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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 Very hot with temperatures of 89.1 °F (31.7 °C); wind speeds of 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.



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.


A field of 44 drivers competed for a total purse of $67,960 ($524,791 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]

Driveshaft problems forced Jimmy Helms out of the race on lap 1 while transmission issues forced Jerry Grant to leave on lap 7. Doug Cooper's vehicle developed engine problems on lap 16. Buck Baker had similar problems on lap 22 and Wayne Smith's vehicle had a faulty engine on lap 26. Buddy Arrington had a good race until lap 50 when his engine stopped working. Engine problems would claim the vehicles on Bobby Johns on lap 56.[2] Bobby Allison was picked in a motorsports writers and broadcasters poll as the overall favorite to win the race. Allison's 36th place finish, however, proved that even the best motorsports writers cannot pick a winner every time. Allison had qualified for the race in 33rd place and would retire from the race on lap 71 due to engine problems.[2]

Valve issues would take out Stick Elliott on lap 78. Earl Brooks would suddenly have a faulty engine in his vehicle on lap 120 while Blackie Watt had similar issues on lap 172.[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] Tiny Lund would notice engine failure on lap 248 while Frank Warren had the same issue on lap 305. Paul Goldsmith pulled out of the race due to engine problems on lap 345. The final DNF of the race would be Curtis Turner's crash on lap 348.[2]

Notable crew chiefs to actively participate in the race were Harry Hyde, Bud Hartje, Dale Inman, Frankie Scott, Shorty Johns, and Herman Beam.[7]


Grid[2] No. Driver Manufacturer Owner
1 12 LeeRoy Yarbrough '66 Dodge Jon Thorne
2 43 Richard Petty '66 Plymouth Petty Enterprises
3 16 Darel Dieringer '66 Mercury Bud Moore
4 99 Paul Goldsmith '66 Plymouth Ray Nichels
5 98 Sam McQuagg '66 Dodge Ray Nichels
6 71 Earl Balmer '65 Dodge Nord Krauskopf
7 21 Cale Yarborough '66 Ford Wood Brothers
8 3 Buddy Baker '65 Dodge Ray Fox
9 28 Fred Lorenzen '66 Ford Holman-Moody Racing
10 29 Dick Hutcherson '65 Ford Holman-Mood Racing
11 14 Jim Paschal '66 Plymouth Tom Friedkin
12 26 Curtis Turner '66 Ford Junior Johnson
13 6 David Pearson '66 Dodge Cotton Owens
14 42 Marvin Panch '66 Plymouth Petty Enterprises
15 04 Jerry Grant '65 Plymouth Tom Friedkin
16 48 James Hylton '65 Dodge Bud Hartje
17 7 Bobby Johns '66 Chevrolet Shorty Johns
18 49 G.C. Spencer '66 Plymouth G.C. Spencer
19 36 H.B. Bailey '65 Pontiac H.B. Bailey
20 11 Ned Jarrett '66 Ford Bernard Alvarez

Finishing orderEdit


  1. ^ "1966 Southern 500 weather information". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "1966 Southern 500". 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". Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  7. ^ "1966 Southern 500 crew chiefs". Racing Reference. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
Preceded by
1966 Myers Brothers 250
NASCAR Grand National Series season
Succeeded by
1966 Buddy Shuman 250
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by