During the 1951 NASCAR Grand National season, car manufacturers became more actively involved in the sport of racing. Nash recruited and signed dynamic stars Curtis Turner and Johnny Mantz to drive Ambassadors in NASCAR Grand National competition, while Daytona winner Marshall Teague convinced Hudson to support his racing efforts by showing how winning on the NASCAR tracks would sell more Hudson cars to the public. Though Oldsmobile won more races overall, Hudson won 12 of the 41 races in the 1951 NASCAR Grand National campaign, including the two biggest prizes, the Southern 500 and the Grand National championship.
Another significant event in this formative year of NASCAR Grand National racing was Bill France's effort to convince the Detroit Junior Chamber of Commerce to book the Grand National Circuit at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. The timing was perfect as the Motor City was gearing up to celebrate its 250th anniversary in the summer of 1951. You can learn about
these events and more in the following article, from season highlights
to the year's final standings, all packed with plenty of photos.
France announces that the NASCAR Grand National division will venture
into the far west in 1951. Johnny Mantz, winner of the 500-mile race at
Darlington, will be the Regional Director of NASCAR events in
January 22, 1951
Holland, winner of the 1949 Indianapolis 500, is suspended from AAA
Indy Car racing. Holland, who has never finished worse than second in
four starts in the Memorial Day classic, is kicked out of AAA for one
year for competing in a three-lap Lion's Charity race at Opa Locka,
Fla., on Nov. 14, 1950. The AAA has a strict rule forbidding its
drivers to participate in any race other than its own.
Marshall Teague slaps his Hudson Hornet into the south turn during the 1951 NASCAR Grand National season opener at Daytona on Feb. 11. Teague took the lead from Tim Flock with 12 laps remaining and sped to his first career NASCAR Grand National win. Teague said he had only one close call in the 160-miler. A photographer had darted onto the track to take a picture, and Teague commented that he "had to veer quick to miss him." See more pictures of NASCAR.
February 11, 1951
Marshall Teague wheels his Hudson Hornet to victory in the season-opening NASCAR Grand National race on Daytona's Beach-Road course. Bill France is successful in luring suspended AAA driver Bill Holland into the NASCAR fold. Holland drives a Nash Ambassador, but encounters early mechanical trouble and finishes 47th in the 54-car field.
April 1, 1951
Turner drives a Nash Ambassador to a big win in the 150-lap NASCAR
Grand National race at Charlotte Speedway. Bill Holland, in the
Plymouth that Johnny Mantz drove to victory in the 1950 Southern
Five-Hundred, survives a wild tumble on the 132nd lap.
April 8, 1951
Marshall Teague wins the first NASCAR Grand National event on the West Coast. Driving his Hudson Hornet, Teague leads all 200 laps at Carrell Speedway in Gardena, Calif. Frank Mundy drives a rental car to an 11th-place finish, winning $25. Mundy waited until after dark to return the car so the attendant wouldn't notice the bald tires.
Red Harrelson's Ford and Tim Flock's Oldsmobile are on the front row for the start of the April 8 NASCAR Grand National event at Lakeview Speedway in Mobile, Ala. Fonty Flock pulled double-duty in this 150-lap event on the 5/8-mile dirt track, acting as the event promoter, and finishing second to winner Tim Flock. The rain-plagued race was postponed from March 18 and was hampered by additional rains in April. The track surface broke up badly during the race.
April 16, 1951
at Darlington International Raceway schedule a 250-mile AAA Big Car
race for July 4. At the request of AAA officials, the 200-mile
NASCAR Grand National race slated for July 3 at Darlington is canceled.
The AAA told Raceway officials it would refuse to conduct an Indy
Car-type race in conjunction with NASCAR.
May 6, 1951
Turner hops into his reliable Oldsmobile and wins the 100-mile
NASCAR Grand National event at Martinsville Speedway. Turner parked
his Nash Ambassador due to repeated overheating problems.
Late May, 1951
NASCAR joins forces with the Detroit Junior Chamber of Commerce and will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Motor City with a 250-mile NASCAR Grand National race at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Posted awards of $12,500 will be distributed to the drivers who qualify for the event.
Tim and Fonty Flock lead the charge at the start of the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National race at Martinsville Speedway on May 6. Like most tracks of the early 1950s, Martinsville had no protective barrier to separate the racing surface from the pit area. It was an issue that wasn't addressed for another decade or so. Curtis Turner, who started in the fourth row, drove his Oldsmobile to victory, assuming command when leader Marshall Teague crashed.
June 16, 1951
a Studebaker, Frank Mundy wins the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event
on a Saturday night at Columbia Speedway in South Carolina. It is the
first NASCAR Grand National event to be staged under the lights,
Mundy's first career NASCAR Grand National victory, and the first win
for the Studebaker nameplate.
