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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

1956 Southern 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 44 of 56 in the 1956 NASCAR Grand National Series season
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Date September 3, 1956 (1956-September-03)
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 89.1 °F (31.7 °C); wind speed of 13 miles per hour (21 km/h)
Average speed 95.167 miles per hour (153.156 km/h)
Attendance 70,000[3]
Pole position
Driver Carl Kiekhaefer
Most laps led
Driver Curtis Turner Charlie Schwam
Laps 225
No. 99 Curtis Turner Charlie Schwam
Television in the United States
Network WJMX (local AM radio)
Announcers Local radio announcers

The 1956 Southern 500, the seventh running of the event, was a NASCAR Grand National Series (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) event that was held on September 3, 1956, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.

This race was considered to be the "Labor Day Classic" for 1956; complete with a pre-race beauty pageant with a judging panel led by Fonty Flock and a parade down the front stretch of the race track.

By the 1990s, NASCAR's top-level series became a media circus that only races at facilities that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.


Layout of Darlington Raceway, the track where the race was held.

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.[4] 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.[4] The front stretch (the location of the finish line) and the back stretch is banked at six degrees.[4] Darlington Raceway can seat up to 60,000 people.[4]

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 reportEdit

There were 364 laps done on a paved track spanning 1.375 miles (2.213 km).[2][3] It only took five hours, fifteen minutes, and thirty-three seconds for the race to reach its conclusion.[2][3] Seven cautions were committed for seventy-eight laps and the margin of victory was more than two laps.[2][3] Attendance was established at seventy thousand people; about the size of a typical modern day sporting event.[2][3]

The average speed of the race was 95.167 miles per hour (153.156 km/h) while the pole speed was 119.695 miles per hour (192.630 km/h) and was achieved by Speedy Thompson.[2][3] Seventy American drivers competed as the race entries; there were no foreigners in that race.[2][3] Other notable drivers in the race included future car owner Junior Johnson, Joe Weatherly, Fonty Flock, Gwyn Staley, Fireball Roberts, Tiny Lund and Herb Thomas. Judge Rider would make his only Cup Series start in this event. Gene Bergin would participate in his first NASCAR Grand National race here and finished in 36th place. Fireball Roberts crashed into another car on lap 166 because he failed to slow down for a caution flag. The #54 car of Bill Brown's car was the only one in the race not manufactured in 1956.[2][3]

Bobby Myers fell out then drove in relief for Jim Paschal finishing in sixth place. Paschal, however, got credit for the finish according to NASCAR's archives of race finishes. Larry Flynn made contact with Bill Brown during this race around lap 235.[2][3] Brown, sporting a very rare onboard (on the front bumper), flew over the wall, destroying the guardrail there, and rolled down the bank, and Flynn's gas container flew out. It was hit by someone and a fire started, which spread to the car. Luckily, seatbelts helped to save the lives of both Flynn and Brown.[2][3]

Total winnings for the race was $35,365 ($325,903 when adjusted for inflation). Manufacturers involved in the event included Chevrolet (active), Ford (active), Dodge (active), Mercury (defunct after 2010), Plymouth (defunct), Chrysler (active), Pontiac (defunct), and Buick (active).[2][3]

Only one Pontiac and one Chrysler were too slow to compete in this event. The rest of the non-qualifying vehicles were Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, and Plymouth. Jesse James Taylor made his first Cup start since his brutal rollover at Lakewood back in November 1951 that left him with some serious head injuries. He never quite reached back to the heights he did before; any chances of making a comeback ended quickly here with an engine failure in the early laps.[3]

Last race for Dink Widenhouse due to a hilarious mishap. He was involved in a wreck on lap 158 and managed to cut his arm.[3] As he climbed out of his car, Widenhouse noticed he was bleeding and would eventually pass out. The track officials saw his unconscious, tangled in his safety belt, and upside down, head in the helmet, with the helmet resting on the racing surface. He wasn't really hurt that badly and didn't have to be sent to a nearby hospital.

