Girish Mahajan (Editor)

1959 Southern 500

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1959 Southern 500
Date  September 7, 1959 (1959-September-07)
Location  Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course  Permanent racing facility 1.375 mi (2.221 km)
Distance  400 laps, 500 mi (800 km)
Weather  Hot with temperatures reaching up to 88 °F (31 °C); wind speeds up to 8.9 miles per hour (14.3 km/h)
Average speed  111.836 miles per hour (179.983 km/h)

The 1959 Southern 500, the 10th running of the event, was a NASCAR Grand National Series event that was held on September 7, 1959, 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 any more.


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.


It took four hours and twenty-eight minutes for the race to reach its full conclusion; Jim Reed defeated Bob Burdick by more than two laps; driving the famous 1957 Chevrolet to its third and final win at the Southern 500. Seventy-eight thousand people attended this live race. Notable speeds for this race were: 111.836 miles per hour (179.983 km/h) as the average speed and 123.734 miles per hour (199.131 km/h) per hour as the pole position speed. Richard Petty would lead his first career laps here and Goodyear would get its first victory since re-entering racing. Today, Goodyear Eagle tires have the monopoly on all NASCAR racing series. Total winnings for this race were $51,990 ($427,137.02 when adjusted for inflation).

Joe Caspolitch's ride was owned by the city of Florence, South Carolina. The city government bought the ride from Lee Petty in order to field Caspolitch in the race. Since then, not a single branch of the American government (federal, municipal, or state government) has claimed ownership or has attempted to claim ownership of a NASCAR vehicle.

While Richard Petty and Buddy Baker got their first state of superspeedway action at the 1959 Southern 500, this would be the first major race in NASCAR history where a person from the Northern United States would actually win by a good margin over a resident of the Southeastern United States. Charley Cregar, Bud Crothers, and Johnny Patterson would make their final NASCAR Cup Series appearance at this event.

Scenes from this race were used in the 1960 film Thunder in Carolina, starring Rory Calhoun and Alan Hale, Jr.


  • Start of race: Speedy Thompson officially had the pole position to start the event
  • Lap 2: Carl Burris' engine suddenly become faulty
  • Lap 3: Fireball Roberts took over the lead from Speedy Thompson
  • Lap 11: The rear end of Larry Flynn's vehicle came off in an unsafe manner
  • Lap 16: Elmo Henderson's engine stopped working properly
  • Lap 26: The pistons on Joe Eubanks' vehicle started acting strangely
  • Lap 41: Elmo Langley's engine stopped working on this lap
  • Lap 45: Banjo Matthews took over the lead from Fireball Roberts
  • Lap 54: Oil pressure issues managed to ruin Joe Weatherly's day
  • Lap 58: Transmission problems managed to defeat Joe Lee Johnson's chances of victory
  • Lap 62: Cotton Owens took over the lead from Banjo Matthews
  • Lap 63: A busted engine ended Bob Perry's day on the track
  • Lap 64: Engine issues took Buddy Baker out of the race
  • Lap 71: Lennie Page's race ended in misery after his vehicle's engine stopped working
  • Lap 74: Possum Jones just couldn't race anymore after his vehicle's brakes gave out
  • Lap 86: Bobby Johns took over the lead from Cotton Owens
  • Lap 93: Richard Petty took over the lead from Bobby Johns
  • Lap 100: Banjo Matthews took over the lead from Richard Petty
  • Lap 130: Bob Welborn had a terminal crash
  • Lap 138: Bobby Johns took over the lead from Banjo Matthews
  • Lap 178: Banjo Matthews had a terminal crash
  • Lap 188: Jim Reed took over the lead from Bobby Johns
  • Lap 225: Dick Blackwell had a terminal crash
  • Lap 234: One of the pistons in Earl Balmer's vehicle stopped working properly
  • Lap 239: Bob Burdick took over the lead from Jim Reed
  • Lap 264: Jim Reed took over the lead from Bob Burdick
  • Lap 272: G.C. Spencer's vehicle ran out of batteries while he was racing
  • Lap 326: Rex White's driveshaft stopped working properly, forcing him to retire from the race
  • Lap 333: One of the springs on Speedy Thompson's vehicle became faulty, bringing an end to his performance in this race
  • Finish: Jim Reed was officially declared the winner of the event
  • References

    1959 Southern 500 Wikipedia