Darlington Raceway is celebrating ‘NASCAR Champions…Past, Present and Future’ for its throwback weekend celebration on Sept. 4-6, 2020. Another champion will be crowned in 2020 and Darlington Raceway will host the opening round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, which will declare its 72nd champion since 1949.
Each month, the track is recognizing NASCAR Cup Series champions from specific decades – this month (February) is the 1960’s.
In the 1960s, drivers became more household names as the sport continued to grow from its grassroots efforts in the 1950s. Some of the most legendary names (which are celebrated even today) in the sport’s history had careers and championships that started in the 1960s. Many of the decade’s champions became NASCAR Hall of Famers such as Richard Petty, David Pearson, Ned Jarrett and Rex White.
“There’s no question that the 1960s was a decade of growth, not only for NASCAR, but for drivers and their own personal brands,” Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp said. “Winning NASCAR championships in the 1960’s propelled the careers of drivers such as Richard Petty, David Pearson and Joe Weatherly. Winning stock car championships in the 1960’s was recognized as a significant achievement for the drivers and truly did help make them household names as the sport continued to rise in popularity.”
Here’s a look at the five different champions from the 1960s:
1960 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Rex White
Rex White took the points lead in June of 1960 and went on to win his one and only NASCAR championship. White thoroughly dominated the 1960 campaign, posting the most wins (six), top-five (25) and top-10 finishes (35) in 40 starts. By comparison, championship runner-up Richard Petty finished the season with three wins, 16 top-five and 30 top-10 finishes, respectively. White would win 15 more races and finish second and fifth in the 1961 and 1962 seasons before retiring in 1964 at age 35. White was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.
1961 and 1965 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Ned Jarrett
Ned Jarrett, a 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, scored two NASCAR Grand National Championships in the decade, 1961 and 1965. He won only one race during the 1961 campaign but won a tight points battle with Rex White.
The 1965 championship saw Jarrett race with a back injury throughout the middle part of the season. After winning the 1965 Southern 500 by a record 14 laps, Jarrett firmly held the points lead over rookie Dick Hutcherson and went on to win his second championship. He had 13 wins during the 1965 season with 42 top-five finishes in 54 starts.
1962 and 1963 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Joe Weatherly
Joe Weatherly won his only two NASCAR Grand National Championships in back-to-back years in 1962 and 1963. He dominated the 1962 season by winning a series-best nine races and posting 39 top-five and 45 top-10 finishes in 52 starts.
In 1963, he drove for nine different team owners during the season. Despite winning only three races (compared to second-place Petty’s 14 wins), Weatherly won the championship due to the fact that he was more successful at superspeedway tracks, which awarded more points back then. He averaged an eighth-place finish at superspeedways, compared to 17th for Petty.
Weatherly, a 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, lost his life in a 1964 crash at the Riverside, Calif., road course. The stock car museum at Darlington Raceway has been named after Weatherly since 1965.
1964 and 1967 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Richard Petty
Richard Petty won the NASCAR championship twice in the 1960s (1964 and ’67). His 1964 title featured nine wins, 37 top-five, 43 top-10 finishes and a DAYTONA 500 victory. He dominated the first of his seven championships, winning the title by nearly 6,000 points.
In 1967, Petty showed his dominance again by winning a record 27 races, including his one and only Southern 500 at Darlington. His May victory at Darlington that same year gave him 55 career NASCAR Cup Series wins passing his father Lee as the all-time series leader. He also won 10 races in a row in 1967 in what is considered one of the dominant seasons in NASCAR history.
Petty was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 as part of the inaugural class.
1966, 1968 and 1969 NASCAR Grand National Champion – David Pearson
David Pearson won three NASCAR championships in the 60s (1966, 1968 and 1969). His 1966 campaign featured 15 victories, seven more than Petty’s eight that year. The Spartanburg, S.C. native had equally impressive championship seasons in 1968 and 1969, where he won 27 races and posted 78 top-five finishes in 99 starts over those two years.
The “Silver Fox” as he was known, ended his storied career as the second winningest all-time driver in series history with 105 victories. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. As the 60s concluded, Pearson left the decade with more championships (three) than Petty (two).
The Tradition Continues on Labor Day weekend as the NASCAR Cup Series Southern 500® is set for Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020. Throwback Weekend coverage will once again be covered in its entirety on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM. The NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 will race on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020.
Darlington Raceway PR