Carl Kiekhaefer was the only notable crew chief to attend this race; he was also the owner of the #87 Chrysler vehicle driven by Buck Baker.[5]


Grid[3] No. Driver Manufacturer
1 57 Speedy Thompson '56 Chrysler
2 8 Marvin Panch '56 Ford
3 97 Bill Amick '56 Ford
4 3 Paul Goldsmith '56 Chevrolet
5 92 Herb Thomas '56 Chevrolet
6 87 Buck Baker '56 Chrysler
7 27 Frank Mundy '56 Dodge
8 12 Ralph Moody '56 Ford
9 82 Joe Eubanks '56 Ford
10 52 Bill Widenhouse '56 Ford
11 99 Curtis Turner '56 Ford
12 15 Fonty Flock '56 Mercury
13 22 Fireball Roberts '56 Ford
14 14 Billy Myers '56 Mercury
15 86 Tim Flock '56 Ford

Failed to qualify: William Pike (#74), Joe Blair (#5), Matt Gowan (#64), Bobby Boyd, Rat Garner (#17), Bryce Beck, Pete Yow (#03), Jud Larson (#69), Everett Brashear (#39)[6]
Withdrew from race: Johnny Fite (#20)[6]

Finishing orderEdit

Section reference: [3]

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


Section reference: [3]

  • Start of race: Marvin Panch officially began the event with the pole position
  • Lap 2: Speedy Thompson took over the lead from Marvin Panch
  • Lap 12: Piston troubles made Arden Mounts into the last-place finisher
  • Lap 17: Tim Flock took over the lead from Speedy Thompson
  • Lap 25: Jesse James Taylor's engine problems would force him to leave the race early
  • Lap 26: Russ Graham had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 27: Gasket problems would force Peck Peckham to exit the race
  • Lap 33: Marvin Panch took over the lead from Tim Flock
  • Lap 34: Curtis Turner took over the lead from Marvin Panch
  • Lap 36: Tim Flock took over the lead from Curtis Turner
  • Lap 39: Curtis Turner took over the lead from Tim Flock
  • Lap 54: Doug Yates had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race prematurely
  • Lap 57: Gwyn Staley had a terminal crash, ending his race weekend
  • Lap 60: Throttle problems forced Pee Wee Jones to stop racing for the remainder of the race
  • Lap 73: Engine problems managed to take Nace Mattingly out of the race
  • Lap 90: Bob Duell lost the rear end of his racing vehicle
  • Lap 91: Bobby Myers' gas tank was yanked off in a manner unsafe for racing
  • Lap 96: Marvin Panch took over the lead from Curtis Turner
  • Lap 100: Don Oldenburg's gas tank was yanked off in a manner unsafe for racing
  • Lap 101: Jim Paschal took over the lead from Marvin Panch
  • Lap 113: Danny Letner had a terminal crash
  • Lap 117: Spindle problems managed to sideline Fonty Flock for the remainder of the race
  • Lap 119: Ralph Moody had a terminal crash
  • Lap 132: Fireball Roberts took over the lead from Jim Paschal
  • Lap 146: Roy Bentley had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 158: Dink Widenhouse had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 159: Bill Widenhouse managed to ruin his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 163: Ray Hendrick managed to ruin his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 166: Fireball Roberts had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 167: Curtis Turner took over the lead from Fireball Roberts
  • Lap 169: Marvin Panch took over the lead from Curtis Turner; Parnelli Jones had a terminal crash
  • Lap 173: Herb Thomas had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 177: Clyde Palmer managed to overheat his vehicle
  • Lap 202: Curtis Turner took over the lead from Marvin Panch
  • Lap 204: One of Johnny Dotson's wheels came loose while he was racing
  • Lap 222: Larry Flynn had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 235: Bill Brown had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 264: Dick Beaty had a terminal crash, forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 276: Frank Mundy managed to ruin his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 300: The axle on Ralph Liguori's vehicle became problematic
  • Lap 317: Joe Eubanks' vehicle managed to blow a gasket
  • Finish: Curtis Turner was officially declared the winner of the event


  1. ^ "1956 Southern 500 weather information". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "1956 Southern 500 racing results (second reference)". Legends of NASCAR. Retrieved 2011-08-26.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "1956 Southern 500 racing results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  4. ^ a b c d "Darlington Raceway". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  5. ^ "1956 Southern 500 crew chief information". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  6. ^ a b "1956 Southern 500 qualifying results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2017-05-26.
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by