Why Kyle Larson Includes a Ladybug On Every Car He Drives

Athletes, in general, tend to be a superstitious bunch, and NASCAR drivers are no different. Take the little bug that connects Cup Series champ Kyle Larson across the generations and racing series with three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Johnny Rutherford, who won “The Greatest Spectacle in Sports” at the famed Brickyard in 1974, 1976, and 1980.

Since Larson’s childhood beginnings in racing, his cars have carried a representation of a ladybug somewhere on board, thanks to his father, Mike Larson. When his son began racing, the elder Larson recalled an Indy 500 story about how a ladybug landed on Rutherford before his 1980 win at The Brickyard and made sure Kyle Larson’s racers included the representation of a ladybug on board for good luck.

Ladybugs are believed to be good omens in many cultures, and when one landed on Rutherford before his third Indy 500 victory, he told his crew that everyone else was “racing for second.” That statement proved to be prophetic.

Kyle Larson’s father always made sure a ladybug tagged along with his son

Kyle Larson at 2022 Talladega qualifying
Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, 2022 | James Gilbert/Getty Images

The ladybug tradition with the Larsons began when Kyle Larson started in open-wheel midget, Silver Crown, and sprint cars and has continued as he’s made his way through the NASCAR ranks in the Truck and Xfinity series. 

Now, his Cup Series No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro races with a ladybug for luck as well. Even some of Larson’s t-shirts and other souvenirs include ladybugs somewhere in the design.

The superstition has become a tradition for the Larsons, who met up with Rutherford decades after the ladybug landed on the open-wheel legend, and he drove the “Yellow Submarine” Chaparral to Victory Lane in 1980, according to a NASCAR.com story by Zack Albert.  

Albert wrote that the Larsons and Rutherford met at the Chili Bowl and shared how Rutherford’s good fortune had inspired their own ladybug legacy.

“Rutherford shared a laugh and wished them well, bringing the origin story full circle,” Albert wrote.

Larson certainly hasn’t been the only NASCAR driver with a superstition

While the ladybug has been a good omen for the Larsons and Rutherford, some drivers focus on pre-race meals, attire, or things to do to avoid bad luck.

For instance, for decades, drivers avoided green cars after the 1920 death of Gaston Chevrolet in a green car during a race crash in Beverly Hills, California. A decade earlier, Lee Oldfield, driving a green car, left the track and killed several spectators during a race in Syracuse, New York.

Retired NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin ate a bologna sandwich prior to his 1994 Daytona 500 victory and again prior to his 1995 Daytona win, making it a pre-race superstition.

Former Formula One driver Alexander Wurz, a two-time Le Mans winner, wore different color shoes as a driver, a ritual that was supposed to bring good luck.

Since the fatal crash that killed NASCAR great Joe Weatherly in 1964 at Riverside International Raceway, some drivers have avoided $50 bills. Weatherly supposedly had a pair of $50 bills in his fire suit when he was killed. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was reportedly one of those who followed this practice — or didn’t follow, as the case may be.

Some drivers also entertain superstitions involving peanuts, Lucky Charms, and the number 13.

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