Why Are Peanut Shells Bad Luck in NASCAR?

Why Are Peanut Shells Bad Luck in NASCAR

Why would something as insignificant as a peanut shell make drivers who run laps at insane speeds quake in their boots? Who knew that peanut shells are considered deadly in NASCAR races? Do you want to get to the bottom of this strange NASCAR superstition?

Let’s do it!

What’s With the Peanut Apprehension?

A series of crashes in the early twentieth century, mainly the 30’s and 40s, were attributed to peanut shells. Drivers started to avoid them like the plague. In NASCAR races, it’s not just about winning or losing but also about staying alive. Drivers risked their lives on a daily but took steps to keep themselves safe wherever they could.

Dangerous sports like this tend to birth powerful superstitions. While some drivers steer clear of the number 13 and others avoid touching certain denominations of currency, peanut shell avoidance is the most common and strange.

The Accidents

We’re sure you’d like to learn more about the accidents behind the rumors. A few NASCAR drivers were already superstitious about peanut shells. However, these crashes solidified the superstition throughout the entire sport.

May 16, 1937

“Three Killed By Race Car; Four Injured” Read the front page of the St. Petersburg Times the day following the crash. The Driver, Frank Baily, saw that he was about to collide with another driver, so he swerved. He avoided the other drivers but ended up crashing into the corner stands. Three spectators died, and three others were injured. The driver had a broken rib and possibly internal bleeding.

September 28, 1937

“Cox Is Killed in Race Crash,” a driver’s death announced in the paper and silenced the town. The veteran driver Howard Cox met his end in a vehicle pile-up in Nashville.

A car in second place pushed forward to take the lead but ended up smashing next to the car it tried to supersede. Two or three cars behind it also smashed into the two cars in the front. The four or five-vehicle pile-up led to the death of the famous NASCAR driver before his time.

This crash only injured the drivers involved, and luckily, no spectators were harmed.

The Suppositions

The newspaper articles reporting the crashes do nothing to blame peanuts or their shells. The rumors circulated nonetheless. There are several possible suppositions as to why people believe that peanuts had something to do with the crash. While we cannot confirm what exactly happened, we have a few healthy theories.

 Found in the Cars

Whenever there would be a car crash, the site would be searched to get to the bottom of it. Racers, investors, and spectators would benefit from learning to avoid future crashes. Everyone around the sport had a vested interest in learning any factoids about the cars or the track on the day of an accident.

That’s why people would start throwing up theories not hours but minutes after a crash. It was reported that peanut shells were found in the cars’ cockpits while they were searched after the crash.

Like anything else, the possibility that the peanuts were behind the crash would be scrutinized by the public. It is not surprising that if nothing else out of the ordinary was noticed, everyone would blame the peanut shells.

From the Stands to the Tracks

Another theory is that peanut shells making their way to the race track were a known issue. Spectators would munch on them endlessly while watching the race on the edge of their seats.

After the crash, people blamed the peanut shells for the lack of anything else making sense to them. Rumors affect the drivers more than anyone since they risk their necks for the sport, literally. When the driver came to hear about it, they avoided peanut shells like the plague. Habits like these are quick to spread to their peers. If the racers were superstitious, then their fans would also be.

Nefarious Sabotage

Some people may have believed that out of the desire to win, other racecar drivers may have sprinkled the peanut shells inside the cars that crashed. Since peanut shells were being blamed for the whole thing, people had to come up with a reason they would be there in the first place.

Pit Crew Munchies

It is possible that the pit crew was eating the popular sports snack of shelled peanuts before the race. If they were, it’s not a long stretch to believe they got some shells into the cars or on the track. While we have no way of confirming it was the pit crew, the spectators, or the driver himself who indulged in the snack, we can be sure that all were suspects. Imagine innocently eating a snack before the big race, and now everyone blames you for the crash. We certainly wouldn’t want to be in that pit crew member’s shoes.

Vern Orenduff’s Superstition

In 1933 an interview with the famous driver Vern Orenduff revealed he would not race in a car if a peanut shell even touched it. Such idiosyncrasies are amusing tidbits of trivia fans remember well.

It is possible if peanut shells were found in the cars or the tracks after the accident, then fans remembered Orenduff’s words and connected the dots. If that’s the case, one man’s personal pet peeves became a well-established superstition.

Any number of these could be why everyone started blaming peanuts for the crash. The origin of the rumors is not known. Many good rumors remain untraceable. However, this superstition carries on today. If you like them that much, peanuts without shells are accepted by most fans and drivers around the races.


Don’t take peanuts with shells to the races unless you want to offend some drivers or superstitious fans. Taking peanut shells with you is akin to wishing for a crash. Or at least that’s the message you’re sending. You may not be superstitious, but you should respect other people’s beliefs and try not to hurt their feelings deliberately. Why are peanut shells bad luck in NASCAR? They’re bad luck because people believe they caused terrible accidents in the late 1930s.

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