1957 Southern 500

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1957 Southern 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 40 of 53 in the 1957 NASCAR Grand National Series season
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Date September 2, 1957 (1957-September-02)
Location Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course Permanent racing facility
1.375 mi (2.221 km)
Distance 400 laps, 500 mi (800 km)
Weather Extremely hot with temperatures reaching up to 93.3 °F (34.1 °C); wind speed up to 8.9 miles per hour (14.3 km/h)
Average speed 100.094 miles per hour (161.086 km/h)
Attendance 75,000
Pole position
Driver Nichels Engineering
Time 16.863 seconds
Most laps led
Driver Speedy Thompson Speedy Thompson
Laps 210
No. 46 Speedy Thompson Speedy Thompson
Television in the United States
Network WJMX (local AM radio)
Announcers Local radio announcers

The 1957 Southern 500, the eighth running of the event, was a NASCAR Grand National Series event that was held on September 2, 1957, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.

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.


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.


The event took five hours and one second to resolve itself on a paved oval track spanning 1.375 miles (2.213 km) for a total distance of 500.5 miles (805.5 km).[2] Seventy-five thousand fans attended this live NASCAR racing event. Billy Carden qualified for this event in 45th place and finished in 6th place; making him the 1950s equivalent of a NASCAR MVP.[2] The most notable crew chiefs that were attendance for this race were Jess Potter, Bud Moore, Shorty Johns and Ray Fox.[4]

As a result, Speedy Thompson defeated Cotton Owens while traveling at a speed of 100.094 miles per hour (161.086 km/h) by simply lapping him three times during the race.[2] Thompson drove the iconic 1957 Chevrolet during that race; that vehicle went on to win the 1958 and the 1959 runnings of the Southern 500. Owens acquired the pole position with a speed of 117.416 miles per hour (188.963 km/h) during the qualifying session, however, due to the abundant amount of clean air created by driving solo.[2] Tragically, Speedy Thompson would record his only Southern 500 victory here even though he would win on other paved superspeedways.

T.A. Toomes received the last-place finish due to a problem with his brakes on lap 3 out of 364. Runt Harris returns to NASCAR after a 7-year absence driving his way to a 39th-place finish after his vehicle developed problems with its clutch. Former Cup series race winner Bill Blair makes his only start of the 1957 NASCAR Grand National Series season; finishing in 38th place after inflicting terminal damage to his vehicle.[2]

Bobby Myers lost his life as a result of a race-related crash; Fonty Flock and Paul Goldsmith was also involved in this accident.[2][5][6]

George Parrish made a notable appearance in this race using a 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk; he witnessed the fatal crash of Bobby Myers at an extremely close range.[7] Since he had two children living at home with his wife, Parrish decided that the risky world of NASCAR racing wasn't for him and retired after the 1958 NASCAR Cup Series season.[7]

As a rookie, Cale Yarborough made his NASCAR debut here and finished in 42nd place (out of 50 drivers).[2] Fonty Flock retired after this race.


Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Qualifying time[8] Speed[8] Owner
1 6 Cotton Owens '57 Pontiac 16.863 117.416 Ray Nichels
2 4 Bobby Myers '57 Oldsmobile 16.922 117.007 Petty Enterprises
3 31 Curtis Turner '57 Ford 16.937 116.903 Smokey Yunick
4 80 Jimmie Lewallen '57 Pontiac 17.211 115.042 Sam Rice
5 62 Frankie Schneider '57 Chevrolet 17.228 114.929 Frankie Schenider
6 3 Paul Goldsmith '57 Ford 16.598 119.291 Smokey Yunick
7 46 Speedy Thompson '57 Chevrolet 16.803 117.836 Speedy Thompson
8 42 Lee Petty '57 Oldsmobile 16.845 117.542 Petty Enterprises
9 87 Buck Baker '57 Chevrolet 16.919 117.028 Buck Baker
10 22 Fireball Roberts '57 Ford 17.001 116.463 Fireball Roberts

