1966 NASCAR Grand National Recap

The 1966 NASCAR season was marked by the re-introduction of Chrysler's legendary Hemi engine and Ford's departure from the sport. With less competition and more power than ever, Chrysler was a frequent visitor to the winner's circle early in the season, though Ford's boycott took a big bite out of attendance. By the end of the season, Ford had realized that without NASCAR performances, sales were suffering, and so returned to the speedways in force. 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.

February 27, 1966: Daytona 500

Richard Petty overcomes a two-lap deficit and wins the Daytona 500 in a runaway. Petty is a full lap in front of runner-up Cale Yarborough when a thunderstorm halts the race after 198 of the scheduled 200 laps.

NASCAR Image Gallery

1966 nascar leeroy yarbrough firecracker 400
LeeRoy Yarbrough won the pole for the Firecracker 400 in the Jon Thorne-owned Dodge Charger. Thorne, son of Joel Thorne, who owned the 1946 Indianapolis 500-winning auto­mobile driven by George Robson, was a NASCAR rookie team owner in 1966. Yarbrough won two poles and one race in just nine starts in his impressive rookie campaign. See more pictures of NASCAR.

March 20, 1966: Southeastern 500

Sophomore driver Dick Hutcherson steers clear of a rash of crashes and wins the Southeastern 500 at Bristol by four laps. Only seven cars in the starting field of 32 are able to ­finish the race.

April 7, 1966

David Pearson wins the 100-mile race at Columbia, S.C., as Ford announces its factory teams will boycott the NASCAR Grand National season in a dispute over engine rules.

1966 nascar junior johnson fred lorenzen
The Junior Johnson-built #26 Ford, driven by Fred Lorenzen in Atlanta's Dixie 400, was one of the most radical cars to ever compete in NASCAR Grand National competition. The front end of the car sloped downward, the roofline was lowered, the side windows were narrowed, the front windshield was sloped in an aerodynamic position, and the tail was kicked up. Several of rival drivers called the car "The Yellow Banana," "Junior's Joke," and "The Magnafluxed Monster."

April 30, 1966: Rebel 400

Richard Petty dominates the Rebel 400 at Darlington, finishing three laps ahead of runner-up Paul Goldsmith. The Ford boycott has a telling effect on the attendance as only 7000 spectators show up, plus 5000 Boy Scouts, who are admitted free.

May 13, 1966

Darel Dieringer wins an all-independent 125-mile NASCAR Grand National race at Starlite Speedway in Monroe, N.C. Pro­moters at the 1/2-mile dirt track refuse to allow any Chrysler factory entries in wake of the Ford boycott. A small crowd of 2500 attends the event.

May 22, 1966: World 600

Marvin Panch quits the Ford camp and drives a Petty Engineering Plymouth to victory in Charlotte's World 600. Only 11 cars in the field of 44 finish the race.

1966 nascar richard petty dixie 400
Richard Petty leads a pack of cars off the fourth turn at Atlanta Inter­national Raceway during the Dixie 400. Petty pushed his Plymouth past Buddy Baker with 36 laps remaining and sped to victory. Petty won eight races and 16 poles in 1966, but his championship hopes were dashed early in the year; a nonracing-related hand injury forced him to miss a ­couple of races.

June 4, 1966

Independent driver Elmo Langley steers his Ford to victory in the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National race at Spartan­burg, S.C. Langley leads the final 40 laps to score his first NASCAR win. Fords lead all 200 laps on the 1/2-mile dirt track.

July 4, 1966: Firecracker 400

Sophomore Sam McQuagg wheels the Nichels Engineering Dodge Charger to his first career win in the Daytona Firecracker 400. McQuagg's slope-backed Dodge is equipped with a strip of aluminum on the rear deck to make the car more stable. It is the first NASCAR Grand National race to permit cars equipped with "spoilers."

July 12, 1966

Bobby Allison wheels his ­lightly regarded Chevrolet to victory in the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National race at Oxford, Maine. It is Allison's first big NASCAR win and the first for the Chevrolet nameplate since Junior Johnson won at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 13, 1963.

1966 nascar curtis turner western north carolina 500
Curtis Turner's #47 Chevrolet rests sideways in the turn at Asheville-Weaverville Speed­way after the engine blew just three laps into the Aug. 21 Western North Carolina 500. Turner qualified a strong third for the annual summer 250-miler on the 1/2-mile paved track, but his high hopes were dashed early.

August 7, 1966: Dixie 400

Richard Petty edges Buddy Baker to win the Dixie 400 at Atlanta International Raceway, an event marred by controversy. Points-leader David Pearson's Dodge is ruled illegal and doesn't start the race, while the Junior Johnson Ford driven by Fred Lorenzen is permitted to compete despite unapproved aerodynamic enhancements. NASCAR president Bill France admits that "rules were bent at Atlanta," but adds he was hoping the lax rules would lure Ford drivers back into NASCAR racing.

August 18, 1966

David Pearson scores his 12th win of the season in the 100-mile race at Columbia, S.C. Curtis Turner finishes third in Junior Johnson's Ford while wearing a three-piece business suit. Turner says sponsor Holly Farms "wanted me to wear a suit, but they didn't specify what kind. So I wore my best."

1966 nascar earl balmer
Earl Balmer, a lead-footed driver from Floyds Knobs, Ind., was one of the first drivers to campaign Nord Krauskopf's #71 Dodge in NASCAR Grand National competition. Balmer had the reputation of a hard charger, who drove with his foot and not necessarily with his head. As one pitside observer said: "He'll jam that car into the corner as deep as it'll go, and if he makes it through the turn, he figures he can jam it in a little deeper the next time around."

September 25, 1966: Old Dominion 500

Fred Lorenzen is flagged the winner of the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville, but has his victory stripped due to an oversized fuel tank. Three days later, NASCAR reverses its decision and restores Lorenzen's ­victory, even though the fuel cell in his Ford held 23.1 gallons of fuel, 1.1 ­gallons too many. NASCAR announces that since the fuel cell in question was bought directly from a Firestone dealer, the spirit of the rules wasn't encroached.

October 30, 1966: American 500

Fred Lorenzen outruns a star-studded field to win the American 500 at Rockingham. Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson, who have both won 50 NASCAR Grand National races, compete in their final race. Jarrett ­finishes third while Johnson comes home fifth.

Continue on to the next page to learn the full results of the 1966 NASCAR Grand National season.

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