A basketball player wears a lucky jersey; a fighter says a prayer in the corner before the bell rings; tennis players avoids holding two balls when serving—every sport has their superstitions. None are quite like NASCAR, however, which can be a matter of life and death.
With lives at stake, many drivers have adopted what many consider are superstitious practices. Fans can’t really fault drivers for having these beliefs, considering NASCAR is full of strange legends and mysteries.
There are so many jinxes and strange occurrences throughout NASCAR’s history, we decided to collect some of the weirdest and go over them below.
17 Talladega Curse
The ‘Dega may be one of the most legendary tracks in NASCAR, but it supposedly has some haunts as well. In a piece by ESPN, there are several legends about the Talladega Superspeedway from it residing on an old cemetery to there being voices—which we cover later. Part of this stems from driver Larry Smith losing his life on the track in 1973.
16 Video Game Cover Curse
Video games tend to reserve the front cover of their packaging for the best athletes and drivers at the time. The site Frontstretch examines drivers who appeared on video game covers only to come in second in the wake of its release. They note Tony Stewart in 2001 and Kevin Harvick in 2003 as two examples.
15 Drivers Keep Their Dashboards Free From Fan Gifts
The next time a NASCAR fan wants to give their favorite driver a good luck charm for their car, they should think twice. According to State Water Heaters, drivers steer clear of ever putting items or gifts from fans on their dashboard. It’s just another one of many superstitions drivers worry about.
14 The Green Race Car
Many think drivers who compete with green cars are flirting with potential disaster. According to Jalopnik, there were two crashes long ago that made the legend what it is today. The first one happened in 1910, then another one in 1920. Even though fans have gone back and forth on whether it’s truly bad luck or not, many still buy into it.
13 The Daytona 500 Curse
Ernie Irvan in 1991; Davey Allison in 1992; Dale Earnhardt in 1998—all of these and more are examples supporting what many believe is a Daytona 500 Curse. It holds that winning the Daytona 500 isn’t always a good thing for drivers as there have been some unlucky developments to come about for some of its winners, and no one can explain it (Racing-Reference.info).
12 Unlucky Number 13
Ask anyone what number they think is unlucky, and chances are they’ll say “13.” That same superstition carries over into NASCAR as well. State Water Heaters reports that Johnny Rutherford was the only one to win while driving the No. 13 car, which isn’t the most favorable track record.
11 A Ghost Saved Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. went through a scary wreck back in 2004. “When I wrecked in the Corvette in 2004 at Sonoma and it caught fire, somebody pulled me out of the car,” said Earnhardt Jr. on his podcast, Dale Jr Download. While he said he didn’t believe in Bigfoot, it seems the driver is more open to the idea of ghosts existing after what happened (Charlotte Observer).
10 Brick Kissing
The sight of drivers kissing bricks on the ground has been one of many iconic images to come out of NASCAR’s history. While the idea of kissing the pavement strikes many as odd, to NASCAR drivers it’s a rite of passage. It may not be so crazy to fans though, as Whoobazoo claims even they’ve been spotted planting a big one on the bricks.
9 Runner-Up Curse
Curse or coincidence? That’s what NASCAR fans have been wondering about for years when it comes to the curse of the runner-up. SB Nation draws attention to a trend where recent drivers who finish second in point standings end up taking a dip and average out in the tenth place spot.
8 Bobby Isaac Heard Voices
NASCAR Drivers say and believe the darndest things. Then again, with so many freak accidents occurring in the sport’s history, few can blame them. As NBC Sports notes, legendary racer Bobby Isaac once claimed he heard a voice tell him to exit his car. While Isaac ended up surviving that day, he would tragically pass away four years later at Hickory Motor Speedway.
7 Wearing The Same Clothes After Performing Well
This superstition is more akin to what athletes might do in conventional sports. According to Bleacher Report, if drivers do well in a run, they might wear the same t-shirt they wore during it the following weekend. As minor as it sounds, it shows just how far NASCAR fans will go in their superstitions.
6 A Driver’s Grooming Could Have Dire Consequences
Yup, even a driver’s grooming is the stuff of NASCAR superstition. According to State Water Heaters, an early driver named Doc MacKenzie shaved his goatee the day of a race he lost his life in. As a result, there’s the idea that many drivers keep their facial hair out of fear something bad will happen.
5 Ghosts At Watkins Glen
Drivers get pushed to the limit. They have to deal with a lot of pressure and perform well if they want to do favorably in the rankings. So while it’s possible Bobby Hillin Jr. was only stressed when he claimed to have seen a ghost at Watkins Glen, it still gives fans chills (iFunny).
4 Real Friends Don’t Let Drivers Carry Fifty Dollar Bills
It all goes back to driver Joe Weatherly, who tragically lost his life while racing. According to State Water Heaters, he had two fifty dollar bills on him that day, which he got from a friend. This legend even spooked Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Tony Stewart into accepting the currency, as per the same source.
3 Jinxed No. 28
There’s a scary streak when it comes to drivers behind the wheel of No. 28. As Bleacher Report notes, Davey Allison passed away in 1993 during a helicopter accident when he raced the number. Then there’s Ernie Irvan, who endured serious injuries back in 1994 while driving the same number car.
2 Peanut Shells
Sounds odd, but there’s a legend that peanut shells had something to do with tragedies on the race track. According to the site State Water Heaters, the story goes that crowds would discard their peanut shells in the bleachers, which would ultimately fall inside of cars. In turn, the cars experienced problems on the race track, which led to the tragic passing of drivers during the ‘40s and ‘50s.
1 Knocking On Wood
Who says only NASCAR drivers can get in on all the superstitious fun? Even motorsport execs have shown they have their own rituals and strange methods to stave off bad luck. According to Bleacher Report, Bill France Jr., who was the chief executive of NASCAR, would actually knock on wood before meetings commenced.
Sources: ESPN, SB Nation, Frontstretch, Jalopnik, Racing-Reference.info, NBC Sports, iFunny, Charlotte Observer, Bleacher Report, State Water Heaters, Whoobazoo