Charlotte, N.C. (October 15, 1961) – Little Joe Weatherly of Norfolk, Va., shoved his 1961 Pontiac in front with six laps to go Sunday and went on to win the National 400 late-model stock car race by three car lengths over Richard Petty.Weatherly, who had been among the leaders in the late stages of the race, forged into the lead after burly Junior Johnson of North Wilkesboro, N.C., who had set a blistering pace to lead from the 200th lap, lost a wheel and wrecked.
Weatherly and the 24-year-old Petty staged a stirring duel that had the 43,000 patrons standing for the final five laps. Petty almost caught the flying Weatherly on the final home stretch turn but couldn’t quite make it.
Pint-sized Bob Welborn of Atlanta finished third. Cotton Owens and Rex White, both of Spartanburg. S.C. finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Weatherly averaged 119.950 miles per hour for the distance and picked up better than $10,000 in first-place prize money.
It was a day of disappointment for one of the pre-race favorites. David Pearson, the 26-year-old Spartanburg, S.C., driver who won the pole position, was in and out of the race several times because of engine trouble.
Petty, driving a 1961 Plymouth, never led the race but stayed up front with the leaders for most of the day. He hung on Weatherly’s bumper for the final laps.
1. Joe Weatherly, Norfolk, Va.
2. Richard Petty, Randleman, N.C.
3. Bob Welborn, Atlanta
4. Cotton Owens, Spartanburg, S.C.
5. Rex White, Spartanburg, S.C.
6. Darel Dieringer, Indianapolis
7. Emanuel Zervakis, Richmond, Va.
8. Joe Lee Johnson, Chattanooga, Tenn.
9. Junior Johnson, North Wilkesboro, N.C.
10.J.C. Hendrix, Griffin, Ga.
11.Speedy Thompson, Charlotte
12.Johnny Allen, Atlanta
13.L.D. Austin, Greenville, N.C.
14.Woody Wilson, Mobile, Ala.
15.Tiny Lund, Cross, S.C.
16.Herman Beam, Johnson City, Tenn.
17.Buck Baker, Charlotte
18.Ned Jarrett, Conover, N.C.
19.Jimmy Pardue, North Wilkesboro, N.C.
20.Joe Jones, Winston-Salem, N.C.