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January 27, 2014

NASCAR legend calls Suwannee County home

‘Speedy’ Thompson started on the sandy beach at Daytona.

Live Oak —

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on NASCAR racing legend, Johnny “Speedy” Thompson.

There are stories about the bravery and the iron-fisted constitutions of the early drivers of NASCAR. It was a time of sand and speed, when the annual spring assault on the beach at Daytona brought drivers from all over the United States to compete on two miles of beach and two miles of black top on Highway A1A.

For those too young to remember, this was the era where the heart and soul of a sport was born.

It is a compelling time of racing’s most colorful legends when the drivers rolled up their sleeves and raced, not for the money or the fame, for the raw sport.

They were legends of NASCAR.

Johnny “Speedy” Thompson is one of those legends.

Thompson and his wife were looking for land in North Florida when they settled in Suwannee County.

His collection of memorabilia, engines and newspaper clippings fill his entire barn.

Thompson has written a book that sold over 700 copies titled, ”From the  Cotton Patch to the Race Track”.

A veteran of World War II and the Invasion of Normandy, Thompson mostly did welding in the military. When the war ended, he came home to an America where jobs were scarce. The major shipyards where he applied his trade were winding down and it was tough finding work.

In February of 1947, he went to the beach course on Dayton Beach to watch his first race.

“I stood in the palmettos and watched my first race,” Thompson said.    

He was 23-years-old and he was hooked. 

“Seeing the race gave me the interest and desire for the competition,” he said.

September of that year found Thompson looking for any kind of work.

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