April 18, 1965
“Gwyn Staley 400”

Top 5 finishers.....


Junior Johnson took the checkered flag. He was also the pole sitter, and broke his own record by 0.06 seconds. His qualifying time and speed were 22.27 seconds/101.033mph. Of the 356 laps he led, the most important ones were the last 11. Marvin Panch was leading when he crashed with 11 to go. Johnson assumed the lead from there. It was his 3rd of 13 wins in 1965. Interesting stat—he was running at the finish in just 17 (of 36 races), but yet recorded 19 top tens AND 18 top fives, in 1965.

Running 7 seconds behind Johnson was Bobby Johns in a Holman-Moody Ford. It was John’s only top five at NWS. He had three top tens in seven races at the track. His Grand National career consisted of 2 wins 36 top tens, and 2 poles in 141 starts, most of the starts coming in cars owned by his father, Socrates “Shorty” Johns. While serving two years in the Army near Columbia, Johns still found the time to race as many as three times a week. Bobby Johns was the first NASCAR driver to ever make a competitive lap at Indianapolis. In the early days, NASCAR would not allow its drivers to race under other racing sanctions. And in two Indy races, he finished 7th and 10th.

Johnson and Johns would also have an interesting 1-2 finish 5 years earlier. On the final lap of the 1960 Daytona 500 while racing in very windy conditions, Johnson pulled up and drafted behind Johns’ car. As he did, a bizarre event occurred. Johnson’s car “took the air off the back of Johns’ car” and created a suction which in turn caused Johns’ rear window shatter. As a result, it upset the balance of his car and Bobby Johns spun. Johnson passed him for the win. John’s still managed to finish 2nd after spinning.

Finishing 3rd one lap down was the 1965 Grand National Champion, Ned Jarrett. He led 20 laps in the race. In 15 attempts at NWS Jarrett never won at NWS, however he did manage 6 top five finishes. This race was the fifth of them. It was later in this very year that Jarrett went on to win the Southern 500 by a record 14 laps.

Making is first appearance at the historic track and finishing 4th was Dick Hutcherson. “Hutch” finished seven laps off the pace in his Holman-Moody Ford. He should have been the rookie of the year in 1965, but NASCAR had a rule at the time, that a driver who had previously won a championship on another circuit was ineligible for that honor. Hutcherson had won two titles in the IMCA series, so he didn't qualify. In his “rookie” year he started 52 races, had 9 wins, 32 top fives, 39 top tens, 9 poles and finished second in points.

Marvin Panch finished 5th. Had it not been for blowing a tire and crashing with 11 laps to go, he might have posted another victory at NWS. Panch figured he must have run over something on the track to cause the tire to blow. Johnson said there was no way he would have caught Panch had he been able to run the full distance. Panch led on three different occasions during the race for a total of 24 laps.

Along with Hutcherson, there were ten additional drivers making their first appearance at the track. Some of the more notable names were Cerry Ezra “Jabe” Thomas, Clarence Henley Gray, Clyde Lynn and Bob Derrington. Running in his last (of 5) races at NWS was Bill Morton—the driver whose life was saved by Fred Harb years back as Harb stopped and positioned his car so oncoming racers had to veer around the crash scene where Morton was.

Ford swept the top 5. Odds were in their favor—25 of the 34 cars entered in the race were Fords. It was the second time Ford swept the top 5 (fall race of 1963). It would be 31 years before it would happen again (Chevrolet, spring of 1996). The time of the race was 2 hours, 37 minutes, 49 seconds. Nine laps were run under caution. The yellow came out three times. Three different drivers exchanged the lead on five occasions. At the end of the day, 17 cars were running at the finish. William Paul Lewis improved the most positions during the race—23, moving from 33rd to 10th.

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