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May 29, 1922    -    January 19, 1964

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First Race of 1963 was in 1962 By: Monte Dutton

The first race of the 1963 season was actually contested on Nov. 4, 1962, which, oddly enough, wasn’t unusual in those days when seasons officially ran from November of one year to December of the next. It was at Fairgrounds Raceway, a half mile near Birmingham, Ala., and the winner was Jim Paschal in a Plymouth. Another Plymouth driver, Richard Petty, finished second, followed by Buck Baker, Jimmy Pardue and Darel Dieringer. The man who would win the championship, Joe Weatherly, finished eighth in, yes, car No. 8.                    Copyright 2008 The Gaston Gazette

Inaugural Daytona 500 photo developed a buzz  by Dave Fairbank

The late Joe Weatherly, a Norfolk native, still is a presence entering the 50th running of the Daytona 500.It is one of the iconic images in NASCAR history — a three-wide finish in the first major race at the newest and biggest track in the sport's signature event. Without the benefit of instant replay, it took more than two days for NASCAR officials to declare Lee Petty the winner of the inaugural Daytona 500. Petty's Oldsmobile nosed out Johnny Beauchamp's Ford Thunderbird on Feb. 22, 1959, in a race both men were convinced they had won.

The third car in that photo was driven by Joe Weatherly. The Norfolk native and future Grand National series champion — the precursor to the Winston, Nextel and Sprint cups — actually was a lap down and racing to get back on the lead lap with Petty and Beauchamp.
Weatherly finished fifth, which wasn't widely publicized at the time. What mattered was the image of three cars screaming to the finish line, side-by-side, which created a buzz for American stock-car racing and its spanking new, 2.5-mile, high-banked showplace.

"That photo right there propelled the sport into a new world," said Joe Kelly, the longtime Richmond radio host and NASCAR aficionado. "People a lot of times don't read, but a picture's worth a thousand words. "That picture showed these three cars at a track with 42,000 people in a city that only had 37,000 people in it at the time. It propelled a lot of people to start thinking about NASCAR. They were looking at it thinking it must be big-league, running on that track, and the man who won it got nine … teen … thousand … dollars. That was a ton of money in those days."

NASCAR celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500 with the running of "The Great American Race," where the winner figures to earn $1.5 million in a sport that has truly gone international. Part of the celebration in the run-up to the race has included honoring past Daytona 500 champions. Richard Petty won the race a record seven times during a career in which he won seven series championships and 200 total races. The King would have won two more titles if not for Weatherly, one of NASCAR's stars in the late 1950s and early '60s until his untimely death at 41 after a crash during a race at Riverside, Calif., in January 1964.

"He was as good as anyone who's ever been at this," said Junie Donlavey, the Richmond-based NASCAR pioneer and former team owner. "He was that good." Weatherly raced briefly for Donlavey in the early 1950s and for two dozen owners during his stock-car days, including the legendary Wood Brothers and Petty Enterprises. Weatherly flourished under owner Bud Moore, winning Grand National series championships in 1962 and '63, edging out Richard Petty both years. He remains the only native Virginian to win the major series title. "He had quick reflexes and good equipment," said Donlavey, who turns 84 in April. "He was just a natural-born driver."

"He was the consummate racer," said Kelly, 72, who counted Weatherly as a friend. "He could race anything and he could win anything he raced."

Weatherly began his racing career on motorcycles, winning three American Motorcycle Association national championships in five years in the late 1940s and early '50s. When he switched to stock cars, he was immediately successful. Running in what was known as the Modified class, he was national runner-up in 1952 and won the title in '53, winning an astonishing 102 races in those two years. Weatherly eventually moved up to the Grand National division, where he recorded 25 wins and 153 top-10 finishes in a total of 230 starts. His reputation was as a man who raced hard and often lived as hard as he raced. "Joe sometimes was his own worst enemy," Kelly said. "He would run a car so hard, he sometimes didn't have anything left by the end of the race."

