Seemingly harmless peanuts are a big taboo in racing.
Superstition compels some racers to go to extremes to avoid a bad day atthe track. Peanuts. Fried chicken. The number 13. And anything green.These are some of the things that drive superstitious drivers crazy.They believe their racing successes or failures are determined in largepart by factors that nonsuperstitious people would quickly dismiss.
Take the taboo of eating peanuts in the pits, for example. That one maydate back to the 1930s, says racing historian Greg Fielden. Some say itbegan with the death of a driver who ate peanuts and later crashed.
Driver Brent Prior of Colona, Ilinois, whose father Slim and uncle LarryPrior both raced, says his parents always told him to steer clear ofpeanuts, the color green, and the number 13. He remembers well the timehis uncle drove up from Missouri to compete in a special event in EastMoline, Illinois.
Some drivers refuse any connection to the number 13.
"He was sitting in the car eating peanuts, and my dad asked him if hewas crazy," says Brent. "And Larry said, 'Oh, that won't hurt anything.'He totaled his car in the feature. So that really made my parents thinkthere was something to that."
Prior says he's not as superstitious as some drivers. But he admits that"anytime I win, whatever I happen to be wearing or I had eaten that day,I do it the next time."
Former driver Dan Felsen, a Des Moines native, avoided the color greenat the track. "Even underwear labels were meticulously inspected for athread of green," admits Felsen.
Felsen is the son of the late Henry Gregor Felsen, who wrote books aboutracing and hot rods. When he was 9 or 10 years old, he would accompanyhis dad to the races every Saturday night.
"He would go to the pits, and I would hang with one of the drivers'sons, who was my age," Felsen says. "One night I had on thesebright-green socks. Ed DeCarlo called me on it and, sure enough, his dad[Al DeCarlo, whose picture was on the back of the first printing ofFever Heat] wrecked badly that night and broke a couple of ribs."
Says Felsen: "That was proof enough for me. I won't even wear green towatch the Cup race on Sunday on TV."
Fielden says Fireball Roberts thought it was bad luck to pose forpictures prior to a race. Joe Weatherly was superstitious of everything,particularly the color green and the number 13. "They used to carry thecar on the back of a flatbed trailer," Fielden relates. "Joe and teamowner Bud Moore were eating inside a little mom-and-pop roadsiderestaurant when a green cab backed into the race car. So it put greenpaint on it.