Halloween Racing at Talladega Can Emphasize a Driver's Superstitions

Janelle JalbertCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2009

LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 26: Johnny Sauter, driver of the #13 Fun Sand Chevrolet drives during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Las Vegas 3503 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 26, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Fans who have been around racing understand that superstitions can play a big role in how a driver comes to view a given race. Even track officials are not immune from feelings of superstitions and omens, as the Talladega track president proved last week by calling in a special favor from a Creek medicine man.

"I find myself liable to every superstition out there," Brian Scott admitted in an interview with Craig Wack, . "I have superstitions for the color green, $50 bills, peanuts, the number 13, don't say anything about winning before the race starts…If you can make us believe something [is bad luck] we'll believe it.”

Some racing superstitions are so ingrained into the racing culture that it is hard to find their origins, but finding stories to support each superstition are easy. Lesser know 'no-no's include eating fried chicken and carrying $50 bills, but one of the most well-known issues involves the color green. The prohibition against the color green is often referenced for a green colored vehicle, when in reality, it is against any green item throughout the pits.

Local track racers have told stories about crew members having to wear green items, like socks, in the pits because of luggage issues in traveling between tracks and other problems. The outcome went one of two ways: the driver refusing to take the vehicle out until all green items were removed, only to have a successful run later, or a driver who went out on the track and ended up in a mess after ignoring the green in the pits.

The belief that the number thirteen is cursed is common both inside and outside of racing circles, but NASCAR has taken action to help cope with that fear. Pit stalls are labeled with numbers, but early on no one wanted pit number thirteen. As a result, the order on pit road has a little hiccup.  It goes: 10, 11, 12, 12a, 14, 15… Sometimes it’s just easier to go with the flow, even as a sanctioning body. What’s interesting is that the number 13 brought Johnny Sauter good luck at Las Vegas in September.

Ron Hornaday Jr. was cagey about his superstitions for good reason, “You can find out what [superstitions the other drivers have] and play with them a little, which is why I don't talk about what I'm superstitious about."

"Peanuts are a big one for me, and I don't pick up tails-up pennies," Todd Bodine adds. "I'm not real superstitious, more just a creature of habit in what I do pre-race. Everybody's got something that's strange, and I've been around this sport so long that nothing surprises me."

The prohibition against peanuts is second only to the color green issue. Like other urban myths, it is hard to track the origins of this belief, but numerous sources point to an incident at a race in Nashville in 1937. Supposedly, eating peanuts on race day will result in a horrible death. In that 1937 stock car race someone had a grudge and sprinkled peanut shells on five cars in the event.  All five drivers crashed, and one of them, Howdy Cox, died.

Scott acknowledges working on his superstitious side, though peanuts remain an issue. "I've lightened up a little bit. ... I still don't like peanuts around our hauler ... and I would prefer if no one would be carrying around $50 bills."

In a creepy coincidence for Hallow-Dega, the Southern Peanut Growers are sponsoring the Kid’s Zone for the race weekend. The festivities include a “peanut field” and free samples of peanuts. For the sake of the Camping World Truck Series and the Sprint Cup Series, everyone should hope that none of those peanuts make their way into the garage or the pits.