Weatherly's driving style was apparent by the results. For example, in 1959 he started 17 races, with 10 top-10 finishes and seven did-not-finish results. In '58, he had seven top-10s and six DNFs in 15 starts. In '60, he started 24 races. He had 11 top-10s — with three victories — and 13 DNFs.
In his championship years of '62 and '63, he ran more races and drastically reduced the number of DNFs. "He led just about every race he was ever in, at some point," Kelly said. "He was a hard driver, but he finally realized that you've got to let these things live."

Weatherly's second championship in 1963 was remarkable because he drove for nine owners that year. He still drove most often for Moore, but on occasion showed up at a particular track not knowing for whom he'd be driving. Though Weatherly won only three races that year to Petty's 14, and had 20 top-five finishes compared to Petty's 30, he excelled in some of the bigger races (the point system was weighted differently than it is now).

Here's an indication of how highly Weatherly is regarded historically by NASCAR brass: One of the grandstand areas near the start-finish line at Daytona International Speedway is named for him, though he never won the 500 or the mid-summer Firecracker 400, and his only victories at the track are a pair of wins in preliminary races in 1961 and '62.

The stock-car racing museum in Darlington, S.C., which opened in 1965, is named for Weatherly, who is in virtually every racing Hall of Fame of consequence. He was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1976.

Weatherly was also, by all accounts, a world-class character. He and fellow driver Curtis Turner threw legendary parties during Speed Week. He once rode a mule at the Darlington pre-race parade. He pocketed other drivers' car keys just before races. He and Turner got themselves black-listed by rental-car companies for racing each other and tearing up rental cars. "Joe and Curtis Turner and some of those guys, they had a ball," Donlavey said. "It looked like that was what they were put here for, to enjoy every minute of it."

Weatherly's talent made him far more than just a colorful figure from NASCAR's early days. Despite his untimely death, memories of him remain vivid for those who knew him, and the image in that 50-year-old photo helped usher NASCAR into a new era. "He would have been as good as any that's been along," Donlavey said. "He would have been right at the top of the list. He would have been right there with all the greats. He was that good."

The story behind the scar of Norfolk's early NASCAR hero

By EARL SWIFT, The Virginian-Pilot           © October 2, 2007

The scar made a long straightaway down the left side of his face. It ran shallow across his forehead and sliced through his eyelids and dug deep into his cheek. It crossed his mouth so that when he grinned, as Joe Weatherly was predisposed to do, he left a third of the smile behind.

Big as it was, the wound might have been the second thing most people noticed about Weatherly. The first, most likely, was the way he arrived, because he could drive anything on wheels faster than it made sense to go, and faster than anyone with sense had desire to.

For a time, the skill served him well: The Norfolk boy grew up to be a national motorcycle racing champion, then joined the stock car circuit; before long he owned a piece of three racetracks and was one of NASCAR’s first big stars.

Over a dozen years, Joe Weatherly won 25 races, placed in the top five 105 times and won the points championship, now called the Nextel Cup, two years in a row. He was a favorite among fans for his flair as much as his victories: Weatherly was an archetype of the early NASCAR hero, an inveterate practical joker and hell-raiser, a resilient hard partier, a rough-and-tumble Southern rogue.

The scar predated all of that. When he’d made it big, some sportswriters guessed the wound dated to his motorcycle days. Others offered an explanation that persists on the Internet, that during his Army service in World War II, a bullet from a German sniper had torn into his cheek.

Neither story was true. Joe Weatherly got his scar on Norfolk’s 26th Street, in a wreck that nearly killed him.

And he didn’t get the worst of it.

An October midnight in 1946, Wednesday the 2nd rolling into Thursday: The Norfolk Police Department’s graveyard shift had just come on duty when two officers in the traffic bureau, Charles D. Grant and Chase R. Davis, got the word: Accident on 26th at Leo Street. Multiple injuries.

The two rolled to the scene in a stretcher-equipped van assigned to whoever was pulling accident detail. They brought along a pair of cops who’d been angling for a ride home – a lucky break, because they needed the extra hands. The scene that awaited them was a mess.

