When you think of sports superstitions, baseball usually comes to mind. From players not washing their uniforms to eating only chicken before a game, baseball is loaded with superstitions and rituals. In fact, in college, one entire lecture of my anthropology class was dedicated to the history of “baseball magic.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines superstition as “a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck.” The auto racing industry is no different! We too hang our hopes on silly rituals to get a leg up on our competitors. One of the most common auto racing superstitions is the “No Green Cars” belief. This superstition dates back to 1920 when Gaston Chevrolet, brother of one of the Chevy Motors co-founders, was killed in an auto racing accident while driving a green car. Another popular superstition is the number 13. This belief tends to span many cultures and time periods. But even in racing, the number 13 is unlucky. So much so, NASCAR numbers their pits so that no team is in the “number 13” pit. The rituals of lucky charms, talking to your race car, and wearing mismatched shoes have been around for a while. Which got me thinking, what are some superstitions of modern day drivers?
My superstitions range from normal to…let’s call it…”unique.”
• I have to fist bump my crew chief after being buckled in the car before a race.
• I talk to my Dad (R.I.P.) in my head before every race.
• My good luck charm is “Speedy,” a stuffed animal white tiger I have zip tied to my roll cage. Speedy was given to me by my former Hallett crew chief John Zentner and his daughter Rhia. Speedy even survived my recent accident at Road America. I bet she is the only white tiger to roll 5+ times in a Porsche Cup Car! Speedy did not follow me to the ER, but the crew shipped her home to me in Oklahoma. She is definitely riding shot gun in my next race car.
• In Porsche Club racing, my Hallett Motor Racing Circuit team always had the superstition of “No Fun Races.” Porsche Club of America runs “fun races” that are non points races which give veterans a chance to use the session as a test run and give rookies an opportunity to practice their race starts. Our team had a strict no fun race policy. One time at Mid-Ohio I had to run the fun race for testing purposes. Of course my transmission broke during that session. We had other team members which would get in an accident or get hit with the dreaded 13/13 PCA penalty during the fun race. Simply put, “fun” races are bad luck!
The following is a fresh list of superstitions from my friends and colleagues in the racing industry. Enjoy!
Stephen Cox, TV Host & Racing Champion
“Never lay my helmet upside down. Never. Freaks me out. [I] walk out on track (must be alone), squat down and run my hand over the asphalt. Sometimes 5 seconds. Sometimes 5 minutes. Not sure why. Maybe I’m becoming one with the universe. [I] carry a green scarf in [the] front pocket of my fire suit. My mom gave it to me at my first race in 1985. Carried [it] at every race since.”
Sparky Grape, 2005-2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Team Owner
“I had lucky shorts and if my right glove wasn’t on top of the left glove in the car when I went to put them on, I’d get out, reach in through the right side window and rearrange them.”
Melanie Snow, 2009 GT3 USA National Champion
“Since I had that big crash [at Road America] I won’t do what I did just prior to that race. So I changed the music I listen to and [wear] different Nomex and suit (but that was easy since they cut it off anyway [at the ER]). Other than that I always say a prayer once we pull onto the front straight to grid.”
Larry Foyt, Former Indycar & NASCAR driver, Team Manager A.J. Foyt Enterprises
Larry Foyt has the “normal” racing superstitions such as green cars can be bad luck but has witnessed some unusual ones, such as “Kenny Brack’s wife would always kiss the nose of the car for all of Kenny’s races.”
Andrew Davis, 2011 Rolex GT Champion
“I purposely have none because I feel it’s a great way to get a driver’s head out of the game by using something that is out of his/her control.”
Doug Bielefeld, Tudor United SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge Driver
“Don’t step on [the] bricks at Indy unless you’ve won! Pray [before each race]. Put [racing gear] on in sequence so you don’t forget something. And don’t touch the car after quali.”
Christian “Mental” Ward, Club Racer & Instructor