The Strangest Superstitions in NASCAR History
When it comes to superstition, NASCAR is about as bad as baseball. Racing lore often dictates what a driver may practice when it comes to finding success on the race track.
On the weekend of a race, Davey Allison would watch a movie. If he ran well that weekend, the same movie would be watched the next weekend. Sterling Marlin ate the same type of bologna sandwich prior to his two Daytona 500 wins, but when that ritual was disrupted he wasn't able to find the same success at Daytona again.
Dale Earnhardt would leave a building out the same door he walked in.
Along with peanut shells and $50 bills, here are some of the strangest superstitions in NASCAR history.
Peanuts are an excellent snack to mindlessly crunch on during any sporting event, not just NASCAR. However, this superstition has its roots in the early days of NASCAR, and not in a positive manner.
According to racing lore, prior to World War II when auto racing was held at the local fairground, drivers and crew would work on their rides underneath the grandstands. However, considering the location of the fans compared to the location of the cars, dropped peanut shells were more or less an irritant to the racers.
So of course, when a car was wrecked, there would be remnants of peanut shells strewn throughout the carnage. Fatalities were also uncommon during auto racing in that era, so peanut shells have taken on a status as a harbinger of doom to the more superstitious racing contingent.
Isn't it crazy how some of NASCAR's most infamous moments happened at this 2.66-mile monster of the South?
We've seen Dale Earnhardt narrowly avert death there in 1996. 1970 champion Bobby Isaac stopped in the middle of the 1973 race and got out of his car after telling his crew he heard a voice telling him to do so. We saw Carl Edwards fly towards the catch fence and narrowly avert tragedy in 2009. All this and much more have transpired at the Alabama speedway.
According to the residents of Talladega County, the land that the speedway sits on was once the home of the Abihka Tribe in the 19th century. Something in the land must inspire racing, because according to legend a chief was killed during a horse race. When the tribe was forced to move off the land by order of President Andrew Jackson, a medicine man cursed the land and anyone who would ever live on it.
Once you think about it, it is actually pretty apt to have a race at Talladega near Halloween. It's a spooky race coupled with an even spookier legend.
To be honest with you, I find $50 bills to be a good thing. I could always use another $50 bill in my wallet, and I find it hard to believe that some people would say otherwise.
But when it comes to NASCAR, $50 bills are deemed a sign of bad luck.
According to legend, when Joe Weatherly was killed at Riverside in 1964, two $50 bills were found in his breast pocket. Although the story is disputed and no one knows how true it is, this is a superstition that still lingers in the NASCAR garage to this day.
The Color Green
This is a very old superstition, not just in NASCAR but in all of motorsports. The origins of this superstition date back to 1920, when Indy 500 champion Gaston Chevrolet, younger brother of Chevrolet founder Louis Chevrolet, was killed while driving a green car at a Beverly Hills race track.
It contrasts with such drivers as Darrell Waltrip and Harry Gant, both of whom found success in the Winston Cup while driving green cars. Other drivers who have won or found success in green cars include Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon.
However, drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick have had numerous issues in green cars. The assessment on Junior may seem like much, but think about it. He hasn't had the same amount of success as he did when driving the red No. 8 Chevy for his father's team.
This is a story that had a happy ending for both NASCAR's biggest name and a 6-year-old girl from Kentucky.
Going into NASCAR's 50th season in 1998, Dale Earnhardt was 0-for-19 in The Great American Race, the season-opening Daytona 500. Everything imaginable had happened to him to keep him from winning NASCAR's biggest prize. Last-lap passes, engine failures, crashes…it was as if the gods of racing planned to keep him down for the duration of his career.
Meanwhile, 6-year-old Wessa Miller was an Earnhardt fan with spina bifida, a condition where the spinal cord is malformed and without the protective soft tissue and skeletal coverings. She had to use a wheelchair to get around.
Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Miller's family was able to make a trip to meet Dale Earnhardt in Daytona for the 500. Miller had a gift for Earnhardt, one that she believed would give him a little luck: A penny.
Following their meeting, Earnhardt took some glue that was normally used by the tire changers during pit stops and glued Wessa's penny to the dashboard. He would go on to win the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt tried to keep the penny with him, as he wanted that eighth title, but the penny ultimately stayed in the car, where it remains to this day in the Richard Childress Racing Museum.
Other Notable Superstitions
- Shaving- Facial hair is often associated with success behind the wheel. Jimmie Johnson has been sporting a beard for a few years and he is easily the greatest driver of our generation. Dale Earnhardt rarely found success without his famous mustache, if at all. Shaving on race day is also a no-no, as it is considered bad luck.
- Bill France Jr. knocked on wood prior to meetings.
- If a superstitious driver runs well while wearing a certain t-shirt, they'll sometimes wear the same shirt the next weekend. If they don't run well with that shirt, sometimes it will end up in the trash.
- The number 13 is considered unlucky in NASCAR as well, although Camping World Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter had considerable success with the number.
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