A 1942 Buick sedan, eastbound on 26th, had hit the curb as it negotiated a tight S-curve. It had slid 188 feet across the road, jumped the far curb and smacked head-on into a tree. The car was totaled. Six people, three couples, lay inside.

Weatherly, the driver, was hung up in the broken windshield, his face cleaved in two, blood spurting from his punctured neck. His girlfriend, 18-year-old Jean Flanagan, lay bunched in the right front footwell, both legs broken. In the back seat, Marion Wells and another girl were shaken but unhurt, and Marion’s date, Alvah "Skeet" Cowan, wasn’t badly injured.

Not so the last passenger, 24-year-old James Edwin "Eddie" Baines. His head, wedged between front seat and door post, had suffered grievous damage. As Officer Grant would later recall: "We knew he was in bad shape."

But Weatherly commanded immediate attention.

"He was bleeding profusely," Grant said. "He’d have died in a few more minutes."

One of the off-duty cops, Louis D. Looney, clamped his hands over Weatherly’s neck, trying to stanch the blood until an ambulance arrived.

These days, 26th Street carries just eastbound traffic until it merges with westbound 27th Street to become Lafayette Boulevard. They fuse at about the spot Weatherly crashed.

But the modern junction is much changed from that of 1946. The curve that 26th negotiates to meet 27th is wide and graceful; that of 61 years ago was a far more sudden jerk to the left, onto northbound Leo, followed by an almost immediate, 90-degree cut back to the right.

To the police, the accident’s cause was no mystery: The 2-ton Buick had been moving too fast to negotiate the back-to-back turns. And it was no surprise to find Weatherly draped over the steering wheel.

"It was speed," Grant said, "which is what he was known for. Anybody who knew Joe Weatherly would tell you that he’d run a car as fast as he could. He was one we knew."

In fact, Weatherly was driving illegally that night, his license having already been revoked for an infraction lost to history. Within months he’d be making a name for himself as a motorcycle racer, and within two years he’d be national champion, but as Grant and Davis untangled him from the wreckage, Weatherly was in serious legal trouble.

At the time, it wasn’t clear that he’d survive to face it. He’d been cut, Grant recalled, "all the way down his face and into his jugular vein.

"That officer saved his life," he said of Looney. "Thank God we had those other two officers with us."

A cop drove the unconscious Eddie Baines to Norfolk General Hospital. Looney rode with Weatherly to DePaul, a hand still pressed to the driver’s neck. Jean Flanagan was conscious when Grant, destined to become Norfolk’s police chief, lifted her from the footwell.

"We had to get her out of there and straighten her legs to get her on a stretcher," he said. "She hollered so as to make the hair stand up on your head."

That afternoon’s Ledger-Dispatch reported that "four persons were injured, three seriously," with Baines suffering "a forehead laceration and internal injuries." The following morning’s Virginian-Pilot added that Baines and Flanagan were in "critical shape" and that an arrest warrant waited for the improving Weatherly. The charges: reckless driving and driving with a revoked permit.

Then, on the afternoon of Oct. 6, Baines, who lived in the Fox Hall neighborhood and had recently mustered out of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, died of his head injuries.

A native of Blackstone, Va., Baines and a few of his nine siblings had moved to Norfolk before the war. He was buried near Rocky Mount, N.C.

Weatherly was charged with homicide.

A few weeks later, on Nov. 30, Weatherly presented Jean Flanagan with a ring. They were married in October 1948.

He spent a good piece of the intervening two years in court. In a lengthy police court session two months after the wreck, the homicide charge was dropped – a fitting development because, Jean Weatherly would say more than 60 years later, speed hadn’t killed Baines.

Actually, the evening had been pretty tame: The six had been at Schoe’s Curb Service, a drive-in restaurant at 21st and Granby streets that Jean’s family owned, before Weatherly set out to take everyone home. Just before the wreck, he stopped the car at 26th and Church streets to say hello to a friend.

"It was only a block away," she said, "so he didn’t have time to get much speed up, with the weight of the car."

Her explanation: "We hit the curb and broke the steering rod, and the tree was right there."

