Southern 500 (1950–2004)
|Venue||Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina, United States|
|Distance||501 miles (806.3 km)|
|Previous names||Southern 500 (1950-1988)
The 50th Pepsi Southern 500 (1999)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2011)|
The Southern 500 was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car race held from 1950 to 2004 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina, United States. The 2004 race distance was 501 miles (806 km) long, and consisted of 367 laps.
The race began in 1950, as NASCAR's first 500 mile race, and it was the only race of such distance until the Daytona 500 debuted in 1959. Through most of its history the race was one of NASCAR's premier events, and was known as one of four Crown Jewels on the NASCAR circuit. From 1985-1997, it served as the fourth race of the popular Winston Million. Two drivers, Bill Elliott (1985) and Jeff Gordon (1997), clinched the Winston Million with victories in the Southern 500.
In 1989, the race added Heinz as a title sponsor, but kept the traditional "Southern" moniker in its official name. The Southern 500 was one of the last races on the circuit to embrace naming rights in its title.
Prior to 2004, this annual event was held on Labor Day weekend, and in most years before 1984, was held on Monday, Labor Day itself. For the 2004 season, a shuffling of the schedule saw the race move to November. Track management considered the November date would allow for cooler, more comfortable weather for fans, who had increasingly voiced concerns about the weather. Rockingham lost its fall date to Fontana, and the Pop Secret 500 was moved to the lucrative Labor Day weekend date. Incidentally, and originally unbeknownst to fans and competitors, the 2004 Southern 500 would be its last running, seemingly because of the unpopular move to November.
In 2004, Francis Ferko, a shareholder of the company that owned Texas Motor Speedway, sued NASCAR, saying they had violated anti-trust laws by refusing to have a second race at Texas Motor Speedway, as many other tracks had. The judge ruled in his favor, and NASCAR was forced to give up the Southern 500 date so that a second race could be held at Texas Motor Speedway, which became the Dickies 500.
Many fans were furious. They believed that NASCAR had put money before the fans. Even after the Southern 500 returned in 2009, fans still believe that the Labor Day race should be in Darlington.
In 2005, the Mountain Dew Southern 500 was removed from the NASCAR schedule and Darlington's Spring race, the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, was lengthened into the Dodge Charger 500 and changed its date on the calendar to a Saturday night race in May.
The absence of the Labor Day Southern 500 race continues to be a sticking point between NASCAR and much of its fanbase, especially the more traditional wing. However, since May of 2009, the "Southern 500" name has been revived for the remaining race at Darlington Raceway.
- 1950 The very first running lasted over six hours and multiple cars blew tires. Johnny Mantz drove a conservative race and emerged with the win.
- 1960 In a race with 48 entries, numerous crashes occurred and the race proved tragic, first when Ankrum "Spook" Crawford was injured when a car crashed into the unprotected pit road area; later Bobby Johns crashed in the pits, killing three. Richard Petty led 106 laps but spun out with 50 laps to go. Pole-sitter Glenn Roberts broke an axle and finished ninth, 11 laps down. Rex White was flagged the winner, but a reexamination of scoring showed White was credited with one extra lap he hadn't run, giving the win to Buck Baker.
- 1965 Darel Dieringer broke with 39 laps to go after leading 199 laps, leaving Ned Jarrett alone by 14 laps en route to the win. The race saw a scary melee when young Cale Yarborough crashed with Sam McQuagg in Turn One and Cale's car flew over the guardrail and landed outside the speedway; he was uninjured and interviewed for ABC Sports by Chris Economaki.
- 1974 Cale Yarborough became a three-time Southern 500 winner, edging sophomore sensation Darrell Waltrip. Crashes thinned the field and eliminated the likes of Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, David Pearson, and Bobby Allison; singled out for criticism was Richie Panch, involved in three wrecks during the day. Allison accused Yarborough of wrecking him, a charge Yarborough angrilly denied.
- 1977 A huge fight between Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip ended in a crash and Pearson grabbed his second straight Southern 500. Following the race D.K. Ulrich, caught up in the fracas, asked Cale why he'd hit him; Cale's replay ("I didn't hit you, Jaws did. Jaws Waltrip") created a popular nickname for Waltrip.
- 1979 Pearson achieved vindication at the same track where earlier that year a pit accident cost him his ride with Wood Brothers Racing. Driving Rod Osterlund's Chevrolet while regular driver Dale Earnhardt recovered from late-July injury, Pearson made up a lap when Darrell Waltrip spun out of the lead with 70 laps to go, then spun again some 20 laps later; he lost 12 laps and finished 11th after leading 165 laps. Pearson edged young driver Bill Elliott for the win, his 104th career Winston Cup Grand National win.
