Superstitions: No green, no cats, no peanuts!
What, that's not still the rule?
TOM HIGGINS - ThatsRacin.com
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
"You will run," shot back Colvin. "And I can make you. We have a
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
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
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
To this day, most NASCAR drivers refuse to accept $50 bills.