The 1964 Riverside International Raceway Disaster

One of the most gregarious drivers in the racing circuit in 1964 was Joe Weatherly, “The Clown Prince” of racing. Weatherly’s huge personality was a favorite among his peers, press and family. Besides being a great practical joker, Weatherly was also known to stay up till the crack of dawn drinking and partying with friends.


There was one fun story of him even taking a practice run dressed in full Peter Pan regalia. While all the shenanigans were fun, at the end of the day Weatherly was also known as a damn good racer, and was a proven NASCAR champ. Weatherly won the 1962 and 1963 Grand National Series as well as another 25 career races.

With all the success and friends he had, nobody would have ever predicted the outcome in January 1964 when disaster struck. Joe was taking part in the fifth race of the year at the Riverside International Raceway in California. He was doing fine through the first half of the race when he suddenly lost control and at full speed, careened into the far wall. What appeared to be a survivable crashed proved otherwise when investigators confirmed that Weatherly’s head had gone outside the window and been crushed against the wall. Shockingly, Weatherly wasn’t wearing a harness nor did he have a window screen installed for added protection. His untimely death resulted in deeper and more protective and mandatory rules regarding drivers safety.