Darlington II: Ford - Ned Jarrett special interview

Ned Jarrett basically clinched his 1965 NASCAR Winston Cup (known then as Grand National) championship after winning the Southern 500 at Darlington. Jarrett, who is the all-time Ford leader in series wins with 43, recalled that...

Ned Jarrett basically clinched his 1965 NASCAR Winston Cup (known then as Grand National) championship after winning the Southern 500 at Darlington. Jarrett, who is the all-time Ford leader in series wins with 43, recalled that race.

NED JARRETT , 1961, 1965 Champion

YOU PRETTY MUCH CLINCHED THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN '65 WITH YOUR WIN IN THE SOUTHERN 500. WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THAT RACE?

"It was a traditional hot weekend. It always is in Darlington in September and everybody had been having overheating problems for years. Ford had some new aluminum radiators built and they brought them down here to cure our heating problem. They were bigger radiators with larger water capacity than the normal radiators, so they thought that would do it. The only thing that the engineer didn't take into consideration is that this track - back then and still does - just eats the rubber off the tires. When you get behind other cars, it throws that rubber up into the grille and stops up the radiator. That's what causes the overheating problem and that year the rubber would not go through it at all and every Ford in the field matted up and blew up, except mine. Mine matted up but I nursed it for the last 100 miles to get it to the end. We had a 14-lap lead, so we had plenty of time to nurse it, but something popped in my mind. When I went into the turn, instead of backing off the accelerator, I cut the switch off to let the raw gas run in there so it would have a cooling effect and, sure enough, it did. I did that for the last 100 miles and every time I cut the switch back on and it cranked back up, the car would backfire. So the fans had a little action to cheer for because somebody sitting there with a 14-lap lead wasn't a very good race, but you did what you had to do and we nursed it to the end. The entire Ford brass came down there that day because I was the last hope they had that was still out there running. We didn't have two-way radios, but they wanted me to come in with such a big lead and cool that thing down, but something told me to keep going and not to stop. They held up a sign for me to come in, but I decided to just stay out there. We were all praying every lap and that set us up to win the championship because points were awarded differently then based on the amount of prize money involved. This was a big race in that respect and Dick Hutcherson was my closest pursuer and we were pretty close coming into the race, but he had some problems and eventually blew up. That opened the lead up enough to where I was comfortable the rest of the year."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON DARLINGTON RACEWAY?

"Everybody has always associated the Southern 500 with the Labor Day weekend and Darlington, South Carolina and it's sad to see that go away, but I understand the reason for it. If the sport is going to grow, then you've got to take it to where the people are and where they have plenty of seats to sell -- like California. So I understand the reason for doing it, but it's still sad to see. It was always neat to come here and just get together with people. It served as a social weekend as well as a racing weekend for us. The track still, in my opinion, I thought it then when I was driving and still think today, that this is the toughest track that they run on. It takes more finesse, constant concentration and it's certainly physically demanding. This place requires every part of driving a race car that you can imagine, so that's what makes the challenge so big because of the fact it's so tough. Darlington became my favorite race track because of the challenge that it presented."

CALE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE OLD DARLINGTON AND HAVING TO HIT THE GUARD RAIL IN TURN THREE EVERYTIME.

"Well, you had to hit that guard rail. It's too bad that the drivers today can't experience that. You talk about the Darlington stripe, but the Darlington stripe was born many, many years ago. You'll get a stripe every once in a while today, but back then if you didn't have a stripe it meant you were not getting around this race track. You literally had to have that right-rear quarter panel just touching that guard rail all the way through what was then turns three and four. If you didn't, you weren't getting around this race track. But there was also a very thin line as to how close you could get to it and how hard you could hit it, so that's why I say it took a lot of finesse. What we did was take the springs out of the old model Fords and put them in that quarter panel, so it would have a spring effect when you hit the guard rail. That kept the fender from knocking in on the tire and would push it back outside the tire, so we had some ingenuity back then. It wasn't a whole lot of high-tech stuff, but we figured out what we needed to do."

PROGRESS DICTATES HOWEVER THAT THE SPORT MAKE CHANGES.

"Yes. The sport has to go into these major markets. Frankly, I'm a North Carolinian and I love my state and the part of the country that I live in, but we've had too many NASCAR Winston Cup races in this part of the world for it to continue to grow. We need for it to be exposed in other parts of the country where there are more people."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ned Jarrett , Dick Hutcherson