Following World War II, Harold Brasington decided to quit his professional racing career to focus on farming and construction, ultimately leading him to buy 70 acres in South Carolina with the intent of building a race track. However, because of a deal with the former landowner that forbade Brasington from disturbing a minnow pond, the track forewent a traditional oval in favor of an egg-shaped course with a tight and narrow turn at one end, and a flat, sweeping corner at the other.
Thus was born Darlington Raceway, which soon became known as “The Lady in Black” or “The Track Too Tough To Tame”. It was here, on September 6th 1965, that racer Ned Jarrett would find himself on the cusp of a Grand National (now Sprint Cup) Championship ahead of what would become known as one of the wildest races in NASCAR history.
“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,” said Jarrett. “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.”
The race that followed saw thrills, spills, exploding engines, a tragic death, and some of the most memorable moments that would help NASCAR become America’s favorite sport. For Jarrett, his moment to shine came when Fred Lorenzen and Darel Dieringer, who had been battling for first and second place, took to the pits with expired engines. Jarrett was able to move into first place, defying his pit crew leader and keeping his 1965 Ford Galaxie fastback out on the track.
Jarrett would end up winning the Darlington 500 by an astounding lead, finishing 14 laps ahead of second place finisher Buck Baker. In total, just 15 drivers from the 44 car field managed to complete the 345 lap race, and to this day Jarrett’s record margin of victory stands, a testament to the wild days of NASCAR and the enduring legacy of The Lady in Black.