- 1980 Once again Waltrip and Pearson were keys to a shocking Southern 500; this time Waltrip, embroiled in a contract fight with DiGard Racing, led 196 laps from the pole while Pearson once again had to make up a lap, this time driving Hoss Ellington's Chevrolet. But a timing chain broke on Waltrip, ending his race 39 laps from the finish. Benny Parsons grabbed the lead while Pearson got back on the lead lap. A late yellow for Cale Yarborough (who'd had a miserable day with a fuel fire and several earlier spins) set up a five-lap shootout between Parsons, Pearson, and Dale Earnhardt; Pearson took the lead on the restart, Earnhardt passed on Lap 364 but Pearson retook the lead on that same lap, but with two to go all three leaders crashed in Turn One on oil from a backmarker; Pearson limped to the line, but Terry Labonte caught and swung past at the white flag, grabbing his first career win.
- 1982 The most competitive running of the Southern 500 took place as the lead changed 41 times among 17 drivers. Bobby Allison in the Gatorade #88 led 88 laps before breaking, while Darrell Waltrip in Junior Johnson's Buick led 23 laps before blowing his engine. In all 14 cautions flew and helped set up a four-car shootout involving the cream of stock car racing's old guard (Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty) and the cream of its up-and-coming new guard (Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott). Cale edged Petty, Earnhardt, and Elliott for his record fifth Southern 500, and what would be his last victory with M.C. Anderson's race team.
- 1985 NASCAR's Winston Million program paid out when Bill Elliott took the win in the Southern 500, thus winning three of NASCAR's four biggest races (he'd won the Daytona 500 and Winston 500 earlier in the year). Challenges by Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough fell apart; Yarborough finished second despite breaking a power steering line. The million dollar program made Elliott's winnings the highest in NASCAR history to that point.
- 1986 Tim Richmond and Geoff Bodine swept the front row and combined to lead 330 laps. Intermittent rain pushed the four-hour contest to darkness. Bodine ran dry and finished eighth while Bill Elliott's attempt to stretch his fuel came short with six to go and he finished third behind Richmond and Bobby Allison. The win was the first at Darlington for crew chief Harry Hyde. Dale Earnhardt hit Richard Petty six laps in and Petty was eliminated; "His mind goes out of gear," said an angered Petty.
- 1987 Rain shortened the 1987 running after just 202 laps; the battle for the win turned into a showdown between Earnhardt and Richard Petty; Petty gunned past Earnhardt on a Lap 188 restart but Earnhardt retook the lead on lap 191 just before rain brought out what would be the race-ending yellow at Lap 198. Rookie sensation Davey Allison won the pole and led 86 laps but crashed in Turn Four at Lap 164; the crash swept up Lake Speed while Mike Potter spun behind them and was drilled by Benny Parsons.
- 1990 Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, and Geoff Bodine timed together in the top three and combined to lead 286 laps between them; Bodine faded to eighth while Elliott finished fourth and Ernie Irvan led 70 laps and grabbed second, but no one could catch Earnhardt en route to his third Southern 500 in his previous four starts. The race was famous for a vicious feud between Ken Schrader and Morgan Shepherd; Schrader crashed early in the race after an encounter with Shepherd, then after getting repairs he sped onto the track and rammed Shepherd in the third turn. Shepherd finished 21st while Schrader was parked.
- 1992 Davey Allison entered the race with a chance for the Winston Million, but rain interfered, and cut the race short. Harry Gant and Davey Allison combined to lead 163 laps. With rain approaching the area, the leaders cycled through a series of pit stops around lap 292, but a scant handful of drivers stayed out. Allison's Crew chief Larry McReynolds sent a crew member to the NASCAR hauler to look at the weather radar. The crew member's misinterpretation of the radar led to Allison coming in to the pits and changing four tires. Darrell Waltrip was among those who gambled and stayed out, inhered the lead just as the yellow came out for rain on lap 297. The skies opened up, and the race has ended after 298 laps. Davey Allison slid to 5th in the pit stop shuffle, and was denied his chance at the million dollar bonus. The victory would be Waltrips 84th and final career win.
