The History of NASCAR Superstitions


by Liz Allison

NASCAR drivers being superstitious is nothing new. In fact, some of the superstitions of NASCAR drivers today dates back to the 1920’s, before NASCAR existed.

Many current drivers cannot even tell you what the story is behind the most prominent superstitions hovering over the garage area, only that it’s been known for years…. so they just go with it.

So, what are those superstitions? Some of them just might surprise you.

1. Peanuts
Legend has it that during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, there was a run of racing related deaths where peanuts were found in race cars after a racing related fatality. Word quickly got around and peanuts became a no no at the race track. In reality, it was most likely that local tracks would sell peanuts at their concessions…the spectators would then drop peanuts on the track, making it easy for peanuts to find their way in the car.

2. Green Race Cars
Not racing green cars dates back to1920, when Indianapolis 500 champion Gaston Chevrolet (younger brother of Chevrolet Motor Company co-founder Louis Chevrolet) was killed in an accident while racing a green car at a California track.

Drivers then started avoiding green race cars, which was relatively easy in the early years of racing because sponsorship was not as much a part of racing, leaving the car color choice up to the driver.

The fear of green cars was somewhat put to rest in the late 1980’s when drivers like Harry Gant (Skoal Bandit) and Darrell Waltrip (Mountain Dew) made their way to Victory Lane numerous times in green race cars.

This superstition does not have the steam it once had ….but rest assured, you can still find drivers in the garage area that would prefer to never have to race a green car.

3. Not Shaving on Race Day
With the scrappy unshaven look being popular among NASCAR drivers of today, you could chalk this one up as laziness but many drivers will refuse to have the clean shaven look on race day due to fear of bad luck.

Legend has it that Doc Mackenzie(Depression-era racer) always had his “lucky” goatee on race day but for some reason, he decided to shave it off the morning of a race in Milwaukee in 1936. He died in a accident that same day.

Laziness or superstition….the verdict may be out on this one.

4. Taping Items to the Dash of the Race Car
This is a newer superstition and one that has become more prominent in the last ten years. Fans many times will give drivers four leaf clovers, a keepsake of some kind, quotes… and then drivers would tape the item to their dash of their race car.

Many drivers believe this act is the kiss of death for a rotten day on the track, therefore choosing to not tape anything to their dash.

5. Fifty Dollar Bill
The origin of this superstition is arguable, as there seems to be different stories on where this superstition came from but most would agree it was when two-time NASCAR champion Joe Weatherly was given two fifty dollar bills by a friend just before the beginning of a race at Riverside in 1964. Weatherly died in a crash that day, and the fifty dollar bills were supposedly found in his driver’s uniform.

Dale Earnhardt Sr and Tony Stewart, both champions of the sport, were two of the most fearful of the dreaded fifty on race day.

6. Talladega Curse
Legend has it that on old medicine man put a curse on the land the sprawling 2.66 mile facility is built on. It’s also been said to be built on a native American burial ground, so therefore haunted. Curse or not, many strange and unexplained things and numerous deaths have happened at Talladega dating back to its first race in1969.

Bobby Isaac parked his car while leading the race at Talladega in 1973 because he said there was a voice that told him to park the car…. and he did. Tragic deaths have taken place through the years at the Alabama track, both on and off the track.

Obviously drivers cannot avoid racing at Talladega but that doesn’t keep them from fearing the curse of Talladega.

7. Car #13
It would be hard to find a driver in the garage area that would willingly race the #13. Many forms of racing will not allow the number in their field.

In the history of NASCAR, only one win has ever been recorded in the car #13 and that was with Johnny Rutherford in 1963 at Daytona. That unlucky 13 has 530 starts, one win and 164 DNF’s. Suffice to say, the ole #13 is not so lucky in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.