1959 Southern 500

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1959 Southern 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 36 of 44 in the 1959 NASCAR Grand National Series season
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Date September 7, 1959 (1959-September-07)
Location Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course Permanent racing facility
1.375 mi (2.221 km)
Distance 400 laps, 500 mi (800 km)
Weather Very hot with temperatures of 88 °F (31 °C); wind speeds of 8.9 miles per hour (14.3 km/h)
Average speed 111.836 miles per hour (179.983 km/h)
Attendance 78,000
Pole position
Driver Jim Stephens
Time 16.002 seconds
Most laps led
Driver Jim Reed Jim Reed
Laps 152
No. 7 Jim Reed Jim Reed

The 1959 Southern 500, the 10th running of the event, was a NASCAR Grand National Series event that was held on September 7, 1959, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.


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.

Race report[edit]

It took four hours and twenty-eight minutes for the race to reach its conclusion; Jim Reed defeated Bob Burdick by more than two laps; he actually won in a 1959 Chevrolet Impala that was listed as a 1957 Chevrolet. Reed's vehicle took its third and final win at the Southern 500. The newer and faster 1959 Chevrolet vehicles lead a total of 154 laps while the older 1957 Chevrolet vehicles only lead 57 laps.[2] Seventy-eight thousand people attended this live race.[2]

Notable speeds for this race were: 111.836 miles per hour (179.983 km/h) as the average speed and 123.734 miles per hour (199.131 km/h) per hour as the pole position speed.[2] Richard Petty would lead his first career laps from lap 93 to lap 99. The Goodyear would get its first victory since re-entering racing. Goodyear Eagle tires currently have the monopoly on all NASCAR racing series. Total winnings for this race were $51,990 ($446,841 when adjusted for inflation).[2] Neil Castles' car had a problem early in the race, spent most of the day fixing it, and then came back out and was on track at the finish albeit 272 laps down.[2] Events like that occurred quite frequently if the team thought they could pick up a few points.

Drivers points were unimportant in the 1950s regardless of many races the drivers ran. It wasn't until Winston came on the scene in the 1970s that the driver's championship amounted to much more than a nice trophy. Castles clearly didn't get any extra money for going back out, since he's shown as getting the same $150 as all the other drivers who failed to finish the race.[2]

Joe Caspolitch's ride was owned by the city of Florence, South Carolina.[2] The city government bought the ride from Lee Petty in order to field Caspolitch in the race. Since then, not a single branch of the American government (federal, municipal, or state government) has claimed ownership or has attempted to claim ownership of a NASCAR vehicle.

While Richard Petty and Buddy Baker got their first superspeedway action during this race in 1959, this would be the first major race in NASCAR history where a person from the Northern United States would win over a resident of the Southeastern United States.[4] Charley Cregar, Bud Crothers, and Johnny Patterson would make their final NASCAR Cup Series appearance at this event.[5]

Bud Crothers would qualify the race in 32nd place and would end up with a 21st-place finish after finishing 318 laps.[2] This was the only Grand National Series race for Bill Champion; where he would finish 12th after qualifying 25th.[2] Mario Rossi, Shorty Johns and Roy Burdick were crew chiefs in attendance for this event.[6]

Scenes from this race were used in the 1960 film Thunder in Carolina, starring Rory Calhoun and Alan Hale, Jr.


Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Speed[7] Qualifying time[7] Owner
1 3 Fireball Roberts '59 Pontiac 123.724 16.002 Jim Stephens
2 10 Elmo Langley '59 Buick 123.387 16.047 Ratus Walters
3 22 Speedy Thompson '59 Chevrolet 123.387 16.061 W.J. Ridgeway
4 4 Rex White '59 Chevrolet 122.836 16.119 Rex White
5 73 Bob Burdick '59 Ford Thunderbird 122.714 16.135 Roy Burdick
6 43 Richard Petty '59 Plymouth 123.134 16.080 Petty Enterprises
7 93 Banjo Matthews '59 Ford Thunderbird 122.026 16.226 Banjo Matthews
8 12 Joe Weatherly '59 Ford Thunderbird 121.988 16.231 Doc White
9 42 Lee Petty '59 Plymouth 121.405 16.309 Petty Enterprises
10 47 Jack Smith '59 Chevrolet 121.071 16.354 Jack Smith

Withdrew from race: Billy Cash (#89), Junior Johnson (#11)[7]

Finishing order[edit]

Section reference:[2]


Section reference:[2]

  • Start of race: Speedy Thompson officially had the pole position to start the event
  • Lap 2: Carl Burris' engine suddenly become faulty
  • Lap 3: Fireball Roberts took over the lead from Speedy Thompson
  • Lap 11: The rear end of Larry Flynn's vehicle came off in an unsafe manner
  • Lap 16: Elmo Henderson's engine stopped working properly
  • Lap 26: The pistons on Joe Eubanks' vehicle started acting strangely
  • Lap 41: Elmo Langley's engine stopped working on this lap
  • Lap 45: Banjo Matthews took over the lead from Fireball Roberts
  • Lap 54: Oil pressure issues managed to ruin Joe Weatherly's day
  • Lap 58: Transmission problems managed to defeat Joe Lee Johnson's chances of victory
  • Lap 62: Cotton Owens took over the lead from Banjo Matthews
  • Lap 63: A busted engine ended Bob Perry's day on the track
  • Lap 64: Engine issues took Buddy Baker out of the race
  • Lap 71: Lennie Page's race ended in misery after his vehicle's engine stopped working
  • Lap 74: Possum Jones just couldn't race anymore after his vehicle's brakes gave out
  • Lap 86: Bobby Johns took over the lead from Cotton Owens
  • Lap 93: Richard Petty took over the lead from Bobby Johns
  • Lap 100: Banjo Matthews took over the lead from Richard Petty
  • Lap 130: Bob Welborn had a terminal crash
  • Lap 138: Bobby Johns took over the lead from Banjo Matthews
  • Lap 178: Banjo Matthews had a terminal crash
  • Lap 188: Jim Reed took over the lead from Bobby Johns
  • Lap 225: Dick Blackwell had a terminal crash
  • Lap 234: One of the pistons in Earl Balmer's vehicle stopped working properly
  • Lap 239: Bob Burdick took over the lead from Jim Reed
  • Lap 264: Jim Reed took over the lead from Bob Burdick
  • Lap 272: G.C. Spencer's vehicle ran out of batteries while he was racing
  • Lap 326: Rex White's driveshaft stopped working properly, forcing him to retire from the race
  • Lap 333: One of the springs on Speedy Thompson's vehicle became faulty, bringing an end to his performance in this race
  • Finish: Jim Reed was officially declared the winner of the event


  1. ^ "1959 Southern 500 weather information". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "1959 Southern 500 racing results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  3. ^ a b c d "Darlington Raceway". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  4. ^ "Stars, Bars and Cars". Hemmings. Retrieved 2015-01-21.
  5. ^ "Driver retirements". Race Database. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  6. ^ "Notable crew chiefs". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2017-06-11.
  7. ^ a b c "1959 Southern 500 qualifying results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by