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Snapshot: Ned Jarrett

Saturday, May. 21, 2011

Born: Oct. 12, 1932, Newton

Family: Wife Martha; sons Glenn and Dale; daughter Patti.

Career Highlights

Began driving jalopy-type cars in 1952 at Hickory Speedway under an alias because his father didn't want him to race. His dad relented after an inaugural victory, saying, "If you're going to race, you might as well get credit for it."

Ran his first race in NASCAR's Grand National Division, which has evolved into the Cup series, on Aug. 29, 1953, at Hickory, finishing 11th in a 12-car field. Made first big track start at Darlington Raceway in the 1953 Southern 500 on Sept. 7, finishing last in a 59-car field when an oil leak forced him to park after only eight laps.

Won national championships in NASCAR's Sportsman Division in 1957 and '58. That circuit evolved into the Nationwide Series.

Scored his first victory on the major NASCAR tour in a 100-miler at Rambi Speedway, a Myrtle Beach dirt track, on Aug. 1, 1959. Made it two in a row by taking another 100-miler the next day at the Charlotte Fairgrounds, a half-mile dirt track. The victories enabled him to cover a $2,000 check he had written to buy his race car.

Captured the 1961 Grand National championship through terrific consistency. He won only once - at Birmingham on June 4 - but posted 34 top 10 finishes in 46 starts.

Scored his first superspeedway victory in the Dixie 400 at Atlanta International Raceway on June 7, 1964, outrunning Richard Petty. Jarrett triumphed 15 times in 59 starts that season, but finished second in the point standings to Petty.

Driving for colorful car owner Bondy Long, he won the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington by 14 laps, still the largest margin of victory in NASCAR history. Jarrett won 12 other races in 54 starts that year, and claimed his second driving championship, edging fellow Ford driver Dick Hutcherson.

Retired in 1966 with 50 victories in 352 races. His last start was in the American 500 at N.C. Motor Speedway on Oct. 30. He finished third.

After retirement as a driver, Jarrett became promoter at Hickory Speedway and - briefly - at Metrolina Speedway in Charlotte. He next turned to radio/television as an analyst and expert commentator, winning numerous awards and becoming immensely popular. His television call on CBS of son Dale winning the 1993 Daytona 500 is remembered as a magical moment.

Reflections

Retired Observer motorsports reporter and ThatsRacin.com contributor Tom Higgins on Ned Jarrett:

I first saw him: In June of 1958 when he entered a Sportsman Division race at McCormick Field in Asheville.

First impression: This was one cool cat. His hair style was a crew-cut on top and duck-tails on the sides.

What people might not know about him: He became nicknamed "Gentleman Ned," but in his early racing years he had fiery rivalries with Junior Johnson, David Pearson and Billy Wade. ... He took the Dale Carnegie Course, "How To Win Friends and Influence People," to improve his public presence, figuring this would help further his racing career.

My favorite memory of him: His absolute joy - and that of his family - when he won the 1965 Southern 500.

Most memorable quote: "I've always believed in the power of prayer, but not on a scale like this." - Revealing that on the eve of the Southern 500 victory he had spoken to a Methodist Youth Fellowship group in Darlington. As he departed the meeting, the kids promised to pray for him to win.

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