|Official name Virginia 500|
|Date April 25, 1956 (1956-April-25)|
Location Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Virginia
Course Permanent racing facility 0.525 mi (0.844 km)
Distance 500 laps, 262.5 mi (442.4 km)
Weather Temperatures reaching an average of 67.7 °F (19.8 °C); wind speeds reaching an average of 11.16 miles per hour (17.96 km/h)
The 1956 Virginia 500 was a NASCAR Grand National Series (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) event that was held on May 20, 1956, at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. As the inaugural event for the NASCAR Grand National Series in Martinsville, this race would set a precedent for all other 500-lap races to follow on this newly paved short 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.
Martinsville Speedway is one of five short tracks to hold NASCAR races. The standard track at Martinsville Speedway is a four-turn short track oval that is 0.526 miles (0.847 km) long. The track's turns are banked at eleven degrees, while the front stretch, the location of the finish line, is banked at zero degrees. The back stretch also has a zero degree banking.
Five hundred laps took place on a paved oval track spanning 0.500 miles (0.805 km) for a grand total of 250 miles (400 km). The time of the race was four hours and three minutes while there were seven cautions for twenty laps. The average speed was 60.824 miles per hour (97.887 km/h) while the pole position speed was 66.103 miles per hour (106.382 km/h).
Compared to the top speed of today's passenger vehicles which is considered to be 99 miles per hour (159 km/h) in most makes and models, these stock cars were considered to be slow. Buck Baker defeated Speedy Thompson by half a lap. Other notable drivers who participated in the race included Arden Mounts, Cotton Owens, Fireball Roberts, Tiny Lund, Paul Goldsmith, and Lee Petty. The winning vehicle was a 1956 Dodge Coronet. Thirty-five American drivers dueled each other with no foreign-born competitors either in qualifying or the race itself.
Most of the stock car owners were independent and had no formal ties to the multi-car teams that would start to form in the 1960s and 1970s. A vehicle made by the Packard Motor Car Company even qualified for the race; eventually finishing in 34th place due to a tire problem. Years later, the Packard Motor Company would be victimized by the "Big Three" automobile manufacturers and would close due to lack of sales.
Twenty thousands fans were on hand to watch the race live. The total winnings of the race was $10,275 ($90,513.07 when considering inflation). Buck Baker received most of the day's earnings with a grand total of $3,100 ($27,308.08 when considering inflation).
† signifies that the driver is known to be deceased
* Driver failed to finish race