 and others. Simmons was inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 2001.
became well-known when he became the first NDRA National Champion in 1979.
Archer was known for his consistency and being a hard but clean competitor.
Quite and to himself, the late Jimmy Mosteller referred to Archer “as a real
While his early career is not as documented as some other drivers, he nevertheless won many, many races around his home area and was considered the man to beat. He was especially tough at Senoia (GA) before it was paved. He took pride in his cars and they were always in the best condition. He also won many races
and Rome Speedways. Archer was inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall
of Fame in 2003.
In 1977 he returned to Eldora and won the World 100. That year he also won the St. Clairsville 100 in
racked up 42 wins. In 1978 he ventured to Ohio and the
Yankee Dirt Classic. He would finish second to Iowan Verlin Eaker in a rain
shortened event. He would also take home the $10,000 first prize in Robert
Smawley’s first big promotion the Valvoline World 100 at Cedar
Rapids, Iowa .
He would run part time with the NDRA and win the 1983 NDRA event at
. Later he would compete with the
NASCAR All Star Super Series off and on winning at Lanier (GA). Doug Kenimer
was inducted into the NDLMHofF in 2005. Paducah, Kentucky
A season does not define a driver’s career but a driver can have a season that fans will always remember and in the case of Charlie Hughes that season was 1976. Forty-two wins, 21 in a row, he won championships in
Alabama and . He capped off his amazing
season by winning the World 100 at Eldora, the next week he won the United
State Dirt Track Championship in North Carolina Champaign, Illinois and at seasons end the National 100 in . Alabama
In 1977 he added the Hall of Fame 150 at Atomic Speedway in
Tennessee and in 1978 the Southeastern Classic at Dixie
His career would span from 1976 until his retirement in 1997. During that time
Hughes registered more than 700 wins. He was inducted into the NDLMHofF in
Pennington a native of
for more than 30 years against all the greats of that time. He first started
racing in 1974 and along the way he not only won big dirt late model races such
as the Queen City 100 in 1980, the Turkey 100 in 1982 both in the Charlotte
area, but later won with NDRA, then in 1998 he won the National 100. He would
also win the Stick Elliott Memorial at Gaffney (SC). Augusta,
He switched to the pavement along the way and ran very well in the NASCAR Late Model Series and in 1990 even gave the NASCAR Sprint Cup series a go racing 14 times in the series and finishing runner-up in the Rookie of the Year race. He would return to the dirt and in the early 2000’s you could find Jack running with the Carolina Clash Super Late Model series. Pennington was inducted into the NDLMHofF in 2006.
In addition to the six drivers highlighted above there were many other
drivers of this era that were extremely good dirt late model racers. That list
would include among others; Stan Massey of Marbleton, Billy Clanton of
Riverside, Mike Head of Ellenwood, Leon Sells of Marbleton, Fulmer Lance of
Washington, Snooks DeFour of Chatsworth and Charlie Mincey of Acworth. Together
these drivers and others from the Georgia wrote a big part of
the history of Dirt Late Model Racing. The Georgia Legends will always have a
special place in the history of Dirt Late Model Racing. Peach