Turner had been off the circuit during much of the late 1960s, competing in only 10 races from 1967 to ’68 and none in ’69. He planned a major comeback but was killed when his private airplane crashed into a mountain near Punxsutawney, Pa., on Oct. 4, 1970.
Weatherly and Turner’s antics were legendary when drivers were fearless and truly bigger than life. The parties they staged were described as extremely risqué and lasted until the early morning hours, leaving them nursing headaches and sleeping on the deck lids of their cars until just before race time. But when the green flag waved, they won races.
Ken Martin, senior manager, archive development for NASCAR Productions, agreed they were often the talk of the grandstands and the garage area.
“Off the track, they were the perfect odd couple,” Martin said. “Curtis was tall and handsome, sort of the swash-buckling debonair. Joe was smaller and kind of stocky, known as a clown prince. The two of them were an incredible duo.
“There is a famous saying about how Curtis would stand and announce, “All right, everyone look at your watch. There will be another party starting in 15 minutes,” Martin said. “They were fearless on the race track but also fearless as far as their habits and lifestyles. No one loved to throw a party more than Curtis. Joe was more the comedian and Curtis loved a good laugh.”
They were just as crazy while at the track.
While teammates for car owner Charlie Schwam in 1955, they painted their Fords purple and called themselves “The Wild Hogs.”
Weatherly and Turner once came to the track with a purple pig, but NASCAR officials made them find a farmer who would keep it. They also bought a mule from a farmer for $100, with Weatherly riding it in a pre-race parade.
They crashed into each other so much on and off the track each called the other “Pops.” Both were banned by rental car companies because of the notoriously damaged vehicles they returned. More than once, they banged into one another to the point their cars were totally destroyed. Motel fences and signs were often torn down and cars at times sped into swimming pools.
Weatherly would also steal keys out of early race car ignitions and when the command to fire engines was given Weatherly would laugh heartily when his engine was the only one running.
Clothes weren’t off limits in their charades.
Weatherly once practiced before a race in Darlington, S.C., wearing a green Peter Pan outfit. He often arrived at the track wearing pants with one leg blue and one leg brown and a black shoe and a brown shoe.
When Turner was told by a NASCAR official he had to wear a “suit” just as fire suits were becoming mandatory in the mid-1960s, Turner drove in a race at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway wearing a suit and tie and finished fourth.
Turner’s flying capers included once landing on an Easley, S.C., street to pick up a case of liquor owed to him by a friend. Frightened church goers nearby ran for cover after he clipped some phone wires and some cars, including a sheriff’s cruiser. When he landed in Charlotte 30 minutes later, the Federal Aviation Administration took his license and fined him.
Many passengers who flew with him prayed for forgiveness and swore they’d never ride with him again. Turner was known to place his airplanes on autopilot so he could sleep.
“I do know for a fact that one thing he did, whether he was with someone or by himself, was to put the plane on autopilot and take a nap,” said Barney Hall in the book “Barney Hall’s ‘Tales from Trackside.’” He had an alarm clock he used to set when he was close to landing. A lot of those people had absolutely no flying experience whatsoever and most of them never flew with him again. He would tell them to wake him up in 20 minutes or whatever. They thought he was kidding but he’d go crawl back to the back seat and leave them up there shaking in their shoes. It was a pretty frightening experience but that’s just the way Curtis was.”