May 29, 1922 - January 19,
STORIES - 1
Race of 1963 was in 1962 By:
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
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
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
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
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
Calif., in January 1964.
"He was as good as anyone who's ever been at this," said
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.
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
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
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
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
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."
story behind the scar of Norfolk's early NASCAR hero
© October 2, 2007
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
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.
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.
story was true. Joe Weatherly got his scar on Norfolk’s 26th Street, in
a wreck that nearly killed him.
didn’t get the worst of it.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Weatherly commanded immediate attention.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
only a block away," she said, "so he didn’t have time to get much speed
up, with the weight of the car."
explanation: "We hit the curb and broke the steering rod, and the tree
was right there."
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.
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.
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,
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."
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.
that, the scar aside, that night 61 years ago did not much change
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."
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
(757) 446-2352 or
Superstitions: No green, no cats, no peanuts!
What, that's not still the rule?
By TOM HIGGINS - ThatsRacin.com
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
"You will run," shot back Colvin. "And I can make you. We have a
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
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
To this day, most NASCAR drivers refuse to accept $50 bills.
Weatherly and Turner:
A Prescription For . . . Well . . .
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.
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
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
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!
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.
may have lost a race or two, but
they never lost a party!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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Weatherly was named one of NASCAR's 50 best drivers in 1998 and is a
member of numerous racing halls of fame.
Herbert Weatherly was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall
of Fame in 1994.
three drivers have grandstands at Daytona International Speedway
named in their honor -- Joe Weatherly, Tiny Lund, and Fireball
The Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum and
NMPA Hall of Fame
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
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.
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.
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.
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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