KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Ned Jarrett amassed many special memories during his racing and broadcasting career in NASCAR, but few equal that hot afternoon on Sept. 6, 1965, when the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee won the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway by an astounding 14 laps.
It‘s appropriate that the No. 14 Ford of Clint Bowyer will celebrate Jarrett‘s emphatic victory 53 years later in the 69th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at the 1.366-mile Darlington oval. The No. 14 Carolina Ford Dealers Ford Fusion from Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will mimic the design Jarrett ran on his race-winning 1965 Ford Galaxie by sporting a royal blue paint scheme with period-specific graphics.
“Stewart-Haas Racing and the Carolina Ford Dealers got together and decided to honor someone who‘s had such a huge influence in the sport, and we immediately thought of Ned Jarrett,” Bowyer said. “A lot of folks know Ned as a NASCAR champion and a lot of us know him from broadcasting races all those years. He‘s had so many roles in our sport and done them all really well.”
Jarrett wheeled his No. 11 Richmond Ford Motor Company Galaxie to a commanding Southern 500 victory over fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker in a race that took nearly 4 hours and 20 minutes and saw only 15 of the 44 entrants still running at the end of the 364-lap race.
“We ran well during the race and led some laps and then things began to turn our way in the last 100 miles or so,” said Jarrett, whose victory was the 12th of his 13-win season in 1965, but first at Darlington. “I had no idea how far ahead we were, but I know the Ford officials that were there came down and camped in my pits, and they knew how much of a lead I had and they tried to get the crew to bring me in. We didn‘t have radio communications back then, so they just wrote on the blackboard for me to pit. I knew we didn‘t need to pit, but they knew the car was overheating, so I kept going because something told me stronger than the officials of Ford and my own pit crew that I needed to stay out there and keep going.”
Jarrett made it to the end of the 500-mile race and it turned out to be the biggest margin of victory in NASCAR Cup Series history. It marked the 49th of Jarrett‘s 50 career wins, and it helped secure his second and final series championship, bookending the title he won in 1961.
Jarrett ran 21 races in 1966 before transitioning to a broadcasting career that began on a radio station in Newton, North Carolina, and included tenures at MRN Radio and in television at CBS, ESPN and TNN. In fact, Jarrett was the first widely known television analyst to work for different broadcast networks at the same time.
He spent 22 years at CBS and 19 years with ESPN while co-hosting the weekly, one-hour Inside NASCAR program on TNN.
Darlington and its Labor Day race weekend host “The Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR” where the industry honors the sport‘s history.
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Last year, nearly all the NASCAR Cup Series teams competed with throwback paint schemes in the Southern 500.
“I can‘t tell you how much I‘m looking forward to the Southern 500,” said Jarrett, who earned the nickname “Gentleman Ned” for how well he treated fans, crewmembers and competitors.
“That weekend is special because you see how far we‘ve come as a sport. All the different generations gather there and we celebrate NASCAR.”