IMPORTANT NOTICE: Our online ticketing system is currently down. Tickets are available to purchase on site at the Hall. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.
Close
clock

Opens tomorrow at 10am

MENU
clock

Opens tomorrow at 10am

MENU
clock

Opens tomorrow at 10am

Curator's Corner / NASCAR 75th Anniversary

Ned Jarrett’s Remarkable 1965 Campaign

Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett didn’t just win races in 1965 - he crushed the field again and again.

NASCAR fans take close competition for granted these days, which makes sense given that the last driver to win a Cup Series race by lapping the entire field was Geoff Bodine at North Wilkesboro Speedway 29 years ago.

Every one of the more than 1,000 Cup Series races run since then has ended with at least two drivers in the lead lap.

Back in the day, though, it wasn’t always that way. In the 1950s and ‘60s, winning races by one or more laps was not uncommon.

It doesn’t look like it, but Ned Jarrett was 14 laps ahead of second-place Buck Baker at the finish of the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

And that brings us to a so far unbeatable record set by Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett (Class of 2011) in the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, where on Labor Day he scored his 12th victory of the season.

That Jarrett was victorious in his Bondy Long-owned Ford Galaxie was no surprise. Having already won his first NASCAR Grand National championship four years earlier, Jarrett rolled into Darlington firmly on track to capture his second title, which he would do later that season.

What was a surprise was Jarrett’s final margin of victory, a staggering 14 laps ahead of second-place driver and fellow Hall of Famer Buck Baker (Class of 2013).

How does a driver win a race by 14 laps?

The first key is attrition. In those days, race cars lacked the reliability that we are used to seeing today. In the 44-car 1965 Southern 500 field, just 15 cars were categorized as running at the finish, and many of those cars suffered problems along the way, especially with overheating on the warm South Carolina afternoon.

quote icon

How does a driver win a race by 14 laps?

— Tom Jensen

In 1965, Ned Jarrett earned his second Cup Series championship. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Jarrett did not have the fastest car in the Darlington field, but unlike his chief rivals, he did have one that held together.

Pole-sitter Junior Johnson (Class of 2010) made just one lap before his Ford succumbed to ignition woes, knocking him out of the race.

Fred Lorenzen (Class of 2015) led 57 laps of the 364-lap race but saw his chance at victory go up in smoke when the engine let go in his Holman-Moody Racing Ford after completing 319 laps.

The dominant car in the race was a Mercury owned and prepared by Bud Moore (Class of 2011) and driven by Darel Dieringer, who led a whopping 199 laps. But when the rear-end differential failed after 345 laps, Dieringer’s day was over, although he had completed enough laps to be credited with a third-place finish.

Hall of Famers Fred Lorenzen (left) and Ned Jarrett were two of Ford Motor Co.’s biggest stars in NASCAR, combining to win 17 races in 1965. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

As for Jarrett, with so many of the top challengers falling out, he started running slow laps to keep his car from overheating.

“I was saying a prayer every lap for the last 20 laps.” Jarrett said after the race. “Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. I had already concluded that I couldn’t win unless something happened to Fred and Darel. I backed off to about 117 miles per hour in the last 20 laps to let the car cool… At one point I thought they might black flag me for going too slow.”

Jarrett’s late-race pace was about 20 mph slower than Johnson’s pole speed, but his strategy worked beautifully. As Jarrett took the checkered flag to end the race, Buck Baker’s car was physically close behind, although he was 14 laps in arrears of the winning car.

quote icon

I backed off to about 117 miles per hour in the last 20 laps to let the car cool… At one point I thought they might black flag me for going too slow.

— Ned Jarrett

One other factor played a part in Jarrett’s record-setting margin of victory: During the 1965 season, Chrysler Corp. was boycotting NASCAR over engine regulations. Plymouth and Dodge drivers, led by Richard Petty (Class of 2010) and David Pearson (Class of 2011) won 25 races in 1964, but they both only entered 14 races in 1965. Neither competed in the 1965 Southern 500, which had just two Plymouths and one Dodge in the field.

The Jarrett family was all smiles in Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway after Ned Jarrett won the 1965 Southern 500. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

At the time of Jarrett’s triumph in the 1965 Southern 500, Darlington measured 1.375 miles in length, meaning that he won by 19.25 miles, the largest margin of victory in terms of distance in NASCAR history.

Plot twist: In terms of laps, it was not the largest margin of victory ever. It wasn’t even the largest that year.

On February 27, at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds, a 0.5-mile dirt track in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Jarrett won by the incredible margin of 22 laps ahead of second-place G.C. Spencer. That means Jarrett finished 11 miles ahead of the runner-up in a 100-mile race.

Amazingly, exactly three months later, on May 27 at Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Shelby, North Carolina, Jarrett did it again. In another 100-miler on a 0.5-mile track, Jarrett won by 22 laps over driver Bud Moore, not to be confused with the Hall of Fame owner of the same name. Again, the margin of victory was 11 miles in a 100-mile race.

In a 55-race season where no other driver won by double digits, Jarrett did it three times by a combined total of 58 laps.

No wonder he’s a Hall of Famer.

Plan a Visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and purchase tickets at nascarhall.com/tickets.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

Related Articles