Did Joe Weatherly Once Force a Race to Change Its Name Before He Would Compete in it?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about auto racing and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the hockey urban legends featured so far.

AUTO RACING URBAN LEGEND: Joe Weatherly once forced a race to change the name of the event before he agreed to race in it.

Joe Weatherly was one of the most superstitious race car drivers ever, so it makes sense that his death actually led to a NEW superstition for race car drivers.

But before that, Weatherly took his superstitions to almost unheard of levels in 1962.

Weatherly began his racing career as a motorcyclist before turning to race cars during the 1950s.

Here’s Weatherly with his 1958 Ford…

In April of 1962, Weatherly, who was deathly afraid of the number 13, was in position 13 at Bristol’s Volunteer 500. He successfully convinced the race officials to change his position to “12A” rather than 13.

But he had a much bigger problem in September of 1962.

Weatherly had made a handshake agreement with Track President Bob Colvin that he would race in the Southern 500 in Darlington, South Carolina 1962.

However, the Southern 500 began in 1950.

So 1962 would be the…yep, you guessed it, the 13th Annual Southern 500.

Weatherly refused to honor his agreement, because he was NOT going to be racing in a race titled 13th!

They seemed to be at an impasse before an ingenious, if bizarre, solution was found.

The 1962 Southern 500 was titled “The 12th Renewal of the Southern 500.”

Weatherly raced, and while he did not win the race, he helped add to his overall points total that saw him become the 1962 NASCAR Champion. He would repeat as champion in 1963.

The next year, however, Weatherly died in an accident in a race at the Riverside International Raceway. At the time, he had just been repaid a $100 loan he had given to his friend, so he had two $50 bills in his back pocket. For years, then, drivers shied away from $50 bills.

It is only fitting that a king of superstitions would be at the heart of one himself!

The legend is…

STATUS: Basically True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

One Response to “Did Joe Weatherly Once Force a Race to Change Its Name Before He Would Compete in it?”

  1. I was just reminiscing about my ‘cross-the-street’ neighbor, Joe Weatherly. Joe was 25 when I was 5. Westview Street in Norfolk, Virginia comes to mind. Joe bought the very first Pontiac Bonneville ever sold in the city of Norfolk, that was a 1958. I bought it used right behind him, in 1961. I was there to watch Joe win the Augusta [Georgia] “300” in his 389 Starfire in 1962. That was the last I saw of him……

    David Brickman, Virginia Beach, Virginia

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