1951 Southern 500

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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 of 91.9 °F (33.3 °C); wind speeds of 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, 1951, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. The winner of the race was Herb Thomas.


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]

Darlington has something of a legendary quality among drivers and older fans; this is probably due to its long track length relative to other NASCAR speedways of its era and hence the first venue where many of them became cognizant of the truly high speeds that stock cars could achieve on a long track. The track allegedly earned the moniker The Lady in Black because the night before the race the track maintenance crew would cover the entire track with fresh asphalt sealant, in the early years of the speedway, thus making the racing surface dark black. Darlington is also known as "The Track Too Tough to Tame" because drivers can run lap after lap without a problem and then bounce off of the wall the following lap. Racers will frequently explain that they have to race the racetrack, not their competition. Drivers hitting the wall are considered to have received their "Darlington Stripe" thanks to the missing paint on the right side of the car.


In qualifying, Frank Mundy would win the pole with a speed of 84.173 miles per hour (135.463 km/h).[2] He was followed by Herb Thomas, Jesse James Taylor, Fonty Flock, and Hershel McGriff. 82 cars would start the race, a NASCAR record to this day. [4]

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] The race lasted for six hours and thirty minutes. [2] Herb Thomas led the first six laps, before Jesse James Taylor took the lead, holding it for the next 7 laps. [5] Pole-sitter Frank Mundy dropped out with oil pressure problems 12 laps in, finishing dead last. Marshall Teague, who passed 46 cars in 13 laps, inherited the lead on lap 13. [2] After Curtis Turner took the lead on lap 52, Herb Thomas would grab the lead back from Turner on lap 95, [5] leading the rest of the race to defeat Jesse James Taylor by more than one lap, in front of forty thousand people.[2] Buddy Shuman would finish third, eight laps down, while Hershel McGriff and Fireball Roberts made up the top five. Turner would drop out of the race with a blown engine 272 laps in.

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.[6] Notable crew chiefs for this race were Smokey Yunick, Buckshot Morris, and Doug Meeks.[7]

This race would be Red Byron's final race in NASCAR. Total winnings for this race were $23,740 ($229,152 when adjusted for inflation). As it was with all races during this era, there was no televised coverage of this racing event.


Note: Qualifying was an eight-lap run;[8] the fastest lap time was actually 53.4 seconds while the slowest lap time was 54.6 seconds.

Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Speed[8] Time[8] Owner
1 23 Frank Mundy '51 Studebaker 84.173 7:07.690 Perry Smith
2 92 Herb Thomas '51 Hudson 83.164 7:12.880 Herb Thomas
3 31 Jesse James Taylor '51 Hudson 82.924 7:14.130 Jesse James Taylor
4 14 Fonty Flock '51 Oldsmobile 82.645 7:15.600 Frank Christian
5 77 Hershel McGriff '51 Oldsmobile 82.819 7:14.680 Hershel McGriff
6 16 Bill Snowden '51 Ford 82.141 7:18.270 Bill Snowden
7 11 Fireball Roberts '51 Ford 82.417 7:16.800 Ed Saverance
8 28 Ray Chase '50 Oldsmobile 81.409 7:22.210 Bill Sheldon
9 38 Frank Gise '51 Studebaker 81.194 7:23.880 B.R. Waller
10 7 Bob Flock '51 Oldsmobile 82.284 7:17.510 Ted Chester

Top forty drivers[edit]


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 2012-12-15.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "1951 Southern 500 information". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
  3. ^ a b c d "Darlington Raceway". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  4. ^ "1951 NASCAR Grand National Recap". HowStuffWorks. 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  5. ^ a b "Random Recap: The 1951 Southern 500". Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  6. ^ New drivers introduced at this race at Race Database
  7. ^ Crew chief information at Racing Reference
  8. ^ a b c "1951 Southern 500 qualifying information". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by