Even so, Weatherly was convicted of the lesser charges. He appealed to Norfolk Corporation Court – today’s Circuit Court – where on Jan. 10, 1947, he was hit with $400 in fines and two suspended 30-day sentences.

That spring, Baines’ sister, Effie E. Daniels, sued Weatherly and his mother, Carrie Kellam, who owned the Buick. The claim against Kellam was dropped, but Weatherly was found liable for $15,000, to be divided equally among Baines’ four brothers and five sisters.

Weatherly’s fiancee and her mother sued, as well. In June 1947, a jury in the Court of Law and Chancery fixed the damages due to each at $10,000 and $4,000, respectively.

And as a brief filed by State Farm Mutual Insurance Co. in federal court observed: "In each of said actions it is alleged that the Buick automobile in question was operated with gross negligence."

The accident wasn’t Weatherly’s last brush with the law, by any means. In September 1947, an unspecified misdemeanor saw his suspended sentences revoked, and he went to jail. In 1955, he led police on a wee-hours chase through Norfolk, for which he was slapped with a $100 fine, another suspended sentence and the loss of his license for 60 days.

By then, he was a big-time racer – newspaper stories wondered whether he could legally drive on a track when he was barred from the streets – and the press tended to couch his transgressions as harmless fun, even nicknamed him the "Clown Prince of Auto Racing." Legends bloomed from his practical jokes and hell-for-leather partying, about how he banged up rental cars and supposedly drove one into a motel swimming pool.

It seemed that, the scar aside, that night 61 years ago did not much change Weatherly.

"You saw him from the rear, wherever he went," said his friend Robert Ingram of Norfolk, a prominent car builder of the era. "He’d take it to the edge."

Weatherly won NASCAR’s first all-star race in 1961. He dominated the sport in 1962, the first of his years as points champion. He did it again in 1963, when he finished 35 of his 53 races in the top 10. He was leading the points race for a third year when he pulled into Riverside, Calif., for the road race of Jan. 19, 1964.

He was a superstitious man, spooked by the color green or the presence of peanuts at the track, beholden to talismans and ritual. But those quirks, that scar, didn’t prompt him to use a shoulder harness. When he crashed on the 110th lap, his unrestrained head smacked into a retaining wall.

He died of facial injuries.

Earl Swift, (757) 446-2352 or earl.swift@pilotonline.com

Superstitions: No green, no cats, no peanuts!
What, that's not still the rule?
      By TOM HIGGINS - ThatsRacin.com

Joe Weatherly was angry and adamant that September week in 1962. Bob Colvin was just as fiery and forceful.

"I won't run the race!" stormed the colorful Weatherly. "And you can't make me!"

"You will run," shot back Colvin. "And I can make you. We have a handshake deal!"

At issue was the 13th annual staging of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, which at that time was NASCAR's supreme event. Weatherly's problem was with the No. 13. The former motorcycle racing champion, who was en route to two straight major NASCAR stock car titles in 1962 and '63, simply loathed the numeral. Colvin, the colorful president of the Darlington track, hated to give in. But he saw a way out that would appease Weatherly.

The Southern 500 of 1962 was renamed. It became "The 12th Renewal of the Southern 500." Weatherly got to race.

Colvin saved face. All this comes flashing back to mind because a pal in racing, Ray Kilgore, asked me the other day to share anecdotes about drivers and crewmen and team owners who had superstitions. "There don't seem to be many of them nowadays," said Ray.

You know, it seems that's true. Maybe it's because the competitors of this era are too busy checking their stock portfolios, the latest high-tech toy available for their cushy motor homes or how high and how fast their private jet planes will fly.

"None of these present-day guys seem superstitious," said hall-of-fame crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson, who maintains a tie to the sport as a consultant after fielding so many major winners in the 1960s-'80s for drivers such as David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Benny Parsons and Buddy Baker. "Maybe that's 'cause they've got so much. But back 40 decades ago..." Wilson laughed. "A lot of them, heck most of 'em, were nuts when it came be being superstitious," continued Wilson. "David Pearson is as good a friend as I have got in the world, but he hated the No. 13, black cats and peanuts in the garage area or the pits. I've seen him absolutely become livid about someone bringing peanuts in the garage and shelling them. "Also, David pretty much confirmed to me that he drove 25 miles out of the way to get to the track at Charlotte one time 'cause a black cat ran across the road in front of him.

