1950 Southern 500

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1950 Southern 500
Race details
Race 13 of 19 in the 1950 NASCAR Grand National Series season
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Date September 4, 1950 (1950-September-04)
Location Darlington Raceway (Darlington, South Carolina)
Course Permanent racing facility
1.25 mi (2.01 km)
Distance 400 laps, 500 mi (800 km)
Weather Temperatures reaching up to 90 °F (32 °C); wind speeds up to 8.9 miles per hour (14.3 km/h)[1]
Average speed 75.25 miles per hour (121.10 km/h)
Pole position
Driver Curtis Turner John Eanes
Most laps led
Driver Johnny Mantz Hubert Westmoreland
Laps 351
Winner
No. 98
Johnny Mantz
Hubert Westmoreland

The 1950 Southern 500 was considered to be the inaugural Southern 500 (NASCAR Grand National) event and was responsible for turning the Southern 500 into the biggest racing event prior to the 1959 Daytona 500. It took place September 4, 1950, at Darlington Raceway in the American community of Darlington, South Carolina.

Summary[edit]

Pre-race summary[edit]

This racing event helped to modernize stock car racing from its roots as a recreational pastime for moonshiners to an organized sport done on asphalt race tracks superior to the American highway system. Gasoline cost 18 cents a gallon (equivalent to 4.5 cents per litre) to drive an unmodified vehicle to the race; but was free of charge during the race. The same gasoline that was sold in American service stations were used in NASCAR during this era. Cars were driven directly to the track as opposed to being towed from more than 2,500 miles or 4,000 kilometres away. While hotels and modern infrastructure were scarce in the Southern United States during the 1950s, people who attended this early NASCAR event started to create makeshift camping areas around the race track to soak up the full NASCAR experience.

The Interstate Highway System would not begun construction until later in the decade; its heyday and prominence as an "American superhighway" for leisure and business travel didn't kick in until the late 1960s when NASCAR first felt the need to expand outside its regional "shell" and into the national stage.[2] Until hotel accommodations reached the same level of accessibility in the Southern United States as it was in the more economically developed northeastern part of the country, camping with tents and trailers was the only viable way for a NASCAR fan to have a race-oriented vacation. It was also the first 500-mile race in the history of NASCAR. Being the first superspeedway in NASCAR, Darlington would be the precedent for race tracks like the Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. The winning vehicle was Johnny Mantz's 1950 Plymouth (owned by Hubert Westmoreland). Harold Brasington, a local businessman, was motivated to open Darlington Speedway for the introductory race after being impressed by the 1933 Indianapolis 500. Brasington's plan called for a true oval, but the racetrack's design had to be changed in order to satisfy Sherman Ramsey who didn't want his minnow pond to be disturbed.[3]

U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond was the official marshal for the 1950 Southern 500.[4] He was known for his conservative policies in the Southern United States in those days. The top prize for the race was $10,510 ($103,021.26 when adjusted for inflation) while the lowest known prize amount for the race was $100 ($980.22 when adjusted for inflation) for 72nd place. Seventy-five cars competed in this era of relatively unregulated racing for a total of $25,325 in winnings ($248,241.04 when adjusted for inflation).[5]

In-race summary[edit]

Other entries for manufacturers included Oldsmobile (defunct), Cadillac (active but not racing in NASCAR), Mercury (defunct), Ford (active), Buick (active but not racing in NASCAR), Pontiac (defunct), Nash (defunct), Lincoln (active but not racing in NASCAR), Studebaker (defunct), and Kaiser (defunct). Oddly enough, there was no entry for Chevrolet vehicles during that race. The other top ten finishers included: Fireball Roberts, Red Byron, Bill Rexford, Chuck Mahoney, Lee Petty, Cotton Owens, Bill Blair, Hershel McGriff, and George Hartley.

As of 2011, Hershel McGriff still competes in regional road courses races in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.[6] His most recent start in the West Series came on June 23, 2012 at Sonoma Raceway, at the age of 84.

Gober Sosebee led the first 4 laps, Curtis Turner, the polesitter, then led until lap 22, before eventually flipping on lap 275. After Turner lost the lead, Cotton Owens lead for 23 laps. After that, Mantz led to the finish. The total time of the race was six hours, thirty-eight minutes, and forty seconds (longer than a baseball or a football game of that era). The average speed was 75.250 miles per hour (121.103 km/h) while the pole position speed was 82.034 miles per hour (132.021 km/h). Two cautions were taken for thirteen laps and the winner won by more than nine laps. Attendance stood at 25,000 people; about half the attendance of a modern baseball game. Four hundred laps were done on a paved oval track spanning 1.250 miles (2.012 km). Most of the known DNFs in the race were caused by crashes with the occasional spindle incident.[5]

Finishing order[edit]

* Driver is known to have failed to finish the race
^ Indicates the driver definitely finished the race
The presence of neither * nor ^ indicates that the driver's finishing status is not known.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Complete weather information for the 1950 Southern 500 at The Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ Darlington made stock car racing a modern sport at NASCAR.com
  3. ^ Darlington Raceway History at Darlington Raceway's official web site
  4. ^ Information about the official marshal at 50 Things You May Not Know About NASCAR
  5. ^ a b 1950 Southern 500: racing information at Racing-Reference
  6. ^ McGriff Not Ready To Slow Down At 83 at NASCAR Local Racing
Preceded by
none
Southern 500 races
1950
Succeeded by
1951