Herbert Weatherly was born on May 29, 1922 in Norfolk, Virginia
and was one of NASCAR's first big
stars. He competed in 230 races from 1952 through 1964, scoring 19
poles, 25 wins and back-to-back championships in 1962 and 1963.
The Video of Joe Weatherly
Fatally Hitting the Wall at Riverside in January 1964
Weatherly Fatal Crash Extended
Or you can watch this video
with overview of the entire race, with two views of Weatherly’s crash.
was on track to become the first driver to win three titles in a row
until his tragic accident in a race at Riverside Speedway in California
in the fifth race of the season. While competing in the #8 Bud Moore owned
Weatherly slid off track with what is thought to have been braking
failure due to a blown engine and oil. Driver side window nets had not been
introduced at that time. Weatherly’s head whipped out of the driver’s
window striking the retaining wall and killed him instantly.
were blamed on his lap belt. In 1964, NASCAR drivers had the option of a
shoulder harness, similar to those of today, or a simple lap belt.
Just a day
before he died, Weatherly told The Associated Press he preferred only a
lap belt. He said he would "rather flap around in there." "I move around
so much," he said. "I'd rather have the freedom of a seat belt."
away that freedom the following year, insisting drivers wear some sort
of harness restraint. Because Weatherly's car offered
no protection at
the driver's side window, NASCAR started looking at ways to keep a
driver in the car during an accident. The sanctioning body developed
window webbing, which was introduced in 1971 and is still used today.
died at 41 years of age. Weatherly was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery on
Granby Street in Norfolk, Virginia. His headstone depicts a replica of
Riverside Speedway with an "X" marking the location where Weatherly's
wreck took place.
competitor and loveable clown who seemed to speak in a rapid, staccato
shorthand, Joe enjoyed life and excelled in every form of racing he
tried. He left the sport a true champion.
Weatherly was killed at the wheel of a 1964 Mercury, possibly
as the result of a stuck throttle. Joe used seat belts, but chose not to
use a shoulder harness. He felt it might cause his neck to snap in an
impact. Joe's death was caused by his head hitting the retaining wall in
the crash. Officials speculated that a shoulder harness might have saved
his life. He was pronounced dead at Riverside Community Hospital.
Weatherly's seventeen year career in racing began on two wheels. His
motorcycle racing in the late '40s and early '50s included three wins in
AMA (American Motorcycle Association) nationals. He was inducted into
the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.
Weatherly moved on to stock
car racing in the early 1950s. The Statistics
pages provide a detailed record of his Grand National [also known as the
Winston Cup, now (in 2006) known as the Nextel Cup] race results show
his progress from one race in 1952, another in 1954, and six in 1955.
from 1956 to 1961 he raced in 14 to 25 events. His first NASCAR win came
in 1958; then three wins in 1960. Nine wins in 1961 allowed him to reach
fourth place in the championship. He was also chosen NASCAR's Most
Popular Driver in 1961. His off-track practical jokes and superstitions
were an important part of his popularity, also earning him the title of
"Clown Prince of Racing". He won the Grand National championship in 1962
and 1963, and was leading the championship at the time of his death.
Joe Weatherly called Norfolk, Virginia, home. Known survivors
included his widow, Joan, an
eleven-year-old daughter, and a sister, Mrs. Betty Carawan.
Joe's career in racing was again recognized by his induction into the
International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994. A stock car racing
museum next to Darlington Raceway in South Carolina is named in his
The marker is in the
shape of Riverside International Raceway, as it was
used for the NASCAR races.
followed the track going through the “esses,” then
taking the right-hand Turn Seven then going straight
to the right-hand Turn Twelve, for a 2.62-mile,
nine-turn lap. The point where Weatherly’s car
impacted the wall (Turn Five) being marked on the
headstone by crossed checkered flags. Perhaps such
an unusual headstone is appropriate for a man who
was called “The Clown Prince of Racing.”
California Death Index, 1940-1997. [K]
Book "The International Motor Racing Guide", by Peter Higham, David Bull
Publishing, Phoenix, USA, ISBN 1-893618-20-X. Book "The Tribute Project", edited by Ed Watson, 1997, page 40.
Book "Albo della Gloria: Al Piloti Caduti in Tutto il Mondo al Loro
Posto di Combattimento", by Emanuele Carli, Modena, Italy, 1972, page
54. Book "The History of America's Speedways - Past & Present", by Allan E.
Brown, third edition, first printing, November 2003, America's
Speedways, PO Box 448, Comstock Park, MI, 49321-0448, United States,
ISBN 0-931105-61-7, page 158. Newspaper The Daily Times-News (Burlington, NC, United States), issue of
20 January 1964, page 3B, article "'Crown(sic) Prince Of Racing',
Weatherly, Is dead At 41". Newspaper Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, NV, United States), issue of 20
January 1964, page 13, Associated Press wire service, article "Joe
Weatherly Killed, 'Clown Prince of Racing'". Newspaper Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA, United States), issue of 20
January 1964, page C-1, article "Death Of A Champion". Newspaper Independent (Long Beach, CA, United States), issue of 20
January 1964, page C-1, article "Dead Driver Disdained Shoulder Strap".
Newspaper Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA, United States), issue of 20
January 1964, page 30D, three articles under headline "Fatality Mars
Gurney's Riverside Win": Weatherly Killed in Crack-Up"; Sets Record Clip
Of 91.154 M.P.H.", by Hugh Randolph; and Associated Press wire service,
article ""Death Comes to The Clown Prince". Website The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, article, Joe Weatherly, page
Website Racing-Reference.info, Joe Weatherly Career Statistics, page