"Dale Earnhardt is another one that went nuts - again forgive the pun - about peanuts in the pits. He would go ballistic. Of course, this highly amused Dale's best friend, Neil Bonnett, who on frequent occasions always seemed to have some peanuts around."

For many years green cars also were taboo in NASCAR. Why? There are as many theories as exist about peanuts. For whatever reason, it was not a happy day when the new pairing of driver Darrell Waltrip and team owner Junior Johnson revealed that their Mountain Dew sponsorship would field a car with a green and while paint scheme.

"It looks like a damn Christmas tree!" groused NASCAR veteran Elmo Langley. Langley later relented, a little, when he drove a green and white race car, and then the NASCAR pace car before his untimely death of a heart attack during a NASCAR event in Japan.

I knew that NASCAR’s great stars of several decades ago were superstitious. But I never realized the depth of their belief in the occult until talking to my boyhood friend Waddell Wilson this week. “There were a few of ‘em, including Pearson and Dick Hutcherson, that would visit fortune-tellers in local towns a night or two before a race.” said Wilson. "They never shared with me what they were told, and to tell, the truth , I didn’t want to find out.”

But to end this column let’s go back to
Joe Weatherly. In 1964 the incredibly talented, colorful Virginian was running for his third straight major NASCAR championship with the great Bud Moore-owned team of Spartanburg, S.C. On the 86th of 185 laps at the Riverside Road Course in California, Weatherly hit the wall. He apparently died on impact.

Superstition? Some friend had owed Weatherly $100. Just prior to the start of the race, the friend had given Weatherly two $50 bills, which Joe stuck in the pocket of his driver’s uniform. They were there when he died.

To this day, most NASCAR drivers refuse to accept $50 bills.

Weatherly and Turner: A Prescription For . . . Well . . .

Joe Weatherly was a boisterous, fun-loving man who enjoyed hard liquor and playing practical jokes. He showed up for practice one week dressed in a Peter Pan costume.

Curtis "Pops" TurnerDuring the 1958 Rebel 300 at Darlington, he and Curtis Turner traded paint in factory supplied Fords. Ford executives reportedly fumed in the grandstand as the cars banged hard against one another. They called these door-to-door altercations “pops”. It stemmed from the noise that is made when one car "pops" another in the left rear quarter panel, a move that usually culminates with the car that was popped finding the wall.  Those two sometimes would go to banging on each other just for the pure joy of it and every time they did it, the crowd went wild. If you could get Turner and Weatherly to come to your racetrack, you'd have a sold out grandstand every time. Maybe the only one that didn't totally enjoy "the show" as they called it was car owner Ralph Moody, who had to pick up the bills for both beaten and wrecked racecars. Pops” Weatherly and “Pops” Turner eventually had everyone in the garage becoming “Pops.”

Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly became best of friends and party buddies. When paired with Turner, these two men caused everyone to look over their shoulder to see if either were ready to play a practical joke on them.

He and Turner drove a pair of purple team Fords # 9 & 99 that they referred to as the “Wild Hogs”. One week the two showed up at the track with a live purple pig. NASCAR told them to find the pig a home – away from any NASCAR track.

Turner serves a drink in their infamous "party pad"Weatherly and Turner had an infamous apartment known as the "party pad" on Atlantic Avenue in Daytona Beach that was the place to be the night before the annual Daytona races. It came complete with girls on the wall and when the special lighting (black lites) came on, the girls lost their clothes! Ladies loved them, they both loved the ladies and took great liberties with them. The charades they engaged in would embarrass a truck driver. In the apartment they rented in Daytona Beach, they kept a chalk board in their room with a running tally on how many women they could get into their beds. There were many contests to see which one could "score" the most on a given day. Both men had women they called upon in every town where there was a race, and sometimes they (the ladies) would line up outside their "party pad" or motel, waiting for their turn. They may have lost a race or two, but they never lost a party!

