Motorcycle Hall of Fame: Joe Weatherly
Class C Racing Champion
Joe Weatherly was a leading AMA
racer of the late 1940s and early 1950s. During his brief, five-year
professional motorcycle racing career Weatherly won three AMA nationals,
including the prestigious Laconia Classic 100-Mile road race in 1948 and
1949. Weatherly became even more famous after his motorcycle racing
career as a NASCAR champion. He won the NASCAR Grand National (now
Winston Cup) Championship in 1962 and 1963.
Born on May 29, 1922, Weatherly grew up in the Norfolk, Virginia. During
high school, he became interested in motorcycling. As a young man,
Weatherly took a job working as a motorcycle deliveryman for a pharmacy.
He began racing in local events in the early 1940s. After serving in the
Army in World War II, he returned to racing.
Weatherly first raced AMA nationals in 1947 and had some promising
results his rookie year, including a sixth at Laconia, New Hampshire.
Weatherly’s breakthrough win came at Laconia in 1948, when he beat
fellow Harley-Davidson rider and Laconia veteran Babe Tancrede by almost
a full minute. It was a surprising win for the then little-known rider
from Virginia, but he proved it was no fluke by winning the race again
the next year. Weatherly had proven himself to be one of the finest road
racers in the country.
The 1949 season proved to be Weatherly’s most active. In addition to
wining at Laconia that year, he also earned podium finishes at nationals
on the half-miles of Jacksonville, Florida, and Reading, Pennsylvania,
and took third in the Langhorne (Pennsylvania) 100-Mile National.
In 1950, he won the AMA 10-Mile National held at one of his home state
tracks in Richmond, Virginia.
1951, Weatherly was scaling back his motorcycle racing efforts in favor
of racing stock cars. By 1952, he had totally committed to racing
automobiles, but made a few more appearances in the Daytona 200
motorcycle classic through 1954.
The move to stock cars proved to be a good one for Weatherly. He started
winning frequently on the NASCAR circuit and won his two NASCAR titles
in the early 1960s.
Weatherly was a likable person and won NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver
Award in 1961. Weatherly, Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp were the three
drivers in the famous inaugural Daytona 500 three-wide finish in 1959.
Weatherly’s life was cut tragically short after he succumbed to injuries
received at a NASCAR race in Riverside, California, on January 19, 1964.
Weatherly was one of the few that won on the national level in both
motorcycles and cars. His accomplishments have been duly recognized. In
1994, he was named to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in
Talladega, Alabama, and a stock car racing museum adjacent to Darlington
Raceway in South Carolina is named in his honor.
Website for The Motorcycle
Hall of Fame
2004, American Motorcyclist Association
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2nd Annual Joe Weatherly Memorial
will be the main attraction for the Saturday portion of the
program at the Virginia Motor Speedway, which will once again
host an AMA Grand National event this year a two-day event on
July 13 - 14th. The Friday night portion of the two day program
will feature a vintage and amateur race.
Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway, an ASA Member Track affiliate,
is a 1/2-mile, dirt oval. The track is located on U.S. Route 17,
eight miles north of Saluda, VA and 25 miles south of
Tappahannock, VA in Jamaica, VA. The speedway is just a short
drive from the Richmond, Fredericksburg, Southern Maryland and
the Hampton Roads markets.
To learn more about Bill Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway and
its 2007 schedule of events, fans may call the Speedway office
at (804) 758-1VMS or visit the track’s web site at
Joe Weatherly & Motorcycles
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Copyright © 2005
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
01/01/13 00:27:04 -0500.
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