Herman Beam

Herman Beam

11/12/1929 - 27/8/1980

Herman Beam raced in NASCAR from the late 50s into the early 60s. Herman drove slowly around track aprons, collecting his share of the purse for some seven years. He never had an accident and he holds the record for the most number of consecutive finishes (84). Herman make a pretty good living and at one time he was earning more money than Fireball Roberts.

Herman Beam was was a chemical engineering graduate from the University of North Carolina. Herman was a heavy set man who wore large horned rim glasses which made him look like a college professor. And true to his nickname 'The Turtle', Herman and his Ford Galaxy were slow, very slow. Herman had figured out that you could make a good living by building a decent car and then simply driving it around track at a safe pace on a line that no one else was using, to then collect a share of the purse after the race.

At the time there were a number of independents racing without factory support. Money was tight and the attrition rate was high, about 40% in most races. Since most races paid $100 or more for a top twenty finish, Herman realised that if he did not break down or have an accident he could make a pretty good living working on Sunday afternoons.

Thus Herman drove around the apron of the track avoiding accidents for three or four hours and then collected his winnings. He was so successful in his commercial strategy that during one five race stretch in 1961, he earned more money than Fireball Roberts.

In 1958, Beam ran 20 races, with a best of tenth at Weaverville. The following year, Beam was fourth in the final standings, with 12 top-10s in 30 events.

Beam dropped to 12th in the points in 1960, with a fourth at Hillsboro in 26 races. Beam was fourth at Spartanburg in 1961, then won the pole at Richmond in 1962 when rain forced drivers to draw for grid positions. On the pace lap, he pulled into the pits and waited for the pack to pass in order to avoid any risk of an accident when the green flag came out! In 1963, his last season, Beam ran 25 races, including the Daytona 500.

Between 1957 and 1963 Herman Beam started 194 races and earned $42,161. He had 3 top five finishes, due to higher than normal attrition, and 57 top ten.He never won and he was never famous, but everyone in the sport respected him, he never got in anyone's way, and never caused an accident.

He holds the record for the most consecutive races without a DNF with a tally of 84. He was also the first person every to be black flagged at Daytona. That was in 1960 in the qualifying races. Somehow Herman forgot to put on his helmet! It took 8 laps before the officials noticed and flagged him into the pits.

Herman tired of driving and during the 1963 season and, with support from Ford, put a young Cale Yarborough in the car for 14 races. Yarborough was 17th in the Southern 500 and posted three top-five finishes. Yarborough returned in 1964 to run 17 races for Beam but he left and Larry Thomas completed the season. In 10 races together at the end of 1964 Thomas earned nine top 10 finishes and five top five finishes for Beam including a second-place finish at Hickory Motor Speedway behind David Pearson.

Thomas was then hired by a Chrysler factory team to replace driver Jimmy Pardue, who’d been killed in a racing accident that September. On his way to join the team, Thomas was killed in a traffic accident in January 1965.

J.T. Putney drove for Beam in 1965, finishing second at Valdosta and seventh in the final standings. However costs were escalating and Beam sold up and retired in 1966 after fielding a car in only two events.

Herman Beam never tasted victory as a Cup series driver or car owner, but he did taste victory one time as a Cup crew chief in 1966.

Beam continued to run a garage in Johnson City and worked with local drivers, being instrumental in the early career of Brad Teague.

He died in 1980 at the age of 50.

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