1966 Southern 500

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Coordinates: 34°17′50.5″N 79°54′18.4″W / 34.297361°N 79.905111°W / 34.297361; -79.905111

1966 Southern 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 42 of 59 in the 1966 NASCAR Grand National Series season
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Date September 5, 1966 (1966-September-05)
Official name Southern 500
Location Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course Permanent racing facility
1.375 mi (2.212 km)
Distance 364 laps, 500.5 mi (805.4 km)
Weather Hot with temperatures reaching up to 89.1 °F (31.7 °C); wind speeds up to 10.1 miles per hour (16.3 km/h)
Average speed 114.830 miles per hour (184.801 km/h)
Attendance 28,000
Pole position
Driver Jon Thorne
Most laps led
Driver Richard Petty Petty Enterprises
Laps 131
No. 16 Darel Dieringer Bud Moore
Television in the United States
Network untelevised
Announcers none

The 1966 Southern 500, the 17th running of the event, was a NASCAR Grand National Series event that was held on September 5, 1966, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.

The transition to purpose-built racecars began in the early 1960s and occurred gradually over that decade. Changes made to the sport by the late 1960s brought an end to the "strictly stock" vehicles of the 1950s; most of the cars were trailered to events or hauled in by trucks.


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]


A field of 44 drivers competed for a total purse of $67,960 ($501,649.35 when adjusted for inflation).[4] The media was displeased with the treatment that they received from NASCAR after a terminal crash by Earl Balmer almost wiped out the press box. As a result, they petitioned the president of the track, Bob Colvin, threatening not to be responsible for any loss of life should another terminal crash injure or kill a member of the media.[5]

LeeRoy Yarbrough won the pole position with a qualifying speed of 140.058 miles per hour (225.402 km/h). Darel Dieringer passed Richard Petty with seven laps to go and stormed to the win. There were 28 lead changes and 8 cautions for 80 laps, and the race lasted four hours and twenty-one minutes.[2] This race was scheduled for 364 laps on a paved oval track spanning 1.375 miles (2.213 km), for a total distance of 500.5 miles (805.5 km).[2] The average race speed was 114.830 miles per hour (184.801 km/h).[2] Twelve engine failures were recorded during the course of the race along with two terminal crashes along with several other reasons that drivers failed to finish the race. By modern standards, this was considered to be a competitive Southern 500; with 6 laps separating the top ten along with the leaders on the same lap; allowing the race to come to an exciting conclusion.[2]

Bob Derrington and Eddie MacDonald made their final NASCAR appearances. Earl Balmer's ride with the guardrail would result in his unfortunate accident on lap 185; where he would end up with a 30th-place finish.[6]


Grid No. Driver Manufacturer
1 12 LeeRoy Yarbrough '66 Dodge
2 43 Richard Petty '66 Plymouth
3 16 Darel Dieringer '66 Mercury
4 99 Paul Goldsmith '66 Plymouth
5 98 Sam McQuagg '66 Dodge
6 71 Earl Balmer '65 Dodge
7 21 Cale Yarborough '66 Ford
8 3 Buddy Baker '65 Dodge
9 28 Fred Lorenzen '66 Ford
10 29 Dick Hutcherson '65 Ford

Finishing order[edit]

† signifies that the driver is known to be deceased
* Driver failed to finish race


  1. ^ "1966 Southern 500 weather information". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "1966 Southern 500". Racing-Reference.info. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Darlington Raceway". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  4. ^ "1966 Official Race Results: Southern 500". NASCAR Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  5. ^ The Official NASCAR Trivia Book at Google Books
  6. ^ "1966 Southern 500". Race-Database.com. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
Preceded by
1966 Myers Brothers 250
NASCAR Grand National Series season
Succeeded by
1966 Buddy Shuman 250
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by