If, gun to your head, you had to come up with the best NASCAR race of all time, you’d probably find yourself in a pretty sticky situation. Coming up with the worst NASCAR race of all time? Well, that might be a slightly easier task, especially considering the absolute dumpster fire that was the 1969 Talladega 500.
Where Did NASCAR Go Wrong With the 1969 Talladega 500?
There were plenty of issues surrounding that infamous running at Talladega Superspeedway that contributed to it being an absolute Whopper-sized dud. Chief among these issues were serious tire failures that occurred during the race’s practice run. These failures spurred Richard Petty, who was the President of the Professional Driver Association (PDA), to lead a boycott of the race. Those who joined Petty in the boycott included David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Tiny Lund, Ramo Stott, and about nine additional drivers. Firestone also withdrew their tires from the race as a result of the tire malfunctions. By all accounts, the race never should have happened, but NASCAR President Bill France Sr. was determined that it go on as scheduled.
In a last-minute scramble, France offered fans free admission to the 1970 Daytona 500 if they bought tickets to the Talladega race. On top of that, Goodyear had a new set of tires flown in the day before race day. It was a valiant effort, but as for race day itself, it was, as you can imagine, pretty much uneventful, save for the introduction of the Dodge Charger Daytona cars to the NASCAR Cup Series.
When it was all said and done, Bobby Isaac won the pole and Richard Brickhouse came away the winner, though even that was the subject of controversy. Jim Vandiver, who ended up finishing second, argued that he had actually lapped Brickhouse and should have been considered the winner. Some racing scholars think that Brickhouse racing in a winged Dodge Daytona and Vandiver racing in an older Charger 500 was the major reason behind Brickhouse’s win.
In any case, the PDA ended up disbanding after its boycott of the ’69 Talladega 500. Considering the background and execution of the race, it’s hard to come up with a worse race in the history of NASCAR.
This post was originally published on April 24, 2019.