The Grand National drivers made their annual trek to Martinsville in September 1961. Though NASCAR's top division had raced at the track since 1949, it was only in the late 50s that the traditional race names formed. The 6th running of the Old Dominion 500 was on September 24, 1961.
Rex White had won the 2 previous GN editions of the OD500 in 1959 and 1960. (link to Tim Leeming's RHM about 1959 race.) Interestingly, the 1959 convertible race was ALSO named the Old Dominion 500. It was won by Tiger Tom (link to my RHM).
Despite Rex's 2 previous fall wins, some thought it was time for Fireball Roberts to be the rabbit of the weekend at the Virginia half-mile. From Burlington Daily Times-News.
But the guy who was fastest on pole day was no real surprise. Fast Freddy Lorenzen captured the top starting spot. Lorenzen won one of the two spring Martinsville races. After the first one was shortened, Lorenzen was awarded the win (Tim's RHM). Junior Johnson won the second one that was scheduled on an impromptu basis (Tim's RHM).
Rex White timed second. Glen Wood and Joe Weatherly made up the second row. Fred Harb rounded out the top 5. Qualifying report from Florence Morning News
A somewhat surprise entry was Art Malone who was making his GN debut. Malone qualified an impressive 8th in a Petty Enterprises #42 Plymouth as a teammate to Richard. Malone eventually finished 15th and only a handful of laps down to the winner. -Getty Images
Another surprise of the day was Fireball Roberts. His entry in the race wasn't a surprise. After all, folks expected him to race. HIs car owner, however, WAS a surprise. Roberts made his one and only career start in Cotton Owens' #6 Pontiac in the race. -Getty Images
Lorenzen took the early lead from his top starting stop and led the first 57 laps. From there, however, he began to develop rear end issues with his Holman Moody Ford and was done at lap 300.
One of the spring race winners, Junior Johnson, had his time up front as well. He led significant chunks of laps including stretches of 55, 162 and 42 laps. But as the race headed into its final 100 laps, Junior couldn't keep up. He ended up with a respectable third, one lap down to the winner.
The last 100 or so laps came down to a couple of familiar faces: Rex White - the 2x defending champion of the race - and the Virginia native Little Joe. -Getty Images
Rex took over the lead from Junior Johnson and led 58 laps to get the race to near the 420 lap mark. Bud Moore's Pontiac was ready to seize control though. Weatherly got by White and led the rest of the way. His win prevented Rex's desired three-peat.
Race report from Florence Morning News.
Lorenzen was apparently scheduled to receive the trophy for his pole win after the race. Once he fell out of the race at lap 300, however, he left the track. He was finally awarded the trophy in late December that year.
|1||Joe Weatherly||'61 Pontiac|
|2||Rex White||'61 Pontiac|
|3||Junior Johnson||'61 Pontiac|
|4||Fireball Roberts||'61 Pontiac|
|5||Ken Rush||'61 Pontiac|
|6||Jimmy Pardue||'60 Chevrolet|
|7||Emanuel Zervakis||'61 Chevrolet|
|8||Art Malone||'61 Plymouth|
|9||Larry Thomas||'60 Chevrolet|
|10||Bill Morton||'60 Chevrolet|
|11||G.C. Spencer||'60 Chevrolet|
|12||Herman Beam||'60 Ford|
|13||Ned Jarrett||'61 Chevrolet|
|14||Fred Harb||'61 Ford|
|15||Doug Yates||'61 Plymouth|
|16||John Hamby||'61 Dodge|
|17||Richard Petty||'61 Plymouth|
|18||Fred Lorenzen||'61 Ford|
|19||Jim Paschal||'61 Pontiac|
|20||Glen Wood||'61 Ford|
|21||Buck Baker||'61 Chrysler|
|22||L.D. Austin||'61 Chevrolet|
|23||Bob Barron||'60 Dodge|
|24||Wayne Lambath||'59 Ford|
|25||Curtis Crider||'61 Mercury|
|26||Bob Presnell||'59 Chevrolet|
|27||Tommy Irwin||'61 Chevrolet|
|28||Wendell Scott||'60 Chevrolet|
|29||Joe Jones||'60 Ford|
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
updated by @tmc-chase: 09/24/17 11:21:35PM