The first NASCAR race took place in 1949, but it’s been around for much longer than that in an unofficial capacity. The origins of NASCAR are rather dark, which we’ll get into, but it makes for an exciting genesis story. Today, NASCAR is one of the most popular sporting events for viewers and bettors in the United States.
There are tons of urban legends and myths that NASCAR would vehemently deny. Rather than deny these stories though, they’ll simply claim that no such thing ever existed, even if more than one driver or team has become the victim of said legends.
NASCAR is big business, and with big business, money talks. The team owners and executives want to make the most money while giving their drivers as little as possible, just like every other sport. Here are 20 urban legends that NASCAR would never admit were real.
20 Talladega Superspeedway Is Haunted
There are tons of legends concerning the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Reports of strange occurrences abound about the infamous race track. There are myths that revolve around the fact that the valley where the track was built was once a place where indigenous people raced their horses. That has led to multiple alleged curses and spooky hauntings of ghosts on the track.
19 Bobby Issac Hearing Voices At Talladega
Some race car drivers are actually afraid of the Superspeedway track at Talladega, and for good reason. Bobby Isaac was one such driver. During a 1973 race, Bobby became concerned when a voice supposedly told him to quit the race. It wasn’t such a bad idea to quit the race either, given the fact that diver Larry Smith had died on an earlier lap in the race.
18 The 1974 Spooky Talladega Scandal
The ‘70s was an odd time for racing at Talladega. As if trying to outdo the Bobby Isaac story from 1973 (and the loss of Larry Smith’s life), 1974 proved equally troublesome.
Before the race began, multiple teams discovered that their brake lines and fuel lines had been cut. Some people thought it was a ghost, while others believed it was the (more reasonable) doing of some shady crewmen who knew their misdeeds would raise alarm.
17 The Daytona 500’s Mysterious Potholes
One of the most important aspects of racing is the quality of the track, and the Daytona 500 is typically known for having a good, clean track. But that hasn’t always been the case.
In the past, the Daytona 500 has been wrought with mysterious potholes, either from weather erosion or cars scraping the ground—no one really knows for sure. The 2010 race was delayed twice to mend the issue before anyone got hurt.
16 The Busted Tires At The 2008 Indy 500
As mentioned above, the smoothness of a track is of the utmost importance in a NASCAR race. The stock cars aren’t as radical as Formula 1 cars, and much of their success depends on how long the tires survive (which is why pit stops exist).
At the 2008 Indianapolis 500, the average tire only lasted eight laps on the track, which is absurd—and even more absurd because it happened to more than one team.
15 Sara Christian Was Forced To Give Up Her Car
This is a sexist moment that NASCAR would definitely deny or want people to forget. Before there was Danica Patrick, Sara Christian was the “it” woman in NASCAR. She was the first woman to compete.
While racing a car owned by her husband one race, her husband made her give up her car after one of his other racers, Bob Flock, suffered an engine failure. So much for equality.
14 Richard Petty’s Staged 200th Win
There are many conspiracy theorists who would claim that Richard Petty’s iconic 200th NASCAR win was an elaborately staged and planned event. It came, conveniently, on the Fourth of July in 1984, at the Firecracker 400.
Some believe that the staged campaign was a stunt for Ronal Reagan, who was in attendance at the race. It only made sense that Petty should win such an important race, it seems.
13 Tom Pistone Wearing A Life Jacket
Lots of race car drivers have superstitions about certain tracks or races, but Tom Pistone certainly has one of the strangest rituals. Going by the nickname “Tiger,” he was reportedly so nervous of going off the track and ending up at the lake in Daytona, that in 1960 he wore a life preserver and oxygen line while racing. Tigers are cats, and cats don’t like water, so maybe the moniker made sense for Pistone.
12 The Shuttered Britney Spears NASCAR Movie
NASCAR doesn’t ever want you to know that a movie starring Britney Spears was once in the works in the early 2000s when she was a superstar. Long before her 2008 struggles, there were lots of rumors that Spears would be starring in a NASCAR film, but as the situation developed, she was instead found in a commercial with Jeff Gordon.
She also served as Grand Marshal for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in 2001.
