Joe Weatherly: NASCAR's First Triple Champion… Almost. (Pt. 4b)

Crabber 1967 .@crabber1967Correspondent IMay 23, 2009

[continued from Part 4a]

The 1962 season had 53 races. Joe Weatherly, Richard Petty and Ned Jarrett each raced in 52 races that year and that was the order of finish in the final point standings.

Weatherly won the championship with nine wins, 39 Top Fives, 45 Top Tens, and seven poles. Petty had eight wins with Jarrett wining six times.

The Southern 500 of 1962 had caused a big problem for Joe Weatherly. 

The race was the 13th annual Southern 500 and Weatherly told track president Bob Colvin that he would not compete.


The Nichels Engineering Pontiacs take the green flag at Darlington to set more world records. Joe Weatherly was on eof the drivers who helped set records in the 1962 Pontiacs.

Colvin was furious, as he had a handshake deal with Weatherly and Colvin demanded that Weatherly honor the agreement. But Joe refused to have anything to do with the number thirteen.

Colvin finally devised a way to appease Weatherly. The 1962 Southern 500 was renamed the “The 12th Renewal of the Southern 500.” 

Weatherly captured the 1962 NASCAR championship on the strength of his nine wins in 52 starts. An amazing level of consistency contributed to Weatherly's title run as he finished out of the top 10 only seven times.

Weatherly drove 51 of his 52 starts in Bud Moore’s No. 8 Pontiac, and made one start in Fred Harb’s Ford at the 0.333-mile Southside Speedway just south of Richmond VA.

Weatherly finished the 1962 season with 30,836 points  with an average finish of 5.0, Petty with 28,440 and an average finish of 6.9, and Jarrett with 25,336 points and an average finish of 9.3.

1962 Joe and Fearless Freddie

In 1962 Joe Weatherly is shown racing against a rising star, Fred Lorenzen in the soon-to-be-famous No. 28 Holman-Moody Ford.

Weatherly would take his second championship in the 55 race 1963 season.

Joe would start 53 races, getting three wins, 20 top fives, 35 top tens and six poles. Joe had over $74,600 in winnings.

Richard Petty raced in 54 races in 1963 and took 14 wins, 30 top fives, 39 top tens and eight poles. 

Petty finished second in points with 31,170, compared to Weatherly’s 33,398 points. Petty took over $55,900 in prize money.

The points awarded for races in that era were on a formula totally different from what is used today, with point values for each race awarded by a combination of length of race and money won.

In 1963 Fred Lorenzen was the first NASCAR driver to break $100,000 in winnings for a season (one source says $122,587, while another says $113,750).

1963 was the same year that Arnold Palmer became the first golfer to break $100,000 in winnings.

Lorenzen finished third in the final season points for 1963, competing in just 29 races, compared to fourth place Ned Jarrett with 53 starts.

Over 2400 points separated the two drivers. Jarrett took over $ 45,800.

General Motors hit its peak in 1962 with the company taking about 51% of all car sales in the United States.

Racing had helped Pontiac move into third place in sales (the brand was sixth in 1957), a position Pontiac would hold through 1969.

General Motors was aware that the federal government was concerned that GM had too much of the market, and that there had been work done to possibly break up GM due to anti-trust (monopoly) laws.

As a company, General Motors was certainly concerned about drawing too much attention to itself.

Perhaps that was the reason that for 1963, Pontiac’s parent company cut back on the money used to support the racing efforts of both Chevrolet and Pontiac.

For whatever the reason, the cut back forced Weatherly’s chase of the 1963 championship into one of the most unusual championship efforts in the history of NASCAR.

Joe’s car owner, Bud Moore cut back on the races that he competed in, and Weatherly had to ‘bum’ rides with other owners at the events that Moore’s car’s did not contest.

In 1963 Weatherly drove races in cars owned by Floyd Powell, Pete Stewart, Worth McMillon, and Possum Jones, a total of 15 times, all in Pontiacs.

Weatherly also drove a Petty Enterprises Plymouth, a Chrysler for Major Melton, and a Dodge (twice) for Wade Younts.

In 1963 GM eventually announced that it would adhere to the racing ban that was still in effect with the Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Meanwhile Ford was totally ignoring the ‘ban’ in 1963 after returning to racing in 1962. Meanwhile the money for the GM teams was drying up.

Weatherly’s team eventually switched to Mercury, with Joe making his debut in a Bud Moore Mercury at the 45th race of the season, the Southern 500.

Weatherly used a Moore Pontiac in two small races at the end of the season before finishing the 1963 season in a Moore Mercury in the Golden State 400 at Riverside CA.

Weatherly won the 1963 championship driving five different makes of cars for eight different owners!

Joe started the 1964 season in a manner similar to his 1963 season, driving for different owners in the small races that began the year.

He ran the first race of the year in a No. 8 Moore Pontiac finishing second to Ned Jarrett, having led 84 laps in a 250 lap race at Concord NC.

Joe then drove a Bill Stroppe Mercury in the second race of the season, following that with races for Sherman Utsman and Ray Osborne both times in Fords.

In the third race of the 1964 season, run on December 3 1963, Weatherly finished 12th in Utsman’s Ford, 82 laps behind winner Wendell Scott. 

Buck Baker had taken the checkered flag when he finished his 200 laps (the official length of the race) for the apparent win.

But after Scott protested it was found (after the fans had gone home) that Scott was two laps ahead of Baker.

Wendell Scott is shown as the race winner, having run 202 laps of a 200 lap race.

It was the only win for Scott in the Grand National Series, and is still the only win in the series by an African-American.

By the fifth race of 1964 season, on the road course at Riverside CA, Joe was leading the season points. Joe was driving the new Bud Moore 1964 Mercury Marauder, wearing the now-familiar number 8.


Joe Weatherly shown driving his last race, at Riverside in 1964. Note the window rolled down and the fact that Joe is not using a shoulder harness.

Mechanical problems forced Weatherly into the pits early, and he lost laps while repairs were being made.

Weatherly  was back on the track trying to gather as many points as possible when, on his 85th lap of the 185-lap race, he crashed in the right-hand bend of the "esses" on the twisting road course.

There has been debate about what caused the accident. Some have speculated that an engine failure occurred, with the parts thrown out severing the brake lines.

Bud Moore has said that new type brake parts inside the drums (remember the cars all had four-wheel drum brakes) failed, causing brake failure.

Joe Weatherly, whose life was almost ended by a head injury so many years before, was killed when his helmeted head struck the wall. 

Coming soon:

Joe Weatherly, 1964, and the not-so-good “Good Old Days;” (including a personal perspective.)

[And I won't be so long-winded.]

Joe Weatherly, 1964, and NASCAR's Not-so-Good “Good Old Days.”


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