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The 1961 National 400 was a NASCAR Grand National Series stock car race that was held on October 15, 1961, at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.

1961 National 400
Race details[1]
Race 49 of 52 in the 1961 NASCAR Grand National Series season
Layout of Charlotte Motor Speedway
Layout of Charlotte Motor Speedway
Date October 15, 1961 (1961-October-15)
Official name National 400
Location Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, North Carolina
Course Permanent racing facility
1.500 mi (2.410 km)
Distance 267 laps, 400.5 mi (644.5 km)
Weather Chilly with temperatures of 66.9 °F (19.4 °C); wind speeds of 14 miles per hour (23 km/h)
Average speed 112.905 miles per hour (181.703 km/h)
Pole position
Driver John Masoni
Time 138.577 seconds
Most laps led
Driver Fireball Roberts Smokey Yunick
Laps 107
Winner
No. 8 Joe Weatherly Bud Moore Engineering

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.

BackgroundEdit

Around 35,821 spectators traveled to Charlotte Motor Speedway to watch the race. Located in Concord, North Carolina, Charlotte Motor Speedway is a banked 1.5-mile (2.4 km) quad-oval that opened in 1960 for the inaugural World 600. Construction for the track began in 1959 with Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner as architects for the speedway.

Race reportEdit

The race was held on a dry circuit; with no precipitation recorded around the speedway.[2]

David Pearson, Fireball Roberts and Junior Johnson would dominate the early portion of the race. This race would last for roughly three hours and twenty minutes; an audience of more than 35,000 NASCAR followers would see race cars reaching up to 120 miles per hour (190 km/h). Ken Rush was credited with the last-place finish due to problems with his rocker arm on lap 16 out of this 267-lap stock car racing event. Junior Johnson's "top ten" finish came as a result of a problem with one of his wheels on lap 256; he was destined for a "top five" finish until he encountered that problem.[3]

Seven notable crew chiefs participated in the event; including Smokey Yunick, Bud Allman, Shorty Johns and Ray Fox.[4]

Most of the vehicles in the race were either Pontiacs or Ford. Junior Johnson, Bob Welborn and Fireball Roberts would be the joint leaders during the middle portion of the race.[3]

Fireball Roberts' vehicle would suffer from severe damage after blowing a right front tire on lap 113. Not only did the vehicle managed to smash the guardrail, but it also succeeded in sliding back into a herd of competing drivers; where a car slammed at it while driving in excess of 100 miles per hour or 160 kilometres per hour. However, Fireball Roberts wasn't even remotely injured as a result of seat belts and "superior driving.[5]"

Joe Weatherly would eventually gain the lead on lap 263 and used this opportunity to rob Richard Petty of a win by being almost two car lengths ahead of him.[3] This would be the seventh of nine wins for Joe Weatherly in the 1961 NASCAR Grand National Series season. He ended on a hot-streak, winning the next race and then the last race of the 1961 NASCAR Cup Series season as well. Joe Weatherly made four pit stops during the race, one unscheduled. He put on one or more new tires each time. He was the only of the top-10 starters in the top-10 finishers' list.[3] Four caution flags, one for 12 laps, helped the Norfolk veteran to stay in contention.[3]

Individual race winnings for each driver ranged from the winner's share of $9,510 ($79,734 when adjusted for inflation) to the last-place finishers' share of $275 ($2,306 when adjusted for inflation). The total prize purse offered for this professional stock car racing event was $42,050 ($352,555 when adjusted for inflation).[6]