- 1993 After an intense battle Mark Martin broke away from Dale Earnhardt and won the Southern 500, his fourth straight Winston Cup win. He and Earnhardt combined to lead 279 laps. Ernie Irvan finished fifth in his debut drive in Robert Yates after an acrimonious split from Morgan McClure Motorsports; Jeff Purvis finished 26th in the McClure Chevrolet.
|Year||Day||Date||Driver||Team||Manufacturer||Race Distance||Race Time||Average Speed
|1950||Monday||September 4||Johnny Mantz||Hubert Westmoreland||Plymouth||400||500 (804.672)||6:38:40||75.25||Report|
|1951||Monday||September 3||Herb Thomas||Herb Thomas||Hudson||400||500 (804.672)||6:30:05||76.906||Report|
|1952||Monday||September 1||Fonty Flock||Frank Christian||Oldsmobile||400||500 (804.672)||6:42:37||74.512||Report|
|1953||Monday||September 7||Buck Baker||Bob Griffin||Oldsmobile||364||500.5 (805.476)||5:23:19||92.881||Report|
|1954||Monday||September 6||Herb Thomas||Herb Thomas||Hudson||364||500.5 (805.476)||5:16:01||95.026||Report|
|1955||Monday||September 5||Herb Thomas||Herb Thomas||Chevrolet||364||500.5 (805.476)||5:25:25||92.281||Report|
|1956||Monday||September 3||Curtis Turner||Charlie Schwam||Ford||364||500.5 (805.476)||5:15:33||95.167||Report|
|1957||Monday||September 2||Speedy Thompson||Speedy Thompson||Chevrolet||364||500.5 (805.476)||5:00:01||100.094||Report|
|1958||Monday||September 1||Fireball Roberts||Frank Strickland||Chevrolet||364||500.5 (805.476)||4:52:44||102.585||Report|
|1959||Monday||September 7||Jim Reed||Jim Reed||Chevrolet||364||500.5 (805.476)||4:28:30||111.836||Report|
|1960||Monday||September 5||Buck Baker||Jack Smith||Pontiac||364||500.5 (805.476)||4:43:34||105.901||Report|
|1961||Monday||September 4||Nelson Stacy||Dudley Farrell||Ford||364||500.5 (805.476)||4:54:45||117.787||Report|
|1962||Monday||September 3||Larry Frank||Ratus Walters||Ford||364||500.5 (805.476)||4:14:34||117.965||Report|
|1963||Monday||September 2||Fireball Roberts||Holman-Moody||Ford||364||500.5 (805.476)||3:51:23||129.784||Report|
|1964||Monday||September 7||Buck Baker||Ray Fox||Dodge||364||500.5 (805.476)||4:15:01||117.757||Report|
|1965||Monday||September 6||Ned Jarrett||Bondy Long||Ford||364||500.5 (805.476)||4:19:09||115.878||Report|
|1966||Monday||September 5||Darel Dieringer||Bud Moore Engineering||Mercury||364||500.5 (805.476)||4:21:31||114.83||Report|
|1967||Monday||September 4||Richard Petty||Petty Enterprises||Plymouth||364||500.5 (805.476)||3:50:15||130.423||Report|
|1968||Monday||September 2||Cale Yarborough||Wood Brothers Racing||Mercury||364||500.5 (805.476)||3:58:05||126.132||Report|
|1969||Monday||September 1||LeeRoy Yarbrough||Junior Johnson & Associates||Ford||230*||316.25 (508.955)||2:59:40||105.612||Report|
|1970||Monday||September 7||Buddy Baker||Cotton Owens||Dodge||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:55:03||128.817||Report|
|1971||Monday||September 6||Bobby Allison||Holman-Moody||Mercury||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:48:55||131.398||Report|
|1972||Monday||September 4||Bobby Allison||Richard Howard||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:54:46||128.124||Report|
|1973||Monday||September 3||Cale Yarborough||Richard Howard||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:44:25||134.033||Report|
|1974||Monday||September 2||Cale Yarborough||Junior Johnson & Associates||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:30:48||111.075||Report|
|1975||Monday||September 1||Bobby Allison||Penske Racing||Matador||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:17:28||116.825||Report|
|1976||Sunday||September 5*||David Pearson||Wood Brothers Racing||Mercury||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:09:33||120.534||Report|
|1977||Monday||September 5||David Pearson||Wood Brothers Racing||Mercury||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:41:48||106.797||Report|
|1978||Monday||September 4||Cale Yarborough||Junior Johnson & Associates||Oldsmobile||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:17:46||116.828||Report|
|1979||Monday||September 3||David Pearson||Rod Osterlund Racing||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:58:14||126.259||Report|
|1980||Monday||September 1||Terry Labonte||Billy Hagan||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:21:05||115.21||Report|
|1981||Monday||September 7||Neil Bonnett||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:57:57||126.41||Report|
