Sunday 19th January 1964
Joe Weatherly (41), champion AAA motorcycle and NASCAR stock car racer, died from head injuries sustained in a crash during the NASCAR Motor Trend 500 at Riverside, California, US. 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. He is one of two reigning champions of what is now known as the Sprint 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.