July 8, 1951
Flock prevails in a wreck-strewn 100-mile race at the Bainbridge,
Ohio, Fairgrounds. Only five cars finish the brutal event on the
one-mile dirt oval.
July 14, 1951
Bonadies wheels a Nash Ambassador to victory in the 400-lap NASCAR
Short Track Grand National race at Lanham, Md. Bonadies is the only
driver in the 25-car field to run the entire distance without making a
August 12, 1951: Motor City 250
Tommy Thompson outlasts Curtis Turner in an epic slugfest to win the
Motor City 250 at Detroit. Driving a Chrysler, Thompson survives a
motorized rubdown with roughneck Turner, takes the lead with 18 laps
remaining, and collects $5,000 for the victory.
September 3, 1951: Southern 500
record 82 cars start the 2nd annual Southern 500 at Darlington. Herb
Thomas and Jesse James Taylor finish 1-2 in Hudson Hornets.
Marshall Teague dives into the corner at Martinsville Speedway. Teague drove his Hudson to victory in three of the first six races of the season, but demolished his "Fabulous Hudson Hornet" in a hard crash at Martinsville. The Daytona Beach native led the points standings early in the season, but curtailed his efforts near midseason. He won five of his 15 NASCAR Grand National starts in 1951.
October 14, 1951
A total of 106 cars compete in the NASCAR Modified and Sportsman race at Langhorne Speedway. Dick Eagan, driving in relief of Hully Bunn, is declared the winner after a crash halts the race after 83 laps. Don Black is critically injured in the massive pileup, which unfolds for more than one minute. Fritz Holzhauer was badly burned in an earlier incident. Photos of the big crash will appear in the Dec. 9 issue of This Week magazine, which appears in Sunday editions of newspapers across the country.
November 7, 1951
NASCAR publishes its first official newsletter from its new
offices on Peninsula Avenue in Daytona Beach. The NASCAR Newsletter
consists of four pages.
November 11, 1951
Tim Flock takes the lead on the 14th lap and breezes to
victory in the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event at Lakewood
Speedway in Atlanta. It is the first official NASCAR race staged at the
venerable one-mile oval. Young Jesse James Taylor, runner-up in the
500-miler at Darlington, is critically injured in an early spill.
November 12, 1951
NASCAR announces it intends to sanction a Speedway Division for open-wheel cars powered by stock engines. The first appearance of the Speedway cars is slated for the 1952 Daytona Speedweeks activities.
The NASCAR Grand National stockers engage in close battle during the June 10 event at Columbus Speedway in Georgia. Jim Paschal's #60 Ford is tucked behind a 1950 Oldsmobile as Tim Flock's #91 Olds nips Paschal's heels. Bud Erb, in the #97 Mercury, clings to the window ledge and drives with one hand as the speedy trio make the high-side pass. Flock went on to win the 100-miler as Paschal came home fourth. Erb wound up 18th, several laps off the pace.
November 25, 1951
Frank Mundy throttles his Studebaker to a win in the 150-lap NASCAR Grand National finale at Lakeview Speedway in Mobile, Ala. Bob Flock crashes his Oldsmobile in the early laps and suffers a broken neck. Herb Thomas wraps up the tightly contested NASCAR Grand National championship chase by nosing out Fonty Flock by 146.2 points.
December 8, 1951
Perry Smith, owner of the Studebaker Frank Mundy drives, perishes in a private air crash near Greensburg, Ind. Smith was on a mercy mission, carrying an ill 80-year-old woman to a hospital when his Navion flew into icy weather and crashed into a rural countryside.
Continue on to the next page to learn the full results of the 1951 NASCAR Grand National season.For more information on all things NASCAR, see:
1951 NASCAR Grand National Standings
1951 NASCAR Grand National Champion Herb Thomas
With his overwhelming victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington on Labor Day, Herb Thomas leapt atop the NASCAR Grand National points standings and led the rest of the season. Thomas, winner of seven races during the 41-race season, wound up only 146.2 points ahead of runner-up Fonty Flock, who won eight races.
Thomas remained within striking distance of the points lead throughout the first half of the season, but didn't take the lead until his big victory at Darlington, when he earned 1,250 points. Distribution of points in 1951 was parallel to the posted awards, and the Southern 500 was the richest race on the NASCAR Grand National schedule. Fonty Flock finished eighth at Darlington and earned 375 points.
The points lead changed hands nine times among four drivers during the course of the season. Tim Flock finished third in points after leading the standings for 13 races. Lee Petty and Frank Mundy rounded out the top five in the final tally. The following chart compiles the complete standings for 1951.
1951 NASCAR Grand National Standings
|7||Jesse James Taylor
|49||Harvey "Bud" Riley
For more information on all things NASCAR, see: