Spotlight: Herb Thomas

By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher

In this spotlight, we’’ll spotlight the racing career of Herbert Watson Thomas. He was commonly known as “Herb” Thomas.

He was born in Olivia, North Carolina on April 6, 1923. Before getting into racing, he was a former and worked at a sawmill in the 1940s.

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Thomas was inspired to get into auto racing after watching “Cars” and seeing the character “Doc Hudson.”

He got started in the NASCAR Strictly Stock series in 1949. In his first year competing in the series, he made four starts.

Thomas completed for a decade in the series now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He had 48 wins in 229 races.

In addition, he had 39 poles and 122 Top 5’s.

His last win came during the 1956 season, as he had five wins. He also had three poles that season in 48 starts.

Thomas’ final win of his career came on June 3, 1956 when he won the NASCAR Grand National event at Merced Fairgrounds at Merced, California.

He also competed in one race in 1956 in the NASCAR Convertible Series. He finished in the Top 5 of that race.

He also competed in eight event that is now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. He had three wins during the 1956 calendar year along with three Top 5 finishes.

His final race came at the 1962 Gwyn Staley 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway near North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

He was a two-time NASCAR Grand National Series Champion in 1951 and 1953. He also was a three-time Southern 500 winner in 1951, 1954, and 1955.

“As one of NASCAR’s all-time, top 50 drivers, Herb Thomas enjoyed one of the finest careers a driver has had in the 52-year history of our sport,” NASCAR president Bill France said at the time of his death. “The two championships he earned in the 1950s were important contributions in helping establish NASCAR’s place in motorsports.”

Plus, he also led the series in wins three-times in 1952, 1953, and 1954.

Thomas was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013.

He also was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994. In addition, he was inducted posthumously into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2017.

Thomas died on Aug. 9, 2000 at 77-years-old. He died from a heart attack in Sanford, North Carolina at his home. 

“He was one of the superstars when I was just getting started,” said Junior Johnson, another early NASCAR driver, according to the Journal Times.

“Herb was one of the great competitors of our sport,” Johnson said. “He was very, very capable of winning any race he went to. A good person, too.”

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