By Ben White
Former motorcycle champion Joe Weatherly, of Norfolk, Virginia, proved to be the class of the field and was crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion in 1962 with nine wins and 45 top-10 results.
As the 1962 NASCAR Cup Series season began, the Automobile Association of America was still claiming that stock car racing should be banned as too dangerous, a movement that began in 1957. The resolution had been adopted by the Big Three automakers after receiving Congressional pressure on the basis that promoting speed and horsepower wasn’t safe for the general public, especially teenagers.
But the automakers had assembly lines of cars to sell and racing on the high banks of Daytona, Darlington, Atlanta and Charlotte provided perfect venues. A way around the moves to ban racing was to supply the teams “under the table” in secret. By June, Ford Motor Co. withdrew from the AAA, as did the other manufacturers.
The cars to beat that year were the Pontiac driven by Weatherly and fielded by team owner Bud Moore, and the Petty Enterprises Plymouth driven by Richard Petty with eight wins to his credit. Weatherly’s additional eight top-five results and six top-10 finishes made the difference in championship points over Petty.
Weatherly was very superstitious. The Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway was a big problem for the NASCAR star. The race was the 13th annual event and Weatherly told track president Bob Colvin that he would not compete.
Colvin had a handshake deal with Weatherly and demanded that Weatherly honor the agreement, but Weatherly refused to have anything to do with the No. 13. Colvin angrily appeased Weatherly by renaming the 1962 Southern 500 the “The 12th Renewal of the Southern 500.”
PRESIDENT: JOHN F. KENNEDY
NO. 1 AT THE BOX OFFICE: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
MOVIES TO WATCH: THE LONGEST DAY AND WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?
NO. 1 SONG: “STRANGER ON THE SHORE” BY ACKER BILK
GALLON OF GAS: 31 CENTS
POP CULTURE: THE MUSIC INDUSTRY WAS ON A CONSTANT RISE. THERE WERE SIX MAJOR BANDS, INCLUDING BOOKER T. & THE MG’S, HERMAN’S HERMITS, THE ROLLING STONES AND ELVIS PRESLEY, WITH HIT SINGLES SUCH AS “RETURN TO SENDER,” “I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU “AND “CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE.”
Joe Weatherly, driver of the No. 8 Bud Moore Engineering Pontiac, won nine races – all on short tracks – while finishing outside the top 10 only seven times in 52 starts. His union with Bud Moore seemed a bit magical in the sense that they were strong at every race they entered. Weatherly’s seven pole positions also sent a message to his fellow competitors that 1962 was his year to claim NASCAR’s coveted Cup Series championship.
Driving the Lewis Clements No. 4 Chevrolet, Rex White admitted he had “little to no chance” of winning the Dixie 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he drafted off of faster cars and logged his 28th-career victory in the final race of the season. White conserved fuel and made one less pit stop. The pre-race strategy worked to White’s advantage when leader Marvin Panch had to pit in the closing laps.
Joe Weatherly’s No. 8 Bud Moore Engineering Pontiac went to Victory Lane nine times and had 45 top-10 finishes.
Richard Petty, driving the No. 43 Petty Enterprises Plymouth, recorded eight wins and 38 top-10 results in 52 starts.
1962 Season Recap
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
Nov. 5 | Concord Speedway | Jack Smith
Nov. 12 | Asheville-Weaverville Speedway | Rex White
Feb. 16 | Daytona Int’l Speedway | Fireball Roberts
Feb. 16 | Daytona Int’l Speedway | Joe Weatherly
Feb. 18 | Daytona Int’l Speedway | Fireball Roberts
Feb. 25 | Concord Speedway | Joe Weatherly
March 4 | Asheville-Weaverville Speedway | Joe Weatherly
March 17 | Savannah Speedway | Jack Smith
March 18 | Orange Speedway | Rex White
April 1 | Richmond Raceway | Rex White
April 13 | Columbia Speedway | Ned Jarrett
April 15 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Richard Petty
April 19 | Greenville Pickens Speedway | Ned Jarrett
April 21 | Rambi Raceway | Jack Smith
April 22 | Martinsville Speedway | Richard Petty
April 23 | Bowman Gray Stadium | Rex White
April 29 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Bobby Johns
May 4 | Southside Speedway | Jimmy Pardue
May 5 | Hickory Speedway | Jack Smith
May 6 | Concord Speedway | Joe Weatherly
May 12 | Darlington Raceway | Nelson Stacy
May 19 | Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds | Ned Jarrett
May 27 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Nelson Stacy
June 10 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Fred Lorenzen
June 16 | Bowman Gray Stadium | Johnny Allen
June 19 | Augusta Speedway | Joe Weatherly
June 22 | Southside Speedway | Jim Paschal
June 23 | South Boston Speedway | Rex White
July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | Fireball Roberts
July 7 | Columbia Speedway | Rex White
July 13 | New Asheville Speedway | Jack Smith
July 14 | Greenville-Pickens Speedway | Richard Petty
July 17 | Augusta International Speedway | Joe Weatherly
July 20 | Savannah Speedway | Joe Weatherly
July 21 | Rambi Raceway | Ned Jarrett
July 29 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Jim Paschal
Aug. 3 | Boyd Speedway | Joe Weatherly
Aug. 5 | Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville | Jim Paschal
Aug. 8 | Huntsville Speedway | Richard Petty
Aug. 12 | Asheville-Weaverville Speedway | Jim Paschal
Aug. 15 | Roanoke Raceway | Richard Petty
Aug. 18 | Bowman Gray Stadium | Richard Petty
Aug. 21 | Hub City Speedway | Richard Petty
Aug. 25 | Valdosta 75 Speedway | Ned Jarrett
Sept. 3 | Darlington Raceway | Larry Frank
Sept. 7 | Hickory Speedway | Rex White
Sept. 9 | Richmond Raceway | Joe Weatherly
Sept. 11 | Dog Track Raceway | Ned Jarrett
Sept. 13 | Augusta Speedway | Fred Lorenzen
Sept. 23 | Martinsville Speedway | Nelson Stacy
Sept. 30 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Richard Petty
Oct. 14 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Junior Johnson
Oct. 28 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Rex White