Green isn’t a taboo color at racetracks – note the green flags, the old green folding chairs in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway penthouses and cold, hard green cash that drivers used to be paid back in the day.
Then why are green cars so rare?
Racing has its share of superstitions, with one being that cars should not be green. IMS historian Donald Davidson said that could date to before World War I, when a bad crash in a race at the New York State Fairgrounds included a green car. Another theory was that green cars were hard to pick out against foliage around racetracks at old county fairs. Maybe you’ve heard some theories too.
In the Indianapolis 500, there haven’t been too many green cars. Jimmy Jackson, a five-time starter from 1946-50, first arrived at the Speedway in ’46 in a Kelly green car – plus a green uniform, helmet and gloves. His crew wore green too. But Jackson had a hometown connection, he attended Indianapolis’ Tech High School, whose colors were green.
Of course, the British invasion of the mid-1960s featured green cars, with the most iconic being Jim Clark’s 1965 winner. No bad mojo there for a car that was the first to run the race at a 150 mph clip.
The next significant greens? The Sprite-sponsored cars of 1969-71. At first the cars were primarily white with accents that included green – like the old Sprite cans themselves – but in 1971 the look was all green, as shown here with Wally Dallenbach.
Alas, none of the Sprite cars finished in contention (the best was ninth by Roger McCluskey in 1971), so who knows? Maybe there was something about their green.