But that was nothing compared to the escapades that followed.

Remember the movie "Days of Thunder?" If you thought the scene where Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns were beating and banging in their rental cars was the product of some producers imagination, think again. At Daytona one year, both Turner and Weatherly rented cars and were racing each other down A1A. The race was to see who could reach their motel first. Joe weaved over and smashed into the side of Turner's car. Turner returned the favor. In their wake, glass and car parts were scattered all over the road. As they neared their destination, Turner slowed. But Weatherly, who was racing for a bottle of Canadian Club, kept his foot to the floor boards. Joe kept on going, and drove right into the deep end of the motel swimming pool.

Joe got out of the car, collected his bottle of CC, and then immediately opened it and toasted his "victory" while standing in the motel parking lot, dripping wet.

"Guess we're gonna have to call a tow truck, huh Pops?"

Nobody would ever rent a car to those two men ever again. In fact, the company that rented them the cars took their pictures and sent them to every rental car office wherever there was a NASCAR race, with explicit instructions not to rent cars to either of them.

Another story was the time Weatherly and Turner challenged other drivers to see who could drive the fastest in reverse. Someone secretly painted black a line of telephone pole-sized parking posts along one edge of the lot and, in the dark, it wasn’t long before the contest ended with a crash and the sound of broken glass and bent chrome as someone backed in to the camouflaged posts at high speed.

At Darlington, they paid a farmer $100 for an old mule. They took it back to their motel where, with the help of some friends, they pushed it up to the second floor balcony. That mule paced back and forth on that balcony all night. Curtis and Joe simply got their laughs by watching the reaction of people who had to walk past it on the way to their rooms. In their minds, it was $100 well spent. The next day, Little Joe slapped some race stickers on the mule and rode it in the Darlington parade.

Joe Weatherly's practical jokes were infamous as Turner's. In the days before start switches, Weatherly would steal the keys to all the cars as they sat on pit road. And when the command to start the engines was given, only Joe's car fired up. Joe would look into his rear view mirror to see dozens of drivers fumbling around looking for the keys that he had in his pocket.

Everyone knew who took the keys. All they needed to do was look at Joe's car and see him inside beating the steering wheel and laughing up a storm while HIS engine was running.

Sometimes, when folks would get wise to the disappearing key trick, Little Joe would steal their gas caps, and NASCAR wouldn't let you start the race without one. Joe's car was the only one that had a gas cap on it, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who had them.

Rumor has it Weatherly was responsible for spiking some of his competitor’s water jugs that they carried in their race cars on several different occasions.

Weatherly was a delight to watch, sober or drunk. During one race, Joe was beating on fellow competitor Larry Frank --- really tearing up his car. Frank, a tough, ex-Marine who wasn't afraid to tangle with anyone, chased ‘Little Joe' into the parking lot after the race. To escape his wrath, Joe jumped on a car's roof, and ran across the roof's of every car parked in that row -- denting them all.

Both men laughed about it the next day.

Flying Low

Weatherly also enjoyed flying. Unfortunately, he did not always pay close attention to a flight plan and on one occasion landed near Darlington, SC and asked someone where he was.

During another flight, Turner had teammate and drinking buddy Joe Weatherly and a journalist on board. With Weatherly in the backseat, Turner leaned over to the journalist and whispered, “Watch me scare the….out of Joe.” With that, Turner cut the power to one engine and feathered the propeller. An excited Little Joe brought the problem to Turner’s attention, to which Turner replied by secretly cutting the power to the other engine. Weatherly became more and more agitated as the plane spiraled down in a shallow glide until Turner restored power to the engines, all the while forgetting that he was also scaring the daylights out of the poor journalist.

