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June 15, 2014

Racers recall glory days

HAHIRA — Whether it’s peaches, pecans or football, South Georgia is famous for a variety of reasons. One of the region’s largest claims to fame is found in its racing history.

On Saturday afternoon, many of the region’s most famous racers gathered to reminisce during the Second Annual South Georgia Racers Reunion.

Hosted by the Hahira Historical Society in conjunction with the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, this reunion hopes to preserve the strong history of racing in the area.

Perhaps one of the most famous racers in

attendance, Georgia Racing Hall of Famer Eddie McDonald has spent the majority of his life racing.

McDonald raced for 32 years, winning more than 1,150 races and competing on more than 150 tracks.

While McDonald still regularly attends races and loves the sport, he definitely misses the days of racing.

“You felt like you accomplished more back in those days when you won. Everything is store-bought now, but back then you helped build most of your cars. It was better competition back then. You knew everybody and the racing was just more likable,” he said.

Another of the state’s most famous racers was honored during the reunion. Harvey Jones, who raced from 1959-2002, passed away five years ago. His widow, Hazel Jones, accepted a custom guitar from Michael Carter. The guitar was signed “Jones Special” and featured a gold No. 6 in honor of his racing number.

Despite being extremely competitive back in the day, many of the racers remain friends and share mutual admiration for one another.

McDonald guessed he had raced against almost half of the racers at the reunion, but nearly every racer that approached him shared praise for him.

Some described him as “The World Famous Eddie McDonald,” while others said, “If Eddie and Harvey were at the race, you were racing for third because you knew they would take first and second."

The racing reunion wasn’t only held for past racers. Current racers participated.

Lonnie Roberts, a limited late model and vintage car racer, has been racing since 1981, a total of 33 years. His love of racing began when he was 9 years old and continues to this day.

“I love the speed and the competitiveness. I also love the camaraderie. My dad started teaching me to race when I was little. Back in those days, it was really different though. Back then you could get pieces from a junk yard and compete. Now you have to use store-bought pieces to be competitive,” Roberts said.

Whether they are current or retired racers, the love of the sport doesn’t fade. After all of these years, McDonald planned to spend his Saturday night at the race in Needmore, a race where Roberts will compete.

McDonald explained, “Racing just gets in your blood."

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