DARLINGTON, S.C. − Marshall Griffin sees it as a homecoming, now that the replica Oldsmobile for the first Southern 500’s inaugural entry is back at the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum and NMPA Hall of Fame.
That’s because his uncle, Bobby, owned the original first entry while working as sales manager at the former Florence Oldsmobile dealership, known as Griffin Motors. That original car was not only sponsored by Griffin Motors but also by what was then Darlington International Speedway.
In the spring of 1950, a promo shot was taken in front of a billboard promoting the Southern 500 that included NASCAR founder, Bill France Sr., as he watched Bobby Griffin complete the race’s first entry form.
“That car was also a rolling billboard to promote the first Southern 500,” Marshall said.
That Southern 500 first entry, driven by Hall of Famer Buck Baker, started 69th. It finished 28th out of 75 cars. Baker’s car was part of the Southern 500’s first crash, on Lap 176.
As a sponsor in the Southern 500, Griffin Motors later was part of Southern 500 winners in 1952 (driven by Fonty Flock) and ’53 (Baker).
The first entry’s replica was delivered Monday after a stay at the hotel, The Daytona, that is across from Daytona International Speedway. Chip Wile, former president of Darlington Raceway and current president at Daytona, even drove the replica in this year’s Historic North Turn Legends Beach Parade in Florida.
More than 30 years ago, Marshall got the idea of getting a replica of the 1950 first-entry car built because his father would often reminisce about it. And Marshall saw to it that it was done.
Now, Marshall could not be happier that the replica is back in Darlington’s museum for the first time since 2018.
“It feels like it’s back home where it belongs,” said Marshall, whose father, Tommy, was Griffin Motors’ service manager. “That was the first car my family raced, period. That’s where it all began for Griffin Motors.”
Another Bobby Griffin-owned car, in its original form, is the Roarin’ Relic, which is NASCAR’s oldest original stock car, was the first Darlington Museum entry in 1965. Driven by Paul Goldsmith, that car won NASCAR’s final Daytona beach/road course event. But the Roarin’ Relic now has been in the Daytona Beach’s Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America Museum since last year.
The Darlington museum opens back up this weekend for guests. The museum will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The museum offers free admission to fans who hold a race ticket.