During the 1951 NASCAR Grand National season, car manufacturers became more actively involved in the sport of racing. Nash recruited and signed dynamic stars Curtis Turner and Johnny Mantz to drive Ambassadors in NASCAR Grand National competition, while Daytona winner Marshall Teague convinced Hudson to support his racing efforts by showing how winning on the NASCAR tracks would sell more Hudson cars to the public. Though Oldsmobile won more races overall, Hudson won 12 of the 41 races in the 1951 NASCAR Grand National campaign, including the two biggest prizes, the Southern 500 and the Grand National championship.
Another significant event in this formative year of NASCAR Grand National racing was Bill France’s effort to convince the Detroit Junior Chamber of Commerce to book the Grand National Circuit at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. The timing was perfect as the Motor City was gearing up to celebrate its 250th anniversary in the summer of 1951. You can learn about these events and more in the following article, from season highlights to the year’s final standings, all packed with plenty of photos. January, 1951
Bill France announces that the NASCAR Grand National division will venture into the far west in 1951. Johnny Mantz, winner of the 500-mile race at Darlington, will be the Regional Director of NASCAR events in California.
January 22, 1951
Bill Holland, winner of the 1949 Indianapolis 500, is suspended from AAA Indy Car racing. Holland, who has never finished worse than second in four starts in the Memorial Day classic, is kicked out of AAA for one year for competing in a three-lap Lion’s Charity race at Opa Locka, Fla., on Nov. 14, 1950. The AAA has a strict rule forbidding its drivers to participate in any race other than its own.
NASCAR Image Gallery
February 11, 1951 Marshall Teague wheels his Hudson Hornet to victory in the season-opening NASCAR Grand National race on Daytona’s Beach-Road course
Salvatore Ferragamo Vara Bowknot Wedges Black
. Bill France is successful in luring suspended AAA driver Bill Holland into the NASCAR fold. Holland drives a Nash Ambassador, but encounters early mechanical trouble and finishes 47th in the 54-car field. April 1, 1951
Curtis Turner drives a Nash Ambassador to a big win in the 150-lap NASCAR Grand National race at Charlotte Speedway. Bill Holland, in the Plymouth that Johnny Mantz drove to victory in the 1950 Southern Five-Hundred, survives a wild tumble on the 132nd lap.
April 8, 1951
Marshall Teague wins the first NASCAR Grand National event on the West Coast. Driving his Hudson Hornet, Teague leads all 200 laps at Carrell Speedway in Gardena, Calif. Frank Mundy drives a rental car to an 11th-place finish, winning $25. Mundy waited until after dark to return the car so the attendant wouldn’t notice the bald tires.
April 16, 1951
Officials at Darlington Inter?national Raceway schedule a 250-mile AAA Big Car race for July 4. At the request of AAA officials, the 200-mile NASCAR Grand National race slated for July 3 at Darlington is canceled. The AAA told Raceway officials it would refuse to conduct an Indy Car-type race in conjunction with NASCAR.
May 6, 1951
Curtis Turner hops into his ?reliable Oldsmobile and wins the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event at Martins?ville Speedway. Turner parked his Nash Ambassador due to repeated overheating problems.
Late May, 1951
NASCAR joins forces with the Detroit Junior Chamber of Commerce and will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Motor City with a 250-mile NASCAR Grand National race at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Posted awards of $12,500 will be ?distributed to the ?drivers who qualify for the event.
June 16, 1951
Driving a Studebaker, Frank Mundy wins the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event on a Saturday night at Columbia Speedway in South Carolina. It is the first NASCAR Grand National event to be staged under the lights, Mundy’s first career NASCAR Grand National victory, and the first win for the Studebaker nameplate.
July 8, 1951
Fonty Flock prevails in a wreck-strewn 100-mile race at the Bain?bridge, Ohio, Fairgrounds. Only five cars finish the brutal event on the one-mile dirt oval.
July 14, 1951
Tony Bonadies wheels a Nash Ambassador to victory in the 400-lap NASCAR Short Track Grand National race at Lanham, Md. Bonadies is the only driver in the 25-car field to run the entire distance without making a pit stop.
August 12, 1951: Motor City 250
Newcomer Tommy Thompson outlasts Curtis Turner in an epic slugfest to win the Motor City 250 at Detroit. Driving a Chrysler, Thompson survives a motorized rubdown with roughneck Turner, takes the lead with 18 laps remaining, and collects $5,000 for the victory.
September 3, 1951: Southern 500
A record 82 cars start the 2nd annual Southern 500 at Darlington. Herb Thomas and Jesse James Taylor finish 1-2 in Hudson Hornets.
October 14, 1951 A total of 106 cars compete in the NASCAR Modified and Sportsman race at Langhorne Speedway. Dick Eagan, driving in relief of Hully Bunn, is declared the winner after a crash halts the race after 83 laps. Don Black is critically injured in the massive pileup, which unfolds for more than one minute. Fritz Holzhauer was badly burned in an earlier incident. Photos of the big crash will appear in the Dec. 9 issue of This Week magazine, which appears in Sunday editions of news?papers across the country.
November 7, 1951
NASCAR publishes its first official newsletter from its new offices on Peninsula Avenue in Daytona Beach. The NASCAR Newsletter consists of four pages.
November 11, 1951
Tim Flock takes the lead on the 14th lap and breezes to victory in the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta. It is the first official NASCAR race staged at the venerable one-mile oval. Young Jesse James Taylor
Salvatore Ferragamo Suede Ballerina Flat Orange
, runner-up in the 500-miler at Darlington, is critically injured in an early spill.
November 12, 1951 NASCAR announces it intends to sanction a Speedway Division for open-wheel cars powered by stock engines. The first appearance of the Speedway cars is slated for the 1952 Daytona Speedweeks activities.
November 25, 1951 Frank Mundy throttles his Studebaker to a win in the 150-lap NASCAR Grand National finale at Lakeview Speedway in Mobile, Ala. Bob Flock crashes his Oldsmobile in the early laps and suffers a broken neck. Herb Thomas wraps up the tightly contested NASCAR Grand National champion?ship chase by nosing out Fonty Flock by 146.2 points.
December 8, 1951
Perry Smith, owner of the Studebaker Frank Mundy drives, perishes in a private air crash near Greensburg, Ind. Smith was on a mercy mission, carrying an ill 80-year-old woman to a hospital when his Navion flew into icy weather and crashed into a rural countryside.
Continue on to the next page to learn the full results of the 1951 NASCAR Grand National season.