The Superstition Of The Green Race Car

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer INovember 1, 2008

When Indianapolis 500 champion Gaston Chevrolet, who was reported to have been driving a green car, was killed in Beverly Hills, California in 1920, the color green phenomenon began.

Darrell Waltrip was reportedly not happy at first when he found out his car would be green and white after becoming sponsored by Gatorade.

Waltrip went on to win a lot of races in that car.

Harry Gant, like Waltrip, drove a green car sponsored by Skoal Bandit and won races. Gant even won four consecutive races which earned him the label “Mr. September.”

Tim Richmond refused to drive a Folgers Decaffeinated car because the primary color was green; he ended up driving the regular Folgers brand car which was red and white.

The color green is just one of the many superstitions that have floated around the garage when it comes to NASCAR drivers.  

A 50 dollar bill is like a black cat in the eyes of a NASCAR driver and don’t you dare eat peanuts around someone’s race car. They might have a heart attack.

“(David) Pearson would go berserk if he saw you with peanuts around his race car," says Larry McReynolds. "He was not happy about peanuts, at all. Davey (Allison) wasn't real fond of peanuts or peanut shells, but not to the extent that Pearson was. “

"I never heard Earnhardt or Irvan say anything about them. I haven't heard much about peanuts for years from the younger generation, it's been mostly the retired ones or veterans we have now.”

"Pearson was just very superstitious."

Rusty Wallace very much believes in coins that are or are not heads up when found.

 And who can forget how Joe Weatherly refused to race in the 13thAnnual Southern 500 at Darlington? Or how he wouldn’t start a race from the 13th starting position?

However like Waltrip and Gant, there are drivers driving green race cars that are trying to break the curse.

In 2000 Bobby Labonte drove an all green number 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet to four wins and the series Championship.

 This season Kyle Busch drove an all green number 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota to victory lane in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Carl Edwards is really familiar with the color green. Last season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Edwards drove a green Scott’s sponsored car to four wins and the Championship.

This season in the Sprint Cup Series he drives a green Aflac car part time.

It’s come with mixed results.

He won at Texas earlier this year then finished second to Kyle Busch’s green car in Daytona. He finished second again to Jimmie Johnson at Indianapolis.

However, when driving the Aflac car in Charlotte three weeks ago, he suffered engine gremlins and many feel that race has potentially cost him the Championship.

Next season he can chase the title again and ironically he’ll have to do it driving a green and black Aflac car full time as his current sponsor Office Depot is moving over to Tony Stewart.

“People don't like green because that's the color of money," says Jeremy Mayfield. "I don't mind the color of money. I'll take all the green you got."

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped his two year winless streak in Michigan earlier this year, he did so by driving a green and white Amp Energy Chevrolet.  In Earnhardt Jr.’s case green was lucky instead of unlucky.

Now that drivers are succeeding in green cars, does that mean the curse is over?

Not if you asked Jeff Gordon after his horrifying accident at Las Vegas in March. Gordon hit the backstretch wall head on and said it was one of the hardest hits he’s ever taken.

Both Gordon and owner Rick Hendrick both demanded that Las Vegas install the safer wall along that part of the race track.

That day Gordon was driving a green and yellow Nicorette sponsored car.

Nicorette is one Gordon’s associate sponsors who have their name as the primary sponsor in chosen races. Those chosen races of the Gordon-Nicorette combination have not ended well.

After the crash as Vegas, he finished thirteenth in Phoenix, eleventh in Chicagoland, eighth in Richmond and ninth last weekend in Atlanta. For Gordon, as many believe, green has been unlucky.

However, on Halloween Friday at the Texas Motorspeedway, Jeff Gordon was never so happy to see green.

Once again driving the green Nicorette car, Gordon “smoked” the competition during qualifying for the Dickies 500 putting down a lap that was good enough for his sixty-fourth career pole, but first ever at Texas.

“That green machine is starting on the pole,” he said.

Gordon’s hoping to take that green machine, as Edwards did in April, to victory lane in Texas and officially end the curse/superstition of the green race car.