Everyone knows that it’s best to stay away from black cats, the No. 13, walking under ladders, breaking mirrors and opening an umbrella inside the house.
For the longest time, the color green was a bad omen at the racetrack. We’re not exactly sure why, but a few early crashes in racing history did involve green cars.
An early racing crash involved the green car of Lee Oldfield at the 1910 New York State Fair in Syracuse. It was one that landed him in the grandstand and killed several spectators. Years later, Oldfield was said to believe he started the superstition.
Ten years later, the green car of Gaston Chevrolet (yep, Louis Chevrolet’s brother) was involved in a crash that killed two at Beverly Hills (Calif.) Speedway in 1920.
Whether or not either of those incidents were the start of a superstition, wearing a green shirt or driving a green car on race day can can get you a look or two from the Friday the 13th crowd.
Not everyone buys into the superstition.
“My first ever Top Fuel race win (Phoenix, 2016) was in an all-green car, so for me, green is good luck,” says Leah Pruett, driver of the Mopar Dodge SRT Top Fuel dragster for Don Schumacher Racing in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
Pruett’s teammate, three-time Top Fuel champion Antron Brown, is another who never gives car colors a second thought.
“I really don’t care what color my race car is. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s green, blue, black, purple, silver. Green is not my kryptonite.”
Matt Hagan, reigning Funny Car champion, has heard the stories. No color is stopping his car when everything is right.
“Green, blue, purple, pink, yellow,” Hagan says. “I don’t care what color my car is, as long as it’s fast, and as long as its got a DSR HEMI in it.”
Ron Capps, the 2016 Funny Car champ and driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge SRT Hellcat, says when it comes to green, he’ll take all he can get. On race day or pay day.
“John Force’s cars were always green and he won absolutely everything.”
“The green thing goes way back,” Capps said. “A lot of drivers don’t like to have green on their race car, or even in their pit area. I always thought that was dumb because as a kid growing up, John Force’s cars were always green and he won absolutely everything. And green is the color of money.
Brian Corradi, a crew chief for the Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel Team, is in the camp with those who respect the green.
“How do I feel about the color green? Let’s put it this way,” Corradi said. “This past weekend in Gainesville, I borrowed some chalk for the starting line and it happened to be green. I broke a piece off, marked my spot on the line and put it in my pocket. Needless to say, we were about to go up for Q3 and there was a chance we could get bumped out, so I took that green chalk out of my pocket and put it back where I found it.
“I’m not real wild about having green M&Ms in my pit or bananas either, for that matter. That comes from an old crew chief I used to work with back in the day, and something I ended up adopting. If we’re not running well and there’s a banana in the trailer, I’ll take it out of our pit area and put it in someone else’s trash can.”
Dean “Guido” Antonelli, co-crew chief for Capps’ cars, has found green on race day to be lucky.
“There’s always been a superstition about green and racing, and St. Patty’s Day brings it up every year,” Antonelli said. “Personally, my dad raced green cars when I was a kid and thought it was lucky, so I guess I have the opposite viewpoint of a lot of others out here.”
Then there’s Neal Strausbaugh, co-crew chief for the Mopar Dodge/SRT Top Fuel Team. He’ll tell you that if green was an angry dragon on race day, John Force and Tony Schumacher took care of that myth.
“So, when I first started racing, everyone said green was bad luck,” Strausbaugh said. “I tend not to believe that now after watching John Force with his green cars, and Tony Schumacher who had a lot of green in his Army paint schemes. They’re the two winningest drivers in our sport. They’ve won a lot of races over the years, so I’ve given up on green being bad luck.”
Mike Knudsen, assistant crew chief on Hagan’s Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat looks at the green debate in much more simple terms.
“At the end of the day, if a company is willing to put their logo on a car and be a part of our sport, I welcome it, regardless of what their company’s colors are,” Knudsen said.
After all, a green car beats no car at all.
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