Joe Weatherly

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Joe Weatherly
Born Joseph Herbert Weatherly
(1922-05-29)May 29, 1922
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Died January 19, 1964(1964-01-19) (aged 41)
Riverside, California, U.S.
Cause of death Racing crash at Riverside International Raceway
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career
230 races run over 12 years
Best finish 1st (1962, 1963)
First race 1952 Southern 500 (Darlington)
Last race 1964 Motor Trend 500 (Riverside)
First win 1958 Nashville 200 (Nashville)
Last win 1963 untitled race (Hillsboro)
Wins Top tens Poles
25 153 18
Statistics current as of April 15, 2013.

Joseph Herbert "Joe" Weatherly (May 29, 1922 – January 19, 1964) was an American stock car racing driver. Weatherly was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2009 after winning NASCAR's Grand National (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) championships in 1962 and 1963, three AMA Grand National Championships, and two NASCAR Modified championships.


Weatherly enjoyed behaving outrageously. He once took practice laps wearing a Peter Pan suit. Moreover, he frequently stayed out partying until the early hours, usually with fellow driver and friend Curtis Turner. This behavior earned him the nickname "The Clown Prince of Racing". In 1956 at Raleigh, while racing in the convertible series, Weatherly's engine blew. With the help of Ralph Liguori pushing from behind, he displayed showmanship to the fullest extent by crossing the finish line while standing in a 'chariot of fire'.[2]

Motorcycle career[edit]

He won three American Motorcycle Association (AMA) nationals between 1946 and 1950, including the prestigious Laconia Classic 100 Mile road race in 1948. In 1998 he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

NASCAR career[edit]

Weatherly began racing cars in 1950. "Little Joe" won the first modified event that he entered. He won 49 of the 83 car races that he entered that season. In 1952 he won the NASCAR Modified National crown, and he again won 49 of 83 car races that he entered. Weatherly won 52 more races in 1953, and won the Modified National crown again.

Weatherly had partial interest in what would later be called Richmond International Raceway from 1955 to 1956.

In 1956 he moved into the NASCAR Grand National series (now Monster Energy Cup.) He drove a factory-sponsored Ford car[2] for Pete DePaolo Engineering. For the next two seasons, Weatherly drove for Holman Moody.[2]

In 1959, Weatherly recorded six top-five finishes and ten top-tens. He would narrowly lose the 1959 Hickory 250 to Junior Johnson; being outlapped twice before the race was concluded.

Weatherly won NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award in 1961.

He won two consecutive championships in 1962 and 1963 for Bud Moore Engineering. Moore did not have enough resources to run the full season, so Weatherly frequently "bummed a ride".


Weatherly died on January 19, 1964, from head injuries sustained in a racing accident at the fifth race of the 1964 season at Riverside International Raceway. His head went outside the car and struck a retaining wall, killing him instantly. Weatherly was not wearing a shoulder harness, and did not have a window net installed on his vehicle, because he was afraid of being trapped in a burning car.[2]

He is one of two reigning champions of what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to die during a season as the defending champion (1992 Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, who died in a plane crash during the 1993 season, is the other) and the only one of the two to die during a race.

Weatherly's fatal crash, combined with Richard Petty's crash at Darlington in 1970, eventually led NASCAR to mandate the window net seven years later in 1971. Window nets are used in most stockcar racing series to this day.

Weatherly's grave marker is a sculpture of Riverside Raceway, a checkered flag marking the spot of his fatal crash.


He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2009.[1] Weatherly was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 30, 2015.


  1. ^ a b "The Class of 2009". AutoWeek. Detroit, Michigan: Crain Communications. 59 (17): 62. August 24, 2009. ISSN 0192-9674. 
  2. ^ a b c d Edelstein, Robert (2011). NASCAR Legends. New York City: The Overlook Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-1-59020-184-8. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ned Jarrett
NASCAR Grand National Champion
Succeeded by
Richard Petty