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Hagerty Employee

13 racing superstitions, from red underwear to bologna

Race fans likely know they rarely see a car that wears number 13, or is painted green. Why is that? Short answer: superstition. And it's surprisingly common, from your local dirt track all the way up to Formula 1.
Intermediate Driver

I think you forgot a popular one, especially for sports car drivers, numbers that can be read upside down. Some say it is only 1, 8, etc. Others claim even if it's another number when read upside down. I was always partial to 86, despite the potential inversion and the meaning of the number in numerology, destruction.
Pit Crew

I always ran the number 86 when I used to compete in stock car racing and demolition derbies. Never ended up upside down in over 30 years of competition, and never considered the number unlucky, having won and lost my share of events. I did flip a go kart one time, but it was not in competition and there was no number on it.



Noticed Joe Weatherly's Saddle Shoes laying on the stretcher with what appears to be a very serious leg injury indicated by his bloodied pants. I'm certain it must have been those Saddle Shoes that put him in that situation. Every stock car driver of that era wore the essential heat proof Wing Tips. Most likely Joe's feet were getting hot and painful and that could have been the distraction that caused the wreck in that photo.
Intermediate Driver

Weatherly's car was equipped with brakes that were untested on a road course, and they evidently failed as he approached that corner. Wearing just a lap belt, the force of hitting the wall threw his head against the wall too, killing him instantly. No doubt he suffered other injuries also, responsible for his bloody leg(s) visible in the picture of him on the stretcher.

I was being facetious about the Saddle Shoes. Sorry about the misunderstanding.
Intermediate Driver

I’ve heard of most of these for quite some time. One that always mystified me was the green car taboo, I guess it didn’t apply to Formula 1 or sports cars where British Racing Green dominated for years.

The article is probably U.S. centric.

Why say you this?

I remember being a Triumph bike fiend when in the military; I painted a rigid frame/twist leg springer, Sportster tank built 750 unit case Bonneville in Jaguar Racing Green. My Britbike and Harley friends had cows, cats, and kittens warning me of impending death. Had that thing over 20 years without so much as a parking lot tipover. It ended up with a Routt's 850cc cylinder block/10.5:1 piston kit, Joe Hunt magneto, Phase III belt drive primary, and flat slide Mikuni carbs. Was very quick, handled like a built level, rigid frame/springer, 21" front 15" rear Avon equipped bike does. I'm still kickin' 30 years on, and wish I'd never sold it... sigh. The green was never a problem. The motorists who choose not to see, or drive aggressively around motorcyclists were.

I used to re-tie my shoes before each run down the drag strip. I drove a manual shift car so there was a practical reason to check my shoes but it was more of a routine than a superstition.

See, now THAT actually makes sense. *hoists e-beer

I always wear slip-ons. And I wear a fingerless "Michael Jackson" leather glove on my right hand, because I missed a shift once, grenaded a motor in front of my intended, and looked a total fool at Indianapolis Raceway Park because the "racing glove" and shift knob disagreed. My hands weren't sweaty until I oiled the lane down. And I could have put my opponent away by a couple of tenths... but.

Sounds like baseball to me. There are tons of superstitions in baseball.
Intermediate Driver

There are all sorts of superstitions in racing, and sports in general. To me, it's pure hokum. And that is despite the experiences I had with a green car. In 1977 I bought a green Alfa-Romeo Spider Veloce. When I brought the car home, a neighbor told me I should never have purchased a green car. Bad luck. Two weeks later I was rear-ended while I was sitting at a traffic light. I fought for several weeks with the insurance company about the replacement right rear quarter panel. The insurance adjuster would only allow for a used panel, since the car was now a used car beginning when I bought it. The chances of finding a used panel for an Alfa-Romeo were real slim, so I demanded a new one. While that argument when on, (the car was driveable) I was T-boned by another car which had run a stop sign. Now it had to be towed to the body shop where I wanted the car repaired. It sat for three months while they tried to find a used panel. Finally I got a court order to fix the car and the insurance company to pay the bill. Altogether it took 7 months.
Before the Alfa, I had a green Honda Civic, and later, a green Triumph Spitfire. Never had a lick of trouble with either of those.
Pit Crew

i remember back in the 80s and early 90s joe Amato talked about haveing some snoopy underwear and he would not get in his top fuel car without having them on he won championships back then so i guess you never know