|1982||Monday||September 6||Cale Yarborough||M. C. Anderson Racing||Buick||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:21:00||115.224||Report|
|1983||Monday||September 5||Bobby Allison||DiGard Motorsports||Buick||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:03:52||123.343||Report|
|1984||Sunday||September 2||Harry Gant||Hal Needham||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:54:02||128.27||Report|
|1985||Sunday||September 1||Bill Elliott*||Melling Racing||Ford||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:08:02||121.254||Report|
|1986||Sunday||August 31||Tim Richmond||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:08:45||121.068||Report|
|1987||Sunday||September 6||Dale Earnhardt||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||202*||275.932 (444.069)||2:23:19||115.52||Report|
|1988||Sunday||September 4||Bill Elliott||Melling Racing||Ford||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:54:27||128.297||Report|
|1989||Sunday||September 3||Dale Earnhardt||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:42:03||135.462||Report|
|1990||Sunday||September 2||Dale Earnhardt||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:04:16||123.141||Report|
|1991||Sunday||September 1||Harry Gant||Leo Jackson Racing||Oldsmobile||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:45:18||133.508||Report|
|1992||Sunday||September 6||Darrell Waltrip*||DarWal, Inc.||Chevrolet||298*||407.068 (655.112)||3:09:10||129.114||Report|
|1993||Sunday||September 5||Mark Martin||Roush Racing||Ford||351*||479.466 (771.625)||3:28:34||137.932||Report|
|1994||Sunday||September 4||Bill Elliott||Junior Johnson & Associates||Ford||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:55:05||127.952||Report|
|1995||Sunday||September 3||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:08:07||121.231||Report|
|1996||Sunday||September 1||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:41:34||135.757||Report|
|1997||Sunday||August 31||Jeff Gordon*||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:08:17||121.149||Report|
|1998||Sunday||September 6||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||3:36:21||139.031||Report|
|1999*||Sunday||September 5||Jeff Burton||Roush Racing||Ford||270*||368.82 (593.558)||3:25:15||107.816||Report|
|2000||Sunday||September 3||Bobby Labonte||Joe Gibbs Racing||Pontiac||328*||448.048 (721.063)||4:08:20||108.273||Report|
|2001||Sunday||September 2||Ward Burton||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:05:00||122.773||Report|
|2002||Sunday||September 1||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:13:35||118.617||Report|
|2003||Sunday||August 31||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:09:08||120.733||Report|
|2004||Sunday||November 14||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||367||501.322 (806.799)||4:00:33||125.044||Report|
- 1969 & 1993: Race shortened due to rain/darkness.
- 1985: Bill Elliott clinched Winston Million.
- 1987, 1992, 1999, & 2000: Race shortened due to rain.
- 1992: Darrell Waltrip's final Cup Series victory.
- 1997: Jeff Gordon clinched Winston Million.
- 1999: 50th Running
Multiple winners (drivers)
|# Wins||Manufacturer||Years Won|
|5||Cale Yarborough||1968, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1982|
|Jeff Gordon||1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002|
|4||Bobby Allison||1971, 1972, 1975, 1983|
|3||Herb Thomas||1951, 1954, 1955|
|Buck Baker||1953, 1960, 1964|
|David Pearson||1976, 1977, 1979|
|Dale Earnhardt||1987, 1989, 1990|
|Bill Elliott||1985, 1988, 1994|
|2||Fireball Roberts||1958, 1963|
|Harry Gant||1984, 1991|
|Terry Labonte||1980, 2003|
Multiple winners (manufacturers)
|# Wins||Manufacturer||Years Won|
|22||Chevrolet||1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004|
|12||Ford||1956, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1969, 1981, 1985, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1999|
|5||Mercury||1966, 1968, 1971, 1976, 1977|
|4||Oldsmobile||1952, 1953, 1978, 1991|
|3||Dodge||1964, 1970, 2001|
- ^1 — During the 1995 Pepsi 400 and Southern 500, ESPN ran a two-channel simulcast (similar to DirecTV's Hotpass). ESPN showed the normal race broadcast, while ESPN2 showed a simulcast featuring on-board cameras only and audio from team radios.