| Southern 500|
| September 5, 1966 (1966-September-05)|
Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Permanent racing facility
1.375 mi (2.212 km)
364 laps, 500.5 mi (805.4 km)
Hot with temperatures reaching up to 89.1 °F (31.7 °C); wind speeds up to 10.1 miles per hour (16.3 km/h)
The 1966 Southern 500, the 17th running of the event, was a NASCAR Grand National Series event that was held on September 5, 1966, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.
The transition to purposely-built racers began in the early 1960s and occurred gradually over that decade. Changes made to the sport by the late 1960s brought an end to the "strictly stock" vehicles of the 1950s; most of the cars were trailered to events or hauled in by trucks.
1966 Southern 500 Wikipedia
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.
A field of 44 drivers competed for a total purse of $67,960 ($501,649.35 when adjusted for inflation). The media was displeased with the treatment that they received from NASCAR after a terminal crash by Earl Balmer almost wiped out the press box. As a result, they petitioned the president of the track, Bob Colvin, threatening not to be responsible for any loss of life should another terminal crash injure or kill a member of the media.
LeeRoy Yarbrough won the pole position with a qualifying speed of 140.058 miles per hour (225.402 km/h). Darel Dieringer won the race from Richard Petty in front of an audience of 28,000 people. There were 28 lead changes and 8 cautions for 80 laps, and the race lasted four hours and twenty-one minutes. This race was scheduled for 364 laps on a paved oval track spanning 1.375 miles (2.213 km), for a total distance of 500.5 miles (805.5 km). The average race speed was 114.830 miles per hour (184.801 km/h). Twelve engine failures were recorded during the course of the race along with two terminal crashes along with several other reasons that drivers failed to finish the race. By modern standards, this was considered to be a competitive Southern 500; with 6 laps separating the top ten along with the leaders on the same lap; allowing the race to come to an exciting conclusion.
Bob Derrington and Eddie MacDonald made their final NASCAR appearances. Earl Balmer's ride with the guardrail would result in his unfortunate accident on lap 185; where he would end up with a 30th-place finish.
† signifies that the driver is known to be deceased
* Driver failed to finish race