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Julius Hughes, Jr.
In September 2002, I learned that Julius Hughes was really Julius Hughes, Jr. so I started this page for him under his proper name that contains everything on the previous page and all future additions.
In Memory of Julius Hughes, Jr.
Julius Hughes, Jr. was, arguably, Atlanta's strongest proponent of legal, sanctioned drag racing during the early formative years of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. He spent countless hours promoting sanctioned drag racing to the general public and getting young people off the street and onto legal drag strips. Julius regularly gave free passes to young people for the Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway to urge them to race on a safe NHRA drag strip and not on the street.
A native Atlantan and Georgia Tech graduate, Julius first fell in love with racing while recovering from eye surgery when he was twelve years old. His mother read car and racing magazines to him during his recuperation to help pass the time. While attending Georgia Tech, Julius started the Georgia Tech Auto Club (1956) and the club built a gas dragster (with Hoyt Grimes' assistance) in the mid-1950s.
Julius was one of just a few Atlanta drag racers that competed all over the country. In the mid-1950s he competed at the 1956 National Championship Drag Races held in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Oklahoma City Nationals (1957) in his roadster that was featured in the August, 1957 issue of Hot Rod Magazine.
Elaine Saunders was Julius' high school sweetheart and they married in 1959. Julius and Elaine had three children (Lorie, Linda, and Julius III) and their racing was a true family affair. Julius was a serious racer, but, according to Elaine, the family welfare always came before any money was spent on the race cars.
Julius started his speed shop business while attending high school, but officially opened The Atlanta Speed Shop in 1960. According to his widow, Elaine, this was the first speed shop in Georgia.
Julius raced several cars during his driving career. He started with a '57 Plymouth, then a Ford roadster, and then joined forces with Frank Brumby. They began racing a '55 Chevy with a supercharged 265 CID engine. This car, originally named The Trophy Dashers, had a painting of the anteater from the B.C. comic strip 'zotting' a trophy on the trunk. The fans started calling this car the Zot car and the name was used on several of Julius' cars throughout the years. This '55 Chevy won the D/Gas class at the 1959 Nationals at Detroit. In 1961, Julius and Frank stepped up to a AA/Altered (Zot II) that won the class at Bakersfield (1962) and Indy (1964 U.S. Nationals). They also won the Best Appearing Crew Award at Indy in '64! This car was also a NHRA National record holder. A 1963 Dodge S/S was campaigned briefly until it was crashed by another driver at Cumming Dragway.
In 1964, Julius and Frank Brumby took over ownership of the Newton County Dragway in Covington, Georgia, and changed the name to The Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway. Julius and Frank first held The Atlanta $10,000 race in 1964. This annual race continued until 1972 and was the largest and most prestigious open Top Fuel dragster event in the Southeast until the NHRA Gatornationals was first held in 1970 at Gainesville, FL.
In 1965, Julius, Frank, and Harold Springs purchased a Woody Gilmore dragster chassis, installed the altered engine, added nitromethane, and went Top Fuel racing. This car was the Zot III car and Julius won the NHRA Division 2 Top Fuel Championship in 1965. Late in 1965, the team changed to Chrysler hemi power and continued to compete in the Top Fuel class for several years. In 1969, Julius and Harold Springs bought Tom McEwen's Barracuda Funny Car that Scottie Scott drove for them. This car was called Zot Fish. The last dragster for Julius was an ex-T.V. Tommy Ivo (Tommy Ivo) car. Julius' last race driving this dragster was the 1971 Winternationals. This car was later crashed and destroyed in Miami while being driven by Don Dixon.
Later, Julius raced drag boats (with his son, Julius III) for awhile and was also a partner on a NASCAR team. In 1986, Julius had a kidney transplant that officially ended his driving days.
Julius was honored in 1989 by being inducted into the NHRA Division 2 Hall of Fame (along with Buster Couch). Julius continued to operate The Atlanta Speed Shop until his death in 1992 and was an Honest Charley distributor for several years. The Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway continued operation until 1991 (operated by Harold Springs and Julius Hughes, III), when the lease agreement was nullified by new land owners in court. Through the years, Julius had envisioned building larger and better tracks at other metro Atlanta area locations, but the public outcry (the usual--noise, property values, etc.) against the drag strips was never overcome and the tracks were not permitted to be constructed.
Julius Hughes, III, carries on the Hughes family drag racing tradition, as he is currently the engineer for the RW Performance Pro Stock Cavalier driven by Mark Whisnant.
Julius Hughes, Jr. -- Family man, drag racer, drag strip operator, speed shop owner, and friend of many -- will always be remembered for his contributions to organized drag racing!
Rest In Peace, Julius.
These brief highlights of Julius Hughes, Jr.'s drag racing career are just a small part of his story. For more details, be sure to check out the upcoming book, Atlanta Drag Racing: The Golden Years by David Dilbeck and Marvin T. Smith. A special thanks to Elaine Jape (formerly Elaine Hughes) for providing many of the details of this article.