Which NASCAR Driver Has Won the Southern 500 the Most?
The Southern 500 is a rarified NASCAR track. With over 70 years of history behind it, Darlington Raceway is the sport’s oldest superspeedway race, with a mountain of evidence showing that only the best drivers can conquer its unique egg-like course design.
“The Track Too Tough to Tame” has left many egos bruised and vehicles damaged. But a few legends managed to win at Darlington multiple times. Here’s the NASCAR driver who’s won the Southern 500 the most:
Which NASCAR driver has won the Southern 500 the most?
Darlington Raceway is a track where NASCAR drivers go to prove they are part of the game’s elite class. According to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, 75 of the first 116 Darlington races were won by drivers already enshrined in Charlotte, and a total of 22 different HOF members have won at the site.
Jeff Gordon holds the record for the most Southern 500 wins with six. The first of those wins came in an epic 1995 showdown with Dale Earnhardt Sr. — who is tied for the fourth-most wins with three — that was decided by 0.66 of a second. This victory set Gordon on course to win four consecutive Southern 500s, a feat still unmatched in the years since.
Cale Yarborough (five) and Bobby Allison (four) sit just behind Gordon in the all-time rankings. But no discussion of the best Darlington drivers is complete without David Pearson. He tops the list for the most wins (10), poles (12), and times winning from the pole (four). Earnhardt is second for most overall wins with nine, followed by Gordon with seven.
Notable Southern 500 winners over the years
The Southern 500 was introduced during the 1950 NASCAR season. As explained on NASCAR’s blog, The Darlington Raceway was a new frontier for a competition that only had two seasons to its name. At the time, most NASCAR tracks were about half a mile long, the sole exception being the Daytona Beach-Road Course. Darlington went even bigger by being 1.25 miles long.
The first Southern 500 displayed all of the ambition of a nascent league. It set series records for the biggest car field (75), race length (500 miles), and attendance (about 25,000), while providing a prize fund four times larger than the next biggest purse ($25,320).
Harold Brasington, a retired racer and peanut farmer from South Carolina, created the track. He first had the idea for the course in the ’30s. But the project was delayed by World War II and other less world-altering obstacles. Brasington would later receive the NASCAR Landmark Award for his contributions to the sport.
The Southern 500 is now part of NASCAR folklore. It was at Darlington that Bill Elliott became the first driver to win the Winston Million (a Small Slam that awarded a $1 million bonus for anyone who pulled it off) in 1985. Jeff Gordon did the same in ’97, just about holding off Jeff Burton on the final lap. In 1992, Darrell Waltrip won the last major race he had yet to capture in what would become the last of his 84 career victories.
Winning the Southern 500 remains a signature moment for any driver.
Which NASCAR team has won the Southern 500 the most?
Hendrick Motorsports has more Southern 500 titles than any other team with 11. Gordon makes up most of those wins. Terry Labonte and Jimmie Johnson also contributed to the team’s best run where a Hendrick team member won seven Southern 500 races from 1995 to 2004.
It would be hyperbolic to call it a dynasty. But no team comes close to matching the success of Joe Gibbs Racing in the 21st century. They have won eight times in that timespan, with five of them coming since 2013.
Here are all the other teams that currently have more than two Southern 500 wins to their name:
- Junior Johnson & Associates: 4 (1969, 1974, 1978, 1994)
- Roush Racing: 4 (1993, 1999, 2005. 2006)
- Wood Brothers Racing: 4 (1968, 1976, 1977, 1981)
- Herb Thomas: 3 (1951, 1954, 1955)
- Richard Childress Racing: 3 (1987, 1989, 1990)