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Herbert Watson Thomas (April 6, 1923 – August 9, 2000) was a stock car racer who was one of NASCAR's most successful drivers in the 1950s.

Herbert Thomas
HerbThomasNASCARLegend.jpg
Herb Thomas, NASCAR racing legend
Born(1923-04-06)April 6, 1923
Olivia, North Carolina, United States
DiedAugust 9, 2000(2000-08-09) (aged 77)
Cause of deathHeart attack
Achievements1951 NASCAR Grand National Series Champion

1953 NASCAR Grand National Series Champion
1951, 1954, 1955 Southern 500 Winner
NASCAR's First Two-Time Champion
Led Cup Series in Wins 3 times (1952, 1953, 1954)

Highest win percentage of any driver with over 100 starts (21.05%).
AwardsInternational Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee (1994)

NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee (2013)

Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career
228 races run over 10 years
Best finish1st (1951, 1953)
First race1949 Race No. 1 (Charlotte)
Last race1962 Gwyn Staley 400 (North Wilkesboro)
First win1950 (Martinsville)
Last win1956 (Merced)
Wins Top tens Poles
48 156 39
Statistics current as of February 20, 2013.

BackgroundEdit

Born in the small town of Olivia, North Carolina, Thomas originally worked as a farmer and also worked in a sawmill in the 1940s before his interest turned to auto racing.


NASCAR careerEdit

In 1949, Thomas took part in NASCAR's first Strictly Stock (the forerunner to the Grand National and ultimately the modern Sprint Cup) race, and made four starts in the series' first year. The following year, he made thirteen appearances in the series, now renamed the Grand National division. He scored his first career win at Martinsville Speedway in a privateer Plymouth.

 
Thomas' No. 92 Fabulous Hudson Hornet

He started the 1951 season with moderate success in his Plymouth (plus one win in an Oldsmobile) before switching to a Hudson Hornet, at the suggestion of fellow driver Marshall Teague. Thomas won the Southern 500 rather handily in what was famously dubbed "The Fabulous Hudson Hornet", which would be the first of six wins in a two-month span. His late charge helped him narrowly defeat Fonty Flock to win the Grand National championship. With help from crew chief Smokey Yunick, Thomas subsequently became the first owner/driver to take the championship in the process.

In 1952, Thomas and his Hornet were involved in a close championship race with another Flock, Fonty's younger brother Tim. The two drivers won 8 races in their respective Hudsons, but Flock came out on top at the end, in spite of another late season charge from Thomas.

He returned with a vengeance in 1953 and dominated the entire season, winning a series best twelve races en route to becoming the first two-time series champion. Thomas won twelve races again in 1954, including a second Southern 500 win (making him the first driver to win twice at Darlington), but he was beaten by a more consistent Lee Petty in the championship standings.

After four successful years in a Hudson, Thomas began driving Chevrolets and Buicks in races in 1955. He crashed heavily behind the wheel of a Buick at a race in Charlotte, forcing him to miss three months of the season. He returned to score his third Southern 500 win in his Motoramic Chevy, one of three wins during the season. He finished 5th in the championship on the strength of his win at Darlington.

In 1956, Thomas briefly abandoned being an owner/driver and, after winning a race for himself early in the season, he drove for two other owners. He won once for Yunick, after which the two broke ties, and three consecutive races while driving Chryslers for Carl Kiekhaefer, then dominating NASCAR with the first professional team. Thomas eventually returned to being an owner/driver at season's end, and had clinched second behind Petty in the championship when he was severely injured at a race in Shelby, North Carolina. The wreck effectively ended his NASCAR career, though he had two starts in 1957 and one in 1962 without success. The three consecutive wins would end up being his final three wins.

Career summaryEdit

Thomas ended his career with 48 victories, which currently ranks 14th all-time. He won 21.05% of his starts(48 wins/228 starts) during his career, which ranks as the highest win percentage all-time among drivers with 100 career starts.

Brother DonaldEdit

Herb's younger brother Donald made 79 starts in the Grand National division between 1950 and 1956, winning at Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway in 1952. Donald was the youngest driver to ever win a race in series history until Kyle Busch broke the record in 2005.

AwardsEdit

Thomas was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994, and was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

Thomas was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on February 8, 2013.[1]

He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2017.[2]

DeathEdit

On August 9, 2000, Thomas suffered a heart attack and died in Sanford, North Carolina.[3][4]

Motorsports career resultsEdit

NASCAREdit

(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led. ** – All laps led.)

