|Official name Southern 500|
|Date September 3, 1951 (1951-September-03)|
Location Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course Permanent racing facility 1.25 mi (2.01 km)
Distance 400 laps, 500 mi (800 km)
Weather Hot with temperatures reaching up to 91.9 °F (33.3 °C); wind speeds up to 8.9 miles per hour (14.3 km/h)
The 1951 Southern 500, the second running of the event, was a NASCAR Grand National Series event that was held on September 3, 1961, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.
The race car drivers still had to commute to the races using the same stock cars that competed in a typical weekend's race through a policy of homologation (and under their own power). This policy was in effect until roughly 1975. By 1980, NASCAR had completely stopped tracking the year model of all the vehicles and most teams did not take stock cars to the track under their own power anymore.
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. 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. The front stretch (the location of the finish line) and the back stretch is banked at six degrees. Darlington Raceway can seat up to 60,000 people.
Four hundred laps were done on a paved oval track spanning 1.250 miles (2.012 km) for a grand total of 500.0 miles (804.7 km). Notable speeds for the race were: 76.906 miles per hour (123.768 km/h) and 84.173 miles per hour (135.463 km/h) for the pole position speed. Four cautions were handed out by NASCAR official for a duration of twenty-six laps. Herb Thomas defeated Jesse James Taylor by more than one lap in front of forty thousand people. Oliver Dial, Frank Gise, Rudy Hires, Sandy Lynch, Fred Moore, Bob Pronger, Gwyn Staley, Billy Tibbett, and Herb Trimble would make their respective professional stock car racing starts in this event.
This race would be Red Byron's final race in NASCAR. The race lasted for six hours and thirty minutes; outside the time allotments for modern-day television programming. Eighty-two cars would race in this virtually unregulated "free-for-all." Frank Mundy would become the worst driver in NASCAR Cup Series history by finishing eighty-two spots worse than he started. Joe Weatherly withdrew from this race. It was the first appearance for a driver who would go on to be a 2-time champion, but tragically lost his life the next season.
This would be an impossibility in today's 43-car field. Lee Connell would also set a career record for having the worst career average finish in his 1951 Pontiac vehicle. However, this accomplishment would be impossible today due to the modern rules giving all races a 43-car maximum grid.
Total winnings for this race were $23,740 ($219,047.15 when adjusted for inflation). As it was with all races during this era, the 1951 Southern 500 was completely untelevised. The only way that a person could follow the action was to drive to the speedway (to watch it live) or catch it on local radio (if they were lucky to be in the Darlington area at the time).