Herb Thomas truly was one of NASCAR’s original drivers, competing in the series from its inception and setting high marks with his opening runs. Years later, he served as the inspiration for the character Doc Hudson in the movie, “Cars.” Here are five reasons that Herb Thomas is a Hall of Famer.
From the start
In 1949, Thomas competed in NASCAR’s first race in what was then the Strictly Stock division. He made a handful of starts the following season as he began to transition from farmer and sawmill worker to NASCAR driver.
Thomas came close to snaring more titles. He finished as the series runner-up in 1952 and 1954 — giving him a four-year stretch of finishing no worse than second in the standings — and was the runner-up once more in 1956, the season in which he survived a near-fatal crash in October.
In the clutch
Thomas was the first three-time winner of the prestigious Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He won the premier race in 1951,’54 and ’55.
Thomas still ranks 13th on NASCAR’s all-time Cup winners list with his 48 career victories. He earned those in 228 starts, giving him an average winning percentage of 21.05.
Thomas set a new standard in NASCAR, becoming the series’ first two-time champion. He won the titles in 1951, a year in which he had seven wins and 18 top-10 finishes (16 of them top fives), and again in 1952, when he won 12 races and posted 31 top-10 finishes (27 of them top fives), in 37 starts.