How Ned Jarrett won the 1965 NASCAR Southern 500 at Darlington ... By 14 Laps!

NASCAR 75: One of a series of 75 stories that helped define the first three quarters of a century of NASCAR, as Autoweek races to the 2023 Daytona 500.

  • Ned Jarrett won the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway by 14 laps.
  • Buck Baker was second, 14 laps down.
  • Darel Dieringer was third. He and fourth-place Roy Mayne were 19 laps behind.

    Unless something wildly spectacular—for example, a 32-car accident—occurs, Ned Jarrett holds a NASCAR record that will never be broken.

    Astonishingly, Jarrett won the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway by 14 laps. Not 14 seconds. Not 14 car lengths. Fourteen LAPS.

    Such craziness is unthinkable in modern major-league stock car racing. Finishes typically are measured in fractions of a second. Jarrett’s win is the very definition of a romp. A beatdown. A whipping.

    And it began in church. Sort of.

    The race was held on Sept. 6, Labor Day. At the request of a Darlington track official, Jarrett spoke to a Methodist youth group Sunday night before the race.

    ned jarrett 1965 southern 500
    Ned Jarrett (11) crosses the finish line 14 laps ahead of his nearest rival.
    RacingOneGetty Images

    “I asked for their prayers,” Jarrett remembered. “I went away with a genuine feeling that I had their support. The next day I was on pit road, and a gentleman walked up to me and introduced himself as a minister from Orangeburg, South Carolina. He told me that he had talked to Fireball Roberts before the race in 1958 and told him he felt like he was going to win, and he did. He said that he had the same feeling about me that day, and he wanted me to know that his prayers were with me.

    “I was on cloud nine. I went into the race with a tremendous amount of confidence.”

    With all that religious power behind him, Jarrett expected a big day. And he got it.

    It was a hot day in Darlington—nothing unusual for late summer in that part of the world. That made the tough ol’ track that much tougher, and cars fell by the wayside in packs.

    By race’s end, 29 of the 44 starters had parked. Overheating became a major issue. Darel Dieringer, who led 199 laps, departed late with a differential problem.

    Jarrett motored along in his Bondy Long-owned Ford, avoiding accidents and protecting his equipment.

    “Winning that race was one of the goals I had set, and it was done under great odds that day,” Jarrett said. “Just about every car in the field was overheating, and the ones that didn’t overheat had problems of another sort. It was a challenge just to make it to the end.”

    When Jarrett took the checkered flag, the drivers following him were far behind. Buck Baker was second, 14 laps down. Dieringer was third. He and fourth-place Roy Mayne were 19 laps behind. Fifth-place Buddy Arrington was 20 laps back.

    The margin of victory set a NASCAR record. No one has approached it since, and no one is likely to.

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