April 2021: Inside the Garage, A Visit to the Dawsonville Pool Hall

Dawsonville Pool Hall, Dawsonville, GA — April 5, 2021

Dawsonville, Georgia is a small town in the Southern region of the Appalachian Mountains. It was a thriving community during the North Georgia Gold Rush in the 1830s. A revival of the town’s fortunes occurred during the 1920s prohibition era when homemade stills kept Atlanta, about an hour to the south, stocked with moonshine liquor.

The region became known for mountains, moonshine, and when prohibition ended, motorsports.  Raymond Parks was one of those Dawsonville moonshine runners that transitioned into racing stock cars. One of the early pioneers of NASCAR, Parks is regarded as the sports “first team owner.”

With Red Byron driving Parks’ car they won the inaugural NASCAR Series championship in 1949, the equivalent of the Cup Series championship today. But it was a red-haired country boy that really put Dawsonville on the national map.

NASCAR’s first championship team: Car owner Raymond Parks (from left), mechanic Red Vogt and driver Red Byron. Photo courtesy of Racing Photo Archives/Getty Images.

Awesome Bill From Dawsonville

William Clyde Elliott was born in Dawsonville to George and Mildred Elliott on October 8, 1955. Dad was a racing enthusiast who financed his interest in stock cars by owning a building supply business and purchasing a Ford Dealership in nearby Dahlonega, GA. Bill’s older brothers, Ernie(1947) and Dan(1951), worked in their father’s speed shop when young Bill took an interest in driving.

George created a racing organization that entered their first NASCAR Cup Series race in 1976 at Rockingham Speedway. The family team had moderate success but was severely underfunded until Harry Melling of Melling Racing kicked up some money to sponsor them in the fall of 1980 and partial sponsorship for 12 races in 1981.

Melling liked what he saw and ultimately bought the team from George. A 2nd place finish at the season-opening Daytona 500 in 1983 was followed by three more 2nds and a win in the final race of the season at Riverside. Elliot ended up 3rd in the Cup Series Championship points standings.

In 1984 Coors Brewing came on board as the team’s primary sponsor and the legend of Awesome Bill from Dawsonville was well on its way to being established.

Wins Come in Bunches

In that 1984 season, Elliott won four poles along with races at Michigan, Charlotte, and Rockingham. Another 3rd place finish in the points standings and the team was beginning to jell. The 1985 season set Awesome Bill apart from his peers. With 11 poles and 11 victories over the 28 race campaign, it was the most wins recorded in any year of Elliott’s career. He also earned a new nickname, “Million Dollar Bill.” Winning a $1,000,000 bonus for capturing three of the four NASCAR Grand Slam events. The Daytona 500 (1st), The Winston 500 at Talladega(1st), The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (18th), and the Southern 500 at Darlington (1st).

Million Dollar Bill / Photo Courtesy of NASCAR Getty Images

Awesome Bill won the 1988 NASCAR Cup Series championship. Elliott finished his NASCAR career with 44 wins and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the class of 2015.

Dawsonville Pool Room

While Elliott was winning on the track, Gordon Pirkle was keeping the local residents of Dawsonville aware of what was happening with their local hero. After every Elliott victory, Pirkle would sound the siren atop his pool room downtown.

A young Chase Elliott Fan stands in front of the Dawsonville Pool Room / Lasco Press Photo

“There was an old rental house behind the pool room I had rented that had extra machines in it,” Pirkle said. “Some of the boys that worked work for me wanted to watch races so I put a satellite in for them back there.

“We knew Bill was going to win that first race at Riverside (Calif.) in 1983 because he was out front and it was raining. The boys wanted to celebrate by blowing their car horns around the square and that stuff like that. I had bought the siren for the fire department but they put in a new system. It was lying in that old house with a drop cord right beside of it. Bill took the checkered flag so I plugged it in and away it went!” (Quote courtesy of Ben White for Elliott Racing Heritage)

A Stock Car Mecca

The Dawsonville Pool Room has been called the “unofficial birthplace of NASCAR,” and “ground zero” for auto racing. Today, it’s a small country restaurant famous for the “Bully Burger,” a fresh grilled hamburger served with a topping of a coleslaw concoction that makes it kin to the “slaw dog” at Martinsville Speedway.

Step inside the Pool Room at 9 Bill Elliott Street, Dawsonville, GA 30534 and step back to a simpler time. Racing articles adorn the walls, a Bill Elliott Ford racing grille frames the air conditioner mounted from the ceiling on a Coors Brewing Company sponsored hood from the #9 car.

Inside the Pool Room / Lasco Press Photo

Racing differentials and axle tubes serve as the support for bar stools along the counter separating the dining room from the busy grill area.

Lasco Press Photo

Trophies sit high up on the wall backed by a side panel from another of Elliott’s race cars. A souvenir cabinet holds Elliott racing memorabilia and pool room t-shirts that loyal fans can purchase.

Pool Room trophy display / Lasco Press Photo

Televisions broadcast racing highlights current and from years past.

If you are a NASCAR fan, the Dawsonville Pool Room is a must-see destination, a sacred shrine of stock car racing. If you are lucky enough to be in town when Bill Elliott’s son Chase wins a race, you’ll know. The SI-REEN is still in good voice and the tradition continues from father to son.