On this date in 1961, there were 38 drivers on the starting grid for the "Southeastern 500" to be contested on the half-mile Bristol International Speedway. The race was 500 laps/250 miles but the Bristrol track of 1961 was far different than the behemoth of a stadium where now 160,000 can watch a race. In 1961, the turns were much less banked and the stands could possibly have handled 20,000, if that. I attended races at Bristol in the 60s and believe me the track was nothing like it is today, but it sure had some good racing.
Bobby Johns, a Miami, Florida driver, qualified his Jack Smith Pontiac at 80.645 mph to win the pole. Joe Weatherly, contesting for the championship, qualified his Bud Moore Pontiac second. Bob Welborn in another Bud Moore Pontiac was third and Fireball Roberts in the Holly Farms Pontiac fourth. Emanuel Zervakis in the Monroe Shook Chevrolet would start fifth.
Bobby Johns led laps 1 through 30 before giving up the lead to Junior Johnson who was hustling another Holly Farms Pontiac from his 7th starting position to go out front. Bobby Johns went back in front on lap 213 but stayed there only until lap 231 when Fireball Roberts took over for 50 laps. Junior went back in front on lap 283 and commenced to run away from the field, building up a five lap lead over second place. On lap 394 of the 500 scheduled, Junior had a differential go bad in his Rex Lovette Pontiac and went behind the wall not to return to competiton. The lead now fell into the lap of Rex White who would hold onto that position until lap 419 when Joe Weatherly, running his Bud Moore Pontiac for all it was worth, flashed by to take over the lead. The last 81 laps of the race belonged to Lil Joe as he gardnered his 12th career win.
Jim Paschal was involved in a hard luck episode when, while running second to the rapid Junior Johnson at the mid point of the race, collected a spinning Tiny Lund, which damaged Paschal's J.H. Petty Pontiac enough that he had to pit for some "body work" and fell five laps behind. Jim was able to make up three of those laps to finish 4th, only two laps in arrears.
1. Joe Weatherly, Bud Moore Pontiac, winning $3,680.00
2. Rex White, White-Clements Chevrolet, winning $2,365.00
3. Nelson Stacy, Holt-Stacy Ford, winniing $1,525.00
4.Jim Paschal, J. H. Petty Pontiac, winning $1,125.00 (2 laps down)
5.Emanuel Zervakis, Monroe Shook Chevrolet, winning $950.00 (5 laps down)
6. Ned Jarrett
7. Jimmy Pardue
8. Ken Rush
9. Bill Morton
10. Bob Welborn
12. G. C. Spencer
13. L. D. Austin
16. Wendell Scott
18. Brownie King
19. Bill Latham
22. Tiny Lund
25. Joe Lee Johnson
26. Fireball Roberts
32. Larry Thomas
36. Doug Yates
37. Tommy Irwin
38. Allen Franklin
Just a note here that Allen Frankling was driving a 1959 Nash and was blackflagged on lap 3 of the race for being "too slow". I haven't researched this yet, but I'm guessing this is one of the very last times a Nash competed in the NASCAR Cup series. Growing up, I lived not far from a family that would buy nothing but a Nash. I remember the early Ambassadors which had a back seat that would rival a nice sofa in your living room today. Remember the song about the "little Nash Rambler" that gave the Cadillac driver a fit "in second gear"? I don't remember the neighbors' Nash cars being hotrods, but as I sit here this morning I can still see that huge Ambassador. Guess I should have tagged this part as "personal memories".
Thank you for reading our History Minute series. Your memories, comments, and criticism is always welcomed and encouraged.
Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future.
updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM