NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Two little-known Republicans awoke today unsure who won a chance to battle powerful Albert Gore Jr. for his U.S. Senate seat after primary elections.

In other races, the state's only black congressman crushed two Democratic challengers in his second re-election campaign conducted under the cloud of a federal bank-fraud indictment.

In GOP Senate balloting, Ralph Brown, a retired Memphis businessman, and William Hawkins, a former college professor from Knoxville, were virtually tied when state election officials halted vote-counting early today.

With 82 percent of the precincts recorded, Brown had 43,708 votes and Hawkins had 43,479, each about 38 percent of GOP votes cast Thursday. Patrick Hales, a Columbia computer service operator, was a distant third.

Gore, 42, ran unopposed for the Democratic berth and was expected to handle easily whichever Republican he faces in the Nov. 6 general election.

Gov. Ned McWherter, who ran unopposed in his primary, will face Dwight Henry, a Republican freshman state lawmaker who suspended his campaign in June and resumed it less than a week before the election at the request of legislative colleagues.

Brown, 73, who spent less than $100 on his campaign, couldn't wait up for the latest results. He turned in about midnight, said his wife of 50 years, Marie.

''He was very excited. But it got late. You don't know who won, do you?'' Mrs. Brown asked a late-night caller.

Henry said: ''I don't think there's any question about who the David is in David vs. Goliath.''

Ford defeated state Rep. Pam Gaia and Memphis businessman Mark Flanagan for the Democratic nomination. With 116 of 187 precincts counted, Ford had 28,380 votes, or 78 percent, to 6,946 votes, or 19 percent, for Gaia. Flanagan had 1,201 votes, or 3 percent.

Ford, 45, will face Republican Aaron C. Davis, a 79-year-old political newcomer, in the general election.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 1987 on bank and mail fraud charges. Jurors deadlocked in April after an 11-week trial. Prosecutors say a second trial will be held, but no date has been scheduled.

The eight-term congressman's backers have remained loyal. He contends the U.S. Justice Department targeted him for prosecution because he is a prominent black leader.

All nine of the state's congressional representatives are up for re- election, but only one beside Ford faced primary opponents.

U.S. Rep. Marilyn Lloyd, the state's only female member of Congress, defeated David Ray Stacy, a pipe fitter. Like Ford, she has been in Congress since 1975.

A three-way Republican primary in the Sixth Congressional District, which surrounds the Nashville area, included Jack Nugent, a white supremacist from Columbia who has gathered little support.

The seat is held by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, a Murfreesboro Democrat.