The 1965 NASCAR Grand National season got underway at the Riverside Raceway in California

Sunday 17th January 1965

The 1965 NASCAR Grand National season got underway at the Riverside Raceway in California. Parnelli Jones took the lead on the drop of the green flag with Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett in hot pursuit. Jones would lead the first 36 laps before his Mercury began to experience problems in the valve train. Junior Johnson took over for two laps before Dan Gurney slipped into the lead he would hold until lap 81. On lap 82 it was Johnson out front again but Gurney went back to the point on lap 91. A. J. Foyt muscled his way to the front on lap 92 and he managed to hold on to that lead until lap 128. On lap 129 Dan Gurney almost effortlessly moved his Wood Brothers mount back to the lead and the rest of the way it was all Gurney. The checked flag waved on lap 185 giving Gurney his third consecutive Motor Trend 500 win. In fact, at that point, Gurney had won all three races at the track and those were, to date, his only NASCAR wins. After the race, Gurney told the crowd of 61,474 who had spent almost six hours watching the race, that he “never strained the car at all. I was in a good position and never had to stand on it”. Gurney completed the 500 miles at an average speed of 87.708 mph, slowed by 2 caution flags, and would finish 27 seconds ahead of second place.A.J. Foyt was challenging Junior Johnson for second place with 16 laps to go when he got his Holman-Moody Ford into the dirt in turn nine and flipped end over end, another crash that has made numerous highlight films and was used in a movie or two. A.J. was transported to the hospital in a great deal of pain. Doctors determined he had suffered a broken back and a fractured left heal. His condition was listed as “Fair”. A freak accident resulted in the death of one 20 year old race fan. The fan and several of his friends were watching the race from a extended fork lift between turns one and two. Dick Powell spun in that area and slid into the safe embankment and in the excitement to see the accident, the fans on the fork lift all went to the same side of the platform at the same time putting the forklift off balance. The forklift tipped and crashed to the ground killing the fan, Ronald Pickle of San Diego and injuring three other fans. There was also a fire on pit road as the Ford of Ned Jarrett burst into flames on a routine stop. Fire crews were on the scene immediately and put out the blaze.

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