Grand National SeriesEdit

NASCAR Grand National Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 NGNC Pts Ref
1949 Thomas Racing 93 Ford CLT
29
25th 132 [5]
9 DAB
12
92 HBO
26
LAN HAM MAR HEI NWS
5
1950 DAB CLT
9
LAN
23
MAR
14
CAN 11th 590.5 [6]
91 Plymouth VER
20
DSP
92 MCF
21
CLT
3
HBO
8
DSP
3
HAM DAR
DNQ
LAN
13
NWS
4
VER
11
MAR
1*
WIN HBO
18
1951 DAB
16
CLT
4
NMO
3
GAR HBO
7
ASF
22
NWS
13
MAR
4
CAN
4
CLS
3
CLB
4
DSP
24
GAR GRS
11
BAI
12
AWS
3
MCF
15
ALS
2
FMS
5
MOR
29
ABS
6
CCS
1
1st 4208.45 [7]
Hubert Westmoreland 41.5 Olds HEI
1*
Thomas Racing 92 Hudson MSF
57
DAR
1*
CLB
20
LAN
1
CLT
1*
DSP WIL
14
HBO
1
TPN
26
PGS MAR
18
OAK NWS
21
HMS
28
Marshall Teague 9 Hudson JSP
1*
ATL
19
GAR
Leonard Tippett 99 Hudson NMO
21
1952 Thomas Racing 91 Hudson PBS DAB
2
JSP
2
NWS
1**
MAR
8
CLB
17
ATL
8
CCS
1
LAN
21
DAR
13
DSP
6
CAN
1
HAY FMS
21
HBO
16
CLT
1*
MSF
3
NIF
2
OSW
2
MON
2
MOR
24
PPS
18
MCF
2
AWS
3
DAR
3
CCS
2
LAN
37
DSP
5
WIL
1
HBO
27
MAR
1
ATL
13*
PBS
1**
2nd 6752.5 [8]
9 NWS
1*
1953 92 PBS
21
DAB
4
HAR
1**
NWS
1
CLT
12
RCH
10
CCS
2
LAN
7
CLB
8
HCY
20
MAR
2*
PMS
1
RSP
4
LOU
3*
FFS
1
LAN
4
TCS
1
WIL
3
MCF
2
PIF
1*
MOR
1*
ATL
2
RVS
1*
LCF
2*
DAV
1*
HBO
2
AWS
2
PAS
1*
HCY
2
DAR
5
CCS
6
LAN
2
BLF
1
WIL
1**
NWS
15
MAR
26
ATL
14*
1st 8460 [9]
1954 PBS
1
DAB
59
JSP
1*
ATL
1
OSP
10
OAK NWS
2
HBO
1
CCS
18
LAN
1*
WIL
10
MAR
9
SHA
10
RSP
9
CLT
10
GAR CLB
6
LND
7
HCY
1**
MCF
2*
WGS
1*
PIF
1
AWS
1
SFS
2
GRS
22
MOR
2
OAK CLT
14
SAN
6
COR
4
DAR
1
CCS
20
CLT
6
LAN
1*
MAS
4
MAR
16
NWS
3
2nd 8366 [10]
1955 TCS
3
PBS
1*
JSP
3
OSP
4
FOR
21
CLT 5th 5186 [11]
Packard DAB
36
Chevy CLB
10
HBO
16
MGY
5
MAS
14
DAR
1*
MGY
2
LAN
2
RSP
2
GPS MAS
22
CLB
3
MAR
4
LVP NWS
21
HBO
4
Arden Mounts 18 Hudson NWS
14
Thomas Racing 92 Buick LAN
5
CLT
21
HCY ASF TUS MAR RCH NCF FOR LIN MCF FON AIR CLT PIF CLB AWS MOR ALS NYF RSP
1
1956 Chevy HCY
16
CLT
11
WSS PBS
1
ASF
9
DAB
9
PBS
3
WIL
1
ATL
3
NWS
4
MAR
20
RSP
4
CHI
18
CCF
8
MGY
6
OKL
4
ROA
6
OBS
7
NOR
10
PIF
4
MYB
13
DAR
49
CSH
6
CLT
5
LAN
5
POR CLB
8
HBO
4
NWP
5
CLT
7
CCF
17
MAR HCY WIL 2nd 8568 [12]
Carl Kiekhaefer Chrysler LAN
2
Dodge RCH
2
501 CLB
6
300B Chrysler CON
3
HBO
11
POR
1
EUR
1*
NYF MER
1
POR
11
AWS
5
901 Dodge GPS
14
502 HCY
4
LIN
4*
CLT MAS
7
500B CLT
6
MCF
3
500D PIF
17
CSF
Jack Chatenay 30 Plymouth SAN
36
Thomas Racing 52N Chevy POR
7
1957 92 Pontiac WSS CON TIC DAB CON WIL HBO AWS NWS LAN CLT PIF GBF POR CCF RCH MAR POR EUR LIN LCS ASP NWP CLB CPS PIF JAC RSP
46
CLT MAS POR HCY NOR LCS GLN KPC LIN
28
OBS MYB DAR NYF AWS CSF SCF LAN CLB CCF CLT MAR NBR CON NWS GBF NA - [13]
1962 Stoney Johnson 91 Chevy CON AWS DAY DAY DAY CON AWS SVH HBO RCH CLB NWS
14
GPS MBS MAR BGS BRI RCH HCY CON DAR PIF CLT ATL BGS AUG RCH SBO DAY CLB ASH GPS AUG SVH MBS BRI CHT NSV HUN AWS STR BGS PIF VAL DAR HCY RCH DTS AUG MAR NWS CLT ATL 97th 312 [14]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ White, Rea (2012-05-24). "Wallace, Wood among 2013 Hall class". Fox Sports. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  2. ^ Herb Thomas at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
  3. ^ "NASCAR pioneer Thomas dies of heart attack at 77". Sun Journal. Raleigh, North Carolina. August 10, 2000. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  4. ^ "Herb Thomas, NASCAR champion, passes away". NASCAR.com. ESPN Media Ventures. August 9, 2000. Archived from the original on August 15, 2000. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  5. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1949 NASCAR Strictly Stock Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  6. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1950 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  7. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1951 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  8. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1952 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  9. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1953 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  10. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1954 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  11. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1955 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  12. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1956 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  13. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1957 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  14. ^ "Herb Thomas – 1962 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved June 30, 2019.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Bill Rexford
NASCAR Grand National Champion
1951
Succeeded by
Tim Flock
Preceded by
Tim Flock
NASCAR Grand National Champion
1953
Succeeded by
Lee Petty