|Official name Rebel 300|
|Date May 12, 1957 (1957-May-12)|
Location Darlington Raceway (Darlington, South Carolina)
Course Permanent racing facility 1.366 mi (2.198 km)
Distance 219 laps, 301.3 mi (606.7 km)
Weather Temperatures reaching up to 81 °F (27 °C); wind speeds up to 7 miles per hour (11 km/h)
The 1957 Rebel 300 was a NASCAR Convertible Series racing event that occurred in Darlington, South Carolina on May 12, 1957. While the Rebel 300 was originally a convertible racing event, it eventually became absorbed into what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and this race is the first in the lineage of the current Bojangles' Southern 500, which is known as the "spring" race.
The race's name references the Confederate Memorial Day weekend of the race, which was held on the Saturday closest to Confederate Memorial Day from 1957 until 1965, and again from 1967 until 1969, and again from 2005 until 2013. After a Saturday rainout, track president Bob Colvin decided to race on the next clear day, in violation of South Carolina blue laws. Colvin was fined $58 for the violation by Sheriff Grover Bryant ($494.58 when adjusted for inflation). Tickets for this event sold from anywhere from $5 USD ($42.64 when adjusted for inflation) to $8 USD ($68.22 when adjusted for inflation); depending on how close to the action people wanted to sit. The 1957 Rebel 300 was also the first NASCAR convertible race to be run on a Sunday and on Mother's Day.
Many cars failed to qualify for this race including Darel Dieringer, Neil Castles, Jimmie Lewallen, Tiny Lund and Ralph Moody. While Curtis Turner and Marvin Panch dominated the early portion of the race, a series of crashes would knock most of the 27-driver grid out of the race. Most of the field would be driving vehicles from either Ford or Plymouth. The 29th lap would become infamous for the nine-car wreck that become a harbinger of doom in the days prior to the "modern" NASCAR Cup Series. All the drivers were born in the United States of America. Ken Rush was the unfortunate last-place finisher at this racing event. In the end, the race became a struggle between Joe Weatherly, Fireball Roberts and Bobby Myers.
Fireball Roberts would ultimately beat Tim Flock by more than two laps in front of 17,000 people. The actual time of the race was 167 minutes with no caution laps being recorded. In fact, lap 95 was the only time that Roberts didn't lead the race because he had to refuel his vehicle. Art Binkley, Dick Beaty and Possum Jones would end up being the most notable drivers within the course of the lap 29 crashes.
The concept of racing convertibles in NASCAR would last throughout the rest of the 1950s and into the year 1962 where the final Rebel 300 was raced before the regular Grand National cars took over in 1963. Cost-cutting measures ultimately became the reason behind the demise of the NASCAR Convertible Division; drivers outside of the top ten either broke even or lost money.
The Rebel 300 continues to this day as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, with Bojangles as the current sponsor. The Rebel format was changed to a twin 150-mile race for the Grand National cars in 1963, with a switch to a single race of 400 miles in 1964, 500 miles in 1974, 400 miles in 1994, 500 miles since 2005. From 2005 until 2013, the Rebel 500 ran on the traditional Mother's Day weekend date of the first Rebel, with the 2007 race -- 50 years since the first Rebel 300 -- being rained out and racing on the Sunday itself. In 2014, the Rebel 500 was held in April, and moved to September in 2015.
NHOF Member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame
* Driver failed to finish race