QualifyingEdit

Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Speed[7] Qualifying time[7] Owner
1 3 David Pearson '61 Pontiac 138.577 2:35.870 John Masoni
2 22 Fireball Roberts '61 Pontiac 138.497 2:35.960 Smokey Yunick
3 94 Banjo Matthews '61 Ford 137.308 2:37.310 Banjo Matthews
4 28 Fred Lorenzen '61 Ford 137.291 2:37.330 Holman-Moody
5 20 Marvin Panch '60 Pontiac 138.444 2:36.020 Smokey Yunick
6 8 Joe Weatherly '61 Pontiac 137.265 2:37.360 Bud Moore
7 47 Jack Smith '61 Pontiac 137.064 2:37.590 Jack Smith
8 72 Bobby Johns '61 Ford 136.986 2:37.680 Shorty Johns
9 29 Nelson Stacy '61 Ford 136.761 2:37.590 Dudley Farrell
10 21 Speedy Thompson '61 Ford 136.588 2:38.140 Wood Brothers

Top ten finishersEdit

Pos[3] Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Laps Winnings Laps led Time/Status
1 6 8 Joe Weatherly Pontiac 267 $9,510 5 3:20:20
2 22 43 Richard Petty Plymouth 267 $4,870 0 +1.5 car lengths
3 14 18 Bob Welborn Pontiac 267 $3,275 51 Lead lap under green flag
4 21 6 Cotton Owens Pontiac 266 $2,275 0 +1 lap
5 13 4 Rex White Chevrolet 264 $1,800 0 +3 laps
6 29 42 Darel Dieringer Plymouth 263 $1,375 0 +4 laps
7 24 85 Emanuel Zervakis Chevrolet 261 $1,250 0 +6 laps
8 25 14 Joe Lee Johnson Chevrolet 258 $1,125 0 +9 laps
9 12 27 Junior Johnson Pontiac 256 $1,535 100 Wheel issues
10 30 30 J. C. Hendrix Ford 254 $875 0 +13 laps

TimelineEdit

Section reference: [3]

  • Start of race: David Pearson had the pole position to begin the event
  • Lap 4: Fireball Roberts took over the lead from David Pearson
  • Lap 27: Curtis Crider managed to blow his vehicle's engine; Nelson Stacy managed to overheat his vehicle
  • Lap 38: Tubby Gonzales managed to blow his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 42: Bunkie Blackburn had a terminal crash
  • Lap 54: Banjo Matthews managed to blow his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 55: Bobby Johns had a terminal crash
  • Lap 74: David Pearson took over the lead from Fireball Roberts
  • Lap 75: Junior Johnson took over the lead from David Pearson
  • Lap 77: Fireball Roberts took over the lead from Junior Johnson
  • Lap 111: Bill Morgan had a terminal crash
  • Lap 113: Fireball Roberts had a terminal crash
  • Lap 114: Junior Johnson took over the lead from Fireball Roberts
  • Lap 136: Marvin Panch had a terminal crash
  • Lap 140: Bob Welborn took over the lead from Junior Johnson
  • Lap 169: Elmo Langley managed to blow his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 180: Junior Johnson took over the lead from Bob Welborn
  • Lap 197: Bob Welborn took over the lead from Junior Johnson
  • Lap 198: Junior Johnson took over the lead from Bob Welborn
  • Lap 200: Bob Welborn took over the lead from Junior Johnson
  • Lap 204: Junior Johnson took over the lead from Bob Welborn
  • Lap 223: Ned Jarrett managed to blow his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 252: Speedy Thompson managed to blow his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 257: Bob Welborn took over the lead from Junior Johnson
  • Lap 263: Joe Weatherly took over the lead from Bob Welborn
  • Finish: Joe Weatherly was officially declared the winner of the event

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Weather information for the 1961 National 400 at The Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ "Charlotte NASCAR Climatology" (PDF). SERCC. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Racing information for the 1961 National 400 at Racing Reference
  4. ^ Crew chief information at Racing Reference
  5. ^ `Fireball' -- Racing Star's Death Spurred Changes at Orlando Sentinel
  6. ^ Racing information for the 1961 National 400 at Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet
  7. ^ a b Qualifying information at Racing Reference
Preceded by
1961 Wilkes 200
NASCAR Grand National Series Season
1961
Succeeded by
1961 Southeastern 500
Preceded by
1960
National 400 races
1961
Succeeded by
1962