11 Smokey Yunick’s Continuous Scandals
Smokey Yunick was one of the dirtiest (and most successful) drivers to ever race NASCAR. He was caught cheating multiple times, and became notorious for his shenanigans. So much so that NASCAR would rather strike his name away, before they showed people how easy it was to cheat in NASCAR and get away with it.
He liked to find loopholes for rules, which usually got him in trouble—such as using extended fuel lines and smaller-than-stock cars.
10 Richard Petty’s Golf Ball Roof
The most successful and storied race car driver of all time, Richard Petty, was not without his share of allegations, either.
Back in 1968, he showed up at the Daytona 500 with a strange roof on his car that was dimpled like a golf ball. Urban legends say that the dimples would make the car go faster and also make it harder for drivers behind him to draft. It was also a distraction, and was probably a big rule violation, but Petty was famous enough to get away with it.
9 Green Cars Are Bad Luck
Another urban legend that NASCAR would deny – and fans would approve – is that green cars are bad luck on the track. This superstition predates NASCAR, going back as early as 1910, when a green car wrecked at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. Later on, in 1920, Gaston Chevrolet ran into the grandstands in a green car at the Beverly Hills Speedway.
8 Peanuts Are Banned From The Pit
Here’s another urban legend that sounds ridiculous but holds some weight: that peanuts are bad luck, and that the snack has been essentially banned from race track pits.
According to Bleacher Report, this myth goes back to when deaths were less common, and peanuts were very popular in NASCAR. Peanut shells would apparently be found in cars where the drivers passed away.
7 Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Staged Success For Ratings
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is arguably even more popular than his father, who tragically passed away while racing, which changed the rules for safety in NASCAR forever. As such, Jr. has much of his success owed to his father, though he’s an incredible driver in his own right.
An urban legend persists that says Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s success in the 2001 season was all a staged campaign by NASCAR to raise ratings.
6 NASCAR Hates Unions
Here’s another fact that NASCAR doesn’t want people to know about: the organization hates unions, just like Uber, Lyft, and FedEx does. All those companies treat their drivers as independent contractors, so they don’t have to give them benefits.
NASCAR doesn’t want drivers unionizing, and “Big Bill” France once quashed an opportunity for unionization by threatening direct reprisals against drivers. Recently, teams have formed the Race Team Alliance, but drivers are still left without representation.
5 Chris Turner Wearing A Suit And Tie To Race
Sponsorships and endorsements are a huge part of racing, which is why every driver wears countless emblems of other companies on their racing outfits. But in 1966, sponsorships weren’t as big a part of the sport as they are now, and driver Chris Turner would always turn up to the track in a suit and tie. He was even rumored to race in this outfit while competing in the 1960s.
4 Jeremy Mayfield Suing NASCAR
NASCAR doesn’t want people to know that its own drivers have sued them, such as Jeremy Mayfield in 2010. Bosses and employees tend not to see eye to eye in any business, and it’s no different in NASCAR.
Mayfield took NASCAR authorities to court and eventually won after some incorrect positive doping tests suspended him from racing. He was allowed to race again, but Mayfield has been in legal troubles since then.
3 Tim Flock Raced With A Monkey
NASCAR drivers don’t have copilots, other than their crew talking in their headsets. But in the 1950s, driver Tim Flock had an unorthodox copilot who raced with him—a monkey called Flocko Jocko!
The monkey remains the only co-driver in NASCAR history, and we still don’t know why Tim Flock decided to race with the monkey. Perhaps Flocko was just good luck.
2 NASCAR’s Roots: Prohibition And Bootlegging
This is something that most fans know, but NASCAR would like to keep buried. The roots of NASCAR come from speedy drivers carrying illegal alcoholic beverages across state lines during Prohibition.
The first NASCAR race happened in 1949, but the sport goes back much further than that. In fact, many bootleggers eventually became NASCAR drivers once Prohibition ended!
1 Junior Johnson Was Pardoned For Moonshining
Junior Johnson was a successful NASCAR driver in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was one of the few bootleggers who found success as a race car driver. But he was still arrested and spent a year in jail for having an illegal still in his house, in 1957, during the height of his career. NASCAR wouldn’t want you to know that Johnson was later given an official pardon for his “mistake,” and he continued to race without repercussion.
References: sportingnews.com, reddit.com, racing-reference.info