At a race in Darlington Joe Weatherly passed Turner for the lead and, fuming, Turner beat the daylights out of both cars in order to get past to regain the lead. (Remember that the two were teammates.) An angry Ralph Moody warned Turner that if he beat and banged on Weatherly again, the pit crew wouldn’t work on the car during the next pit stop. Well, Turner continued to bash into Weatherly and, sure enough on the next pit stop, the crew sat down and didn’t lift a finger to work on Turner’s Ford. Furious, Turner returned to the track and bounced the car right into a cement wall, fairly well demolishing it in the process. But that wasn’t to be the end of Turner’s retaliation. The following day Turner showed up at the Holman-Moody shop in a new Cadillac and rammed the monstrous car though the rollup garage doors, backed out and drove away.

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The Awards

Weatherly was named one of NASCAR's 50 best drivers in 1998 and is a member of numerous racing halls of fame.

Joe Herbert Weatherly was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994.

Only three drivers have grandstands at Daytona International Speedway named in their honor -- Joe Weatherly, Tiny Lund, and Fireball Roberts.

The Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum and
NMPA Hall of Fame

Most visitors to Darlington Raceway's Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum aren't quite sure what to expect. Old cars, or modern ones? A history lesson, or a fresh look at a most contemporary and constantly evolving sport?

The answer: The Weatherly Museum offers all this, and a lot more.

Weatherly had two wins at notoriously tough Darlington Raceway, in 1960 and 1963 and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1965, officially named after him.

Just as Darlington Raceway had originally been constructed in 1950 to give stock car racing a platform to rival that of the Indianapolis 500, the Weatherly Museum was intended to do the same for the history of the still fledgling sport.

After a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Musuem, Weatherly suggested to his good friend Bob Colvin, then president of Darlington Raceway, that he consider building a stock car museum in South Carolina. Colvin not only liked the idea, but followed through with it; following his friend's death, Colvin brought plans for the Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum before the Raceway's Board of Directors, where they were unanimously approved. The facility was officially dedicated on May 2, 1965, and still stands as a testament to the greatness of the sport of stock car racing and those who compete in it.

A walk through the Weatherly Museum is not only a trip through the history of Darlington Raceway, but of the entire sport. On the end of a line of classic cars, looking like a prop from a 1940s film, sits the 1950 Plymouth Johnny Mantz drove to Victory Lane in the very first Mountain Dew Southern 500. Mantz was the slowest qualifier for the race which he eventually won by 15 laps over second-place finisher Fireball Roberts.

Did you know that the winningest car in the history of stock car racing is a convertible? The 1956 Ford convertible which sits in the Weatherly Museum won 22 races in a single year racing in the convertible series, plus three more races that same year with the top welded on - including the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington.

Sitting quietly in the middle of a row, sporting its trademark blue and the number 43, is the 1967 Plymouth of Richard Petty, a car that won 10 races that year. Occupying a prominent spot in the back is Darrell Waltrip's 1991 Chevy Lumina, which rolled eight times in the '91 Pepsi 400 in one of the most fearsome crashes in stock car history. Waltrip walked away from the incident, and the car stands as an impressive witness to stock car safety.

In the rear of the building visitors can find the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame, filled with photos, memorabilia and interactive exhibits showcasing the sport of NASCAR racing and the personalities who have inhabited it over the years. Alan Kulwicki; David Pearson; Junior Johnson. Lee and Richard Petty. Neil Bonnett.

Ever wondered what a restrictor place looks like? How about the famous "Hemi" engine? Both are on display in the Weatherly Museum, along with other bits and pieces of racing trivia such as Fonty Flock's Bermuda shorts and Joe Weatherly's very own racing shoes. There's even a mounted 55-pound rockfish caught by driver Tiny Lund in 1963.

The Weatherly Museum and NMPA Hall of Fame offer those who are interested in the history of stock car racing an in-depth look at the roots of the sport, and has a lot to pique the interest newer fans as well. All in all, both facilities provide a unique stroll down NASCAR's memory lane.

The Weatherly Museum, NMPA Hall of Fame and Darlington Raceway gift shop are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Museum admission is $5 for adults, and free for kids under the age of 12.     http://www.darlingtonraceway.com/track/MuseumNMPAHallofFame.jsp

Writers contributing to this compilation are Nascar.com, Jeff Alan, Michael Smith, SpeedwayMedia.com, Darlington Raceway, Godwin Kelly, Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Talladega Walk of Fame

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