Failed to qualify: Eddie Skinner (#28), Ted Chamberlain (#93), Joe Eubanks (#82), Fred Knapp (#37), Duke DeBrizzi (#81), Dave Terrell (#9), Larry Frank (#76), Bill Widenhouse (#5), Arden Mounts (#18), Bob Whitmire (#61), Barney Smith (#16), Jim Linke (#81)[8]

Finishing order[edit]

Section reference:[2]


Section reference:[2]

  • Start of race: Cotton Owens officially started the race as the pole position driver
  • Lap 3: Brake problems on T.A. Toomes' vehicle made him the last-place finisher
  • Lap 7: Curtis Turner took over the lead from Cotton Owens
  • Lap 11: Paul Goldsmith took over the lead from Curtis Turner
  • Lap 13: Oil pressure issues managed to bump Neil Castles out of the race
  • Lap 14: Bobby Myers took over the lead from Paul Goldsmith
  • Lap 15: Curtis Turner took over the lead from Bobby Myers
  • Lap 17: Cotton Owens took over the lead from Curtis Turner
  • Lap 18: Fonty Flock had a terminal crash
  • Lap 19: Frankie Schneider's engine stopped working properly
  • Lap 22: One of Gwyn Staley's coil came loose; forcing him to stop racing for the rest of the day
  • Lap 23: One of Chuck Hansen's racing pistons stopped working; forcing him to stop racing for the rest of the day
  • Lap 29: Lee Petty took over the lead from Cotton Owens
  • Lap 37: Joe Weatherly had a terminal crash
  • Lap 41: Fireball Roberts took over the lead from Lee Petty
  • Lap 50: Runt Harris' vehicle had some problems with its clutch; forcing him to exit the race for safety reasons
  • Lap 63: Bill Blair had a terminal crash
  • Lap 66: Joe Caspolich had a terminal crash
  • Lap 70: Lee Petty took over the lead from Fireball Roberts
  • Lap 79: Shorty York blew his engine while racing at high speeds
  • Lap 84: Tom Pistone's vehicle suffered from piston troubles
  • Lap 89: Fireball Roberts took over the lead from Lee Petty
  • Lap 99: Parnelli Jones had a terminal crash
  • Lap 101: Jack Smith took over the lead from Fireball Roberts
  • Lap 102: Bill Amick had a terminal crash
  • Lap 110: Speedy Thompson took over the lead from Jack Smith
  • Lap 130: Bill Champion managed to break the rear end of the vehicle
  • Lap 155: Peck Peckham blew his engine while racing at high speeds
  • Lap 156: The radiator on Bob Duell's vehicle finally gave out
  • Lap 171: Curtis Turner took over the lead from Speedy Thompson
  • Lap 210: Axle problems on Rex White's vehicle managed to force him off the track
  • Lap 215: Whitey Norman blew his engine while racing at high speeds
  • Lap 216: Speedy Thompson took over the lead from Curtis Turner
  • Lap 221: Marvin Porter blew his engine while racing at high speeds
  • Lap 281: Lee Petty had a terminal crash
  • Lap 308: Tiny Lund had a terminal crash
  • Lap 348: Jack Smith had a terminal crash
  • Finish: Speedy Thompson was officially declared the winner of the event


  1. ^ "1957 Southern 500 weather information". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "1957 Southern 500 racing results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Darlington Raceway". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  4. ^ "1957 Southern 500 crew chief information". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2017-06-11. 
  5. ^ "Bobby Myers's fatal crash". How Stuff Works. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  6. ^ "Bobby Myers's fatal crash (second reference)". Legends of NASCAR. Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  7. ^ a b "The Studebaker Golden Hawk @ the 1957 Southern 500". Studebaker Racing. Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  8. ^ a b c "1957 Southern 500 qualifying results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by