October 1, 1961
“Wilkes 200”

Top 5 finishers.....


A record purse of over $10,000 was waiting to be paid out to the drivers. The $3,100 winner’s check went to the driver who started 3rd and won his 20th career Grand National event, and third consecutive at North Wilkesboro, Rex White. It was a rather large chunk of change for the 5’4” driver, as far as he was concerned. White grew up in a family that didn’t have much money. As a youngster, he worked on the family car. He caught the racing bug in his early years. A big reason for his success was that he learned how to set a car up to run better thru the turns. His cars weren’t necessarily the fastest, but what White’s cars lost in the straightaway, they more than made up for it in the turns.

Car owner Bud Moore had two cars finish in the top 10—Joe Weatherly in 8th and Fireball Roberts in 2nd. Roberts started from the 6th spot and finished better than a lap behind White. It was the only race in which Roberts drove a Bud Moore car. It was Moore’s first top 5 NWS finish as a car owner. He eventually would see his cars in victory lane 3 times at the speedway.

Starting 13th and moving up 10 spots to a third place finish was 24 year old Richard Petty. It was the third time Petty finished in 3rd position at NWS. He would go on to win 15 times at the speedway, equal to Martinsville for being the track in which he went to victory lane the most. Petty finished this race 4 laps off the leader’s pace.

The pole sitter (94.54 mph) was Junior Johnson. In his 21 career Grand National races at NWS, it was either feast or famine. He had 11 finishes in the top 5—the only races he was running at the finish. In his other 10 attempts, he went home early with a DNF.

The 1961 Grand National Champion, Ned Jarrett came home in the 5th spot. Along with Johnson, he finished 5 laps behind the leader. Jarrett started the race from the 10th spot. It was his second top 5 finish at the track.

30 cars raced this day. It was the first time in six years there were 30 or more cars in a race at NWS. At the end of the day, 16 were running at the finish. There were three lead changes between three different drivers, Rex White led 201 laps, Johnson led 118, and Weatherly led one lap. There were 4 cautions for 23 laps and the 320 laps were completed in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 43 seconds. Jimmy Pardue gained 17 positions from his starting spot (24th to 7th) during the race, the most of any driver. Banjo Matthews drove his last Grand National race at NWS. He started 2nd, but finished 20th due to car trouble.

Back to the Timeline!