For a long time there was a very strong superstition at the Indy 500 - no women allowed in the pits. But when the Europeans started racing there they, as usual, had lots of women in the pits, so the superstition went away.
New Driver

I thought for sure I'd see the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio superstition tale here...
The Green four-leaf clover on a white square is a tribute to racer Ugo Sivocci and the legend behind its importance is truly remarkable. Search 'Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio history' to find the story.
Advanced Driver

It's pretty simple. H. sapiens have these brains that are humongous relative to body weight, compared to the rest of the creatures on the planet. When the stakes are super high--as in a race, where only one person gets to win, and multiple people can be killed--these big brains come up with a lot of magical thinking to try to boost the odds of good outcomes and reduce the odds of personal mayhem.
I'm sure that in wars, a lot of similar magical thinking goes on.

My number in sports through high school was 13. My tech card and class number when I raced regularly had 13 in it.

I lost three times in a row on a set of tires and have never used the brand again.

Makes sense, you gotta be a little(?) crazy to do that line of work.
New Driver

I've been told that in the early days of AMA motorcycle racing, women were not allowed in the pit area partly because they were considered bad luck. The women (wives, girlfriends) had to sit in a special grandstand section not in the pits. This happened before my time at the AMA Pro Racing, I was Technical Manager and then Director of Competition back in the 1990's and early 2000's. Saw a lot of bad luck beliefs like peanuts during that time...

Thanks for the education and entertainment. Much appreciated. And on an unrelated note, can I just say that the photo of the man shaving is sublime. Kudos to the photographer.
Pit Crew

I don't consider myself superstitious and I used that to my advantage racing stock cars. My car was painted British Racing Green the 1st year I raced. I noticed that my superstitious competitors would give me a little extra room and avoid bumping me because they didn't want the green paint transfer onto their car (their words!). At first I thought it was because I was a rookie, but I painted my race car various shades of green every season until the last one, at which time I painted to match my best friends late model. Superstition was a good thing!!!
Pit Crew

I was discussing the weight balance of my car hauler trailer with a longi-time racer, and one of the things I mentioned was loading one of the cars in backward to shift weight to the tail. He was shocked: "Never, ever load a car into a trailer's very unlucky".
Well, not as unlucky as having a 32' trailer go squirrely at 65 mph.
Wonder if anyone else has heard that one?
Pit Crew

Uhhh....duh. Shift weight to the front (rear engine car).

Some superstitions are rooted in truth.

The one here about putting a car on a trailer backwards was true for front engine cars.

Most are just rooted in bad luck associated with results or an incident that are totally unrelated.

I find loosing is bad luck.

Intermediate Driver

Would I blow up my car, would I crash it, would my cat leave me?
'would my cat leave me'
Bwaaah! so funny. Cats don't need a reason to leave beyond that cats will do as they please.
Intermediate Driver

There is a certain pit spot at New England Dragway in Epping ,NH that has been tagged as unlucky to be pitted there. Not knowing anything about that bad luck spot that is where I ended up as one of the last spots available in 2015. Qualified OK but first round was run late and getting dark. Ran my TS car for over 10 years with never a problem except that night when I crashed it bad but was not hurt. Took a while to rebuild it but then I was told I had continued the curse of that pit spot. Not really belivin' in stuff like this I doubt I would have ever pitted there again.
Intermediate Driver

On # 5 - Several time NHRA Top Fuel champion Joe Amato was said to always race wearing his lucky "Snoopy" underwear.

He's lucky to have Snoopy underwear!
New Driver

My Brit Dad would not buy a green car because "Unlucky Jaguar British Racing Green Cars never finished races in serious contention due to mechanical problems" (go figure). My 2001 BRG S Type Jag served me well for 10 years and performed better than five Jags of other colors I've owned.
So IMO ......... Myth Busted
Intermediate Driver

It's unlucky to be superstitious.