If there was ever a perfect week for a NASCAR Throwback Thursday, this week would definitely be it, with seemingly everything in the sport going retro to celebrate Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and the Southern 500′s return to its traditional Labor Day weekend slot on the Sprint Cup Series schedule — from paint schemes, team uniforms and Goodyear tires to race broadcasts on NBC and MRN.
Legendary NASCAR driver and broadcaster and Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, it seems, will be a part of the trip back in time, two-fold. NBC has announced that Jarrett will be a part of the telecast of a portion of the race. And I’m pretty sure I remember hearing that he, along with Jack Arute, will rejoin MRN to work the radio broadcast of the race.
After his driving career ended, Jarrett was one of the best at calling the racing action, both on radio and on TV, so it only makes sense that he be in high demand for both NBC and MRN to go retro at Darlington.
This Throwback Thursday isn’t about Jarrett’s broadcasting career, though; it’s about Jarrett wheeling a race car at Darlington, specifically in 1965.
“One of the goals that I had set for myself when I started Grand National Racing, which is what it was called back then, was to win the Southern 500 in Darlington,” Jarrett said, according to a press release from Ford. “It was on a track that was built for speeds of about 70 or 80 miles an hour and here we were at that time running about 140-145 miles an hour, but that was one of the goals I set for myself.”
He not only accomplished that goal on Sept. 6 1965, he spanked the field in doing so.
Buck Baker finished second on that day. But don’t get the wrong idea, Baker wasn’t on the lead lap at the checkered flag. Nope, he was 14 laps down. That’s right, Jarrett had 14 laps on the rest of the field. What’s even more impressive — as if that stat alone wasn’t over-the-moon impressive — Jarrett lapped the field 14 times over the course of the final 39 laps, because that’s when he took the lead.
“We ran good during the race and led some laps and then things began to turn our way in the last 100 miles or so,” Jarrett said. “I had no idea how far ahead we were, but I know the Ford officials that were there came down and camped in my pits, and they knew how much of a lead I had and they tried to get the crew to bring me in.
“We didn’t have radio communications back then, so they just wrote on the black board for me to pit,” continued Jarrett. “I knew we didn’t need to pit, but they knew the car was overheating, so I kept going because something told me stronger than the officials of Ford and my own pit crew that I needed to stay out there and keep going.”
Wouldn’t it have been absolutely horrible if Jarrett had listened to his crew and headed for pit road late in the race? He may have only won by 10 laps or so.
Here’s a video of Jarrett reliving that memorable day at Darlington: