Herbert Watson " Herb" Thomas ( born April 6, 1923 in Olivia, North Carolina; † August 9, 2000 in Sanford, North Carolina) was an American NASCAR driver and one of the most successful drivers in the 1950s.
He died at the age of 77 of a heart attack. Thomas inspired the character "Doc Hudson " in the Pixar movie "Cars".
Thomas, who was born in the small town of Olivia, North Carolina, worked in the 1940s as a farmer and in a sawmill before he turned to car racing.
In 1949, Thomas participated in the first race of NASCAR part in the Cup series known as the Strictly Stock and completed four starts in the first season. The following year he went to 13 races of the series at the start. He scored his first victory on the Martinsville Speedway with a private Plymouth.
In the 1951 season, Thomas started off with moderate success in his Plymouth and a victory with a Oldsmobile, before moving on the recommendation of his fellow drivers Marshall Teague in a Hudson Hornet. Thomas won the Southern 500 easy and simple so that the car as a Fabulous Hudson Hornet was known. This victory was only one of six within two months. With this attack late in the season Thomas won the championship just before Fonty Flock. With the help of his crew chief Smokey Yunick he became the first driver and car owner in one person who could win the championship.
In the following season, in 1952 Thomas was involved with his Hornet ( German " hornet " ) again in a tight race for the title in the fight with a flock, with Fonty's younger brother Tim Flock. Both drivers were able to win eight times in the season, but in the end secured Flock low lead the championship.
The answer to the narrow defeat in the title race gave Thomas in the 1953 season, which he dominated and in which he won a total of twelve times. At the end of the season he was the first two-time champion of the series. The same number of wins reached Thomas in the 1954 season, including in the Southern 500, but lost in the championship 's efficiency in moving the Lee Petty.
After four successful years with the Hudson Thomas moved into the 1955 season in Chevrolets and Buicks. A violent accident at the wheel of a Buick at a race in Charlotte, North Carolina, forced him to a half year break. After his return, he won for the third time at the Southern 500, this time in a Chevrolet. With two more wins in the season, he finished the championship in fifth place.
In the season of 1956 he was for a short time on his role as a driver and team owner at the same time, after he scored an early win of the season. For Yunick he could retract a victory and three wins in consecutive races for Carl Kiekhaefer. Towards the end of the season he was his own team manager again and was defeated in the battle for the championship of Buck Baker, when he seriously injured at the race in Shelby, North Carolina. This accident marked the end of his NASCAR career, although he in 1957 went for two and 1962 for a race at the start, but had no success.