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Halloween Mythology in NASCAR

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Tim Richmond leads a group of cars through the esses at Riverside International Raceway. NASCAR's premiere series raced at Riverside until 1988. Photo courtesy of RacingOne / Contributor via Getty Images

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NASCAR has a long and rich history dating back to 1948, and it’s got more than its share of mythology, too. When it comes to Halloween, the spookiest holiday of the year, history and mythology collide in a big way.

The first NASCAR race of any kind on Halloween took place in 1957 at Columbia Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in Cayce, South Carolina. There, Hall of Famer Joe Weatherly (2015) won a 200-lapper in NASCAR’s short-lived Convertible Division. Driving the Ford Motor Co. factory-backed Holman-Moody Racing Ford Sunliner, Weatherly bested a 16-car field to take home the $800 first-place money.

Seven years later, Weatherly tragically would become the reason for a huge NASCAR superstition that persists to this very day. Weatherly won consecutive premier series championships in 1962 and ’63, but on Jan. 19, 1964, he was killed in a crash during the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside International Raceway while driving a Mercury owned by fellow Hall of Famer Bud Moore (2011).

As legend has it, two $50 bills were found in Weatherly’s breast pocket after his crash. While never conclusively proven one way or the other, this rumor was immediately perceived as meaning big bills were bad luck. Even now, NASCAR drivers avoid $50 bills at all costs, especially on race day. Dale Earnhardt (2010), for one, made no bones about his dislike of $50 bills.

Drivers have plenty of other superstitions: Some eat exactly the same meal every race day; others wear a lucky t-shirt or get dressed in the same order prior to each race.

Yet another example is the lucky rabbit’s foot Martin Truex Jr. carried in his fire suit during his championship run in 2017. And the color green and peanut shells on pit road are thought to bring bad luck, so both are strictly taboo.

So is this witch’s brew of superstitions real or imagined? Hard to say definitively, but there’s little doubt that some drivers believe the superstitions, which in the end is all that matters.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and a veteran of more than 20 years in the NASCAR media industry.

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