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Superstitions: No green, no cats, no peanuts!
What, that's not still the rule?
      By TOM HIGGINS - ThatsRacin.com

Joe Weatherly was angry and adamant that September week in 1962. Bob Colvin was just as fiery and forceful.

"I won't run the race!" stormed the colorful Weatherly. "And you can't make me!"

"You will run," shot back Colvin. "And I can make you. We have a handshake deal!"

At issue was the 13th annual staging of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, which at that time was NASCAR's supreme event. Weatherly's problem was with the No. 13. The former motorcycle racing champion, who was en route to two straight major NASCAR stock car titles in 1962 and '63, simply loathed the numeral. Colvin, the colorful president of the Darlington track, hated to give in. But he saw a way out that would appease Weatherly.

The Southern 500 of 1962 was renamed. It became "The 12th Renewal of the Southern 500." Weatherly got to race.

Colvin saved face. All this comes flashing back to mind because a pal in racing, Ray Kilgore, asked me the other day to share anecdotes about drivers and crewmen and team owners who had superstitions. "There don't seem to be many of them nowadays," said Ray.

You know, it seems that's true. Maybe it's because the competitors of this era are too busy checking their stock portfolios, the latest high-tech toy available for their cushy motor homes or how high and how fast their private jet planes will fly.

"None of these present-day guys seem superstitious," said hall-of-fame crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson, who maintains a tie to the sport as a consultant after fielding so many major winners in the 1960s-'80s for drivers such as David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Benny Parsons and Buddy Baker. "Maybe that's 'cause they've got so much. But back 40 decades ago..." Wilson laughed. "A lot of them, heck most of 'em, were nuts when it came be being superstitious," continued Wilson. "David Pearson is as good a friend as I have got in the world, but he hated the No. 13, black cats and peanuts in the garage area or the pits. I've seen him absolutely become livid about someone bringing peanuts in the garage and shelling them. "Also, David pretty much confirmed to me that he drove 25 miles out of the way to get to the track at Charlotte one time 'cause a black cat ran across the road in front of him.

"Dale Earnhardt is another one that went nuts - again forgive the pun - about peanuts in the pits. He would go ballistic. Of course, this highly amused Dale's best friend, Neil Bonnett, who on frequent occasions always seemed to have some peanuts around."

For many years green cars also were taboo in NASCAR. Why? There are as many theories as exist about peanuts. For whatever reason, it was not a happy day when the new pairing of driver Darrell Waltrip and team owner Junior Johnson revealed that their Mountain Dew sponsorship would field a car with a green and while paint scheme.

"It looks like a damn Christmas tree!" groused NASCAR veteran Elmo Langley. Langley later relented, a little, when he drove a green and white race car, and then the NASCAR pace car before his untimely death of a heart attack during a NASCAR event in Japan.

I knew that NASCAR’s great stars of several decades ago were superstitious. But I never realized the depth of their belief in the occult until talking to my boyhood friend Waddell Wilson this week. “There were a few of ‘em, including Pearson and Dick Hutcherson, that would visit fortune-tellers in local towns a night or two before a race.” said Wilson. "They never shared with me what they were told, and to tell, the truth , I didn’t want to find out.”

But to end this column let’s go
back to Joe Weatherly. In 1964 the incredibly talented, colorful Virginian was running for his third straight major NASCAR championship with the great Bud Moore-owned team of Spartanburg, S.C. On the 86th of 185 laps at the Riverside Road Course in California, Weatherly hit the wall. He apparently died on impact.

Superstition? Some friend had owed Weatherly $100. Just prior to the start of the race, the friend had given Weatherly two $50 bills, which Joe stuck in the pocket of his driver’s uniform. They were there when he died.

To this day, most NASCAR drivers refuse to accept $50 bills.

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