1951 Southern 500
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1951 Southern 500
1951 Southern 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 24 of 41 in the 1951 NASCAR Grand National Series season
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Date September 3, 1951 (1951-September-03)
Official name Southern 500
Location Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course Permanent racing facility
1.375 mi (2.213 km)
Distance 400 laps, 500 mi (800 km)
Weather Extremely hot with temperatures reaching up to 91.9 °F (33.3 °C); wind speeds up to 8.9 miles per hour (14.3 km/h)
Average speed 84.597 miles per hour (136.146 km/h)
Pole position
Driver Perry Smith
Time 427.690 seconds
Most laps led
Driver Herb Thomas Herb Thomas
Laps 311
No. 92 Herb Thomas Herb Thomas

The 1951 Southern 500, the second running of the event, was a NASCAR Grand National Series event that was held on September 3, 1961, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. The winner of the race was Herb Thomas.

The race car drivers still had to commute to the races using the same stock cars that competed in a typical weekend's race through a policy of homologation (and under their own power). This policy was in effect until roughly 1975. By 1980, NASCAR had completely stopped tracking the year model of all the vehicles and most teams did not take stock cars to the track under their own power anymore.

From 1949 to 1972, Richard and Lee Petty were the most dominant drivers on any circuit in NASCAR. David Pearson was easily the third most dominant NASCAR driver. Buck Baker and Rex White were considered to be the middle-of-the road competitors in NASCAR from 1949 to 1972. Fonty and Tim Flock along with Herb Thomas, Joe Weatherly, Ned Jarrett and Bobby Isaac were considered to be below-average performers during the early years of NASCAR.


Darlington Raceway, nicknamed by many NASCAR fans and drivers as "The Lady in Black" or "The Track Too Tough to Tame" and advertised as a "NASCAR Tradition", is a race track built for NASCAR racing located near Darlington, South Carolina. It is of a unique, somewhat egg-shaped design, an oval with the ends of very different configurations, a condition which supposedly arose from the proximity of one end of the track to a minnow pond the owner refused to relocate. This situation makes it very challenging for the crews to set up their cars' handling in a way that will be effective at both ends.

The track is a four-turn 1.366 miles (2.198 km) oval.[3] The track's first two turns are banked at twenty-five degrees, while the final two turns are banked two degrees lower at twenty-three degrees.[3] The front stretch (the location of the finish line) and the back stretch is banked at six degrees.[3] Darlington Raceway can seat up to 60,000 people.[3]


Four hundred laps were done on a paved oval track spanning 1.250 miles (2.012 km) for a grand total of 500.0 miles (804.7 km).[2] Notable speeds for the race were: 76.906 miles per hour (123.768 km/h) and 84.173 miles per hour (135.463 km/h) for the pole position speed.[2] Four cautions were handed out by NASCAR official for a duration of twenty-six laps. Marshall Teague passed 46 cars in 13 laps to take the lead; creating a NASCAR record in the process.[2]Herb Thomas defeated Jesse James Taylor by more than one lap in front of forty thousand people.[2]

Oliver Dial, Frank Gise, Rudy Hires, Sandy Lynch, Fred Moore, Bob Pronger, Gwyn Staley, Billy Tibbett, and Herb Trimble would make their respective professional stock car racing starts in this event.[4]

This race would be Red Byron's final race in NASCAR. The race lasted for six hours and thirty minutes;[2] outside the time allotments for modern-day television programming. Eighty-two cars would race in this virtually unregulated "free-for-all."[2]Frank Mundy would become the worst driver in NASCAR Cup Series history by finishing eighty-two spots worse than he started. Joe Weatherly withdrew from this race. It was the first appearance for a driver who would go on to be a 2-time champion, but tragically lost his life the next season.[2]

This would be an impossibility in today's 43-car field. Lee Connell would also set a career record for having the worst career average finish in his 1951 Pontiac vehicle. However, this accomplishment would be impossible today due to the modern rules giving all races a 43-car maximum grid.

Total winnings for this race were $23,740 ($223,825.59 when adjusted for inflation). As it was with all races during this era, the 1951 Southern 500 was completely untelevised. The only way that a person could follow the action was to drive to the speedway (to watch it live) or catch it on local radio (if they were lucky to be in the Darlington area at the time).


Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Speed[5] Time[5] Owner
1 23 Frank Mundy '51 Studebaker 84.173 427.690 Perry Smith
2 92 Herb Thomas '51 Hudson 83.164 432.880 Herb Thomas
3 31 Jesse James Taylor '51 Hudson 82.924 434.130 Jesse James Taylor
4 14 Fonty Flock '51 Oldsmobile 82.645 435.600 Frank Christian
5 77 Hershel McGriff '51 Oldsmobile 82.819 434.680 Hershel McGriff
6 16 Bill Snowden '51 Ford 82.141 438.270 Bill Snowden
7 11 Fireball Roberts '51 Ford 82.417 436.800 Ed Saverance
8 28 Ray Chase '50 Oldsmobile 81.409 442.210 Bill Sheldon
9 38 Frank Gise '51 Studebaker 81.194 443.880 B.R. Waller
10 7 Bob Flock '51 Oldsmobile 82.284 437.510 Ted Chester

Top forty drivers


Section reference: [2]

  • Start of race: Herb Thomas officially had the pole position to begin the event
  • Lap 6: Jesse James Taylor took over the lead from Herb Thomas
  • Lap 12: Hershel McGriff took over the lead from Jesse James Taylor
  • Lap 13: Marshall Teague took over the lead from Hershel McGriff
  • Lap 52: Curtis Turner took over the lead from Marshall Teague
  • Lap 58: Lee Connell had a terminal crash, forcing him out of the race
  • Lap 95: Herb Thomas took over the lead from Curtis Turner
  • Lap 215: The wheels on Frank Gise's vehicle stopped working properly, causing him to leave the event early
  • Lap 272: Curtis Turner managed to blow his engine; forcing him out of the race
  • Lap 361: Marshall Teague and Johnny Yountz had terminal crashes at roughly the same time, forcing them out of the race
  • Lap 368: Red Byron had a terminal crash, forcing him out of the race
  • Lap 370: Gayle Warren had a terminal crash, forcing him out of the race
  • Finish: Herb Thomas was officially declared the winner of the event


  1. ^ "1951 Southern 500 weather information". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved . 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "1951 Southern 500 information". Racing Reference. Retrieved . 
  3. ^ a b c d "Darlington Raceway". CBS Sports. Retrieved . 
  4. ^ New drivers introduced at this race at Race Database
  5. ^ a b "1951 Southern 500 qualifying information". Racing Reference. Retrieved . 
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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