PDA Boycotts ’Dega Opener; Brickhouse Is Unlikely Winner
Richard Brickhouse, a 29-year-old farmer from Rocky Point, N.C., won the Talladega 500 on Sept. 14, 1969, at Alabama Int’l Motor Speedway after more than 30 of stock-car racing’s top stars refused to compete in the inaugural event at Bill France’s new 2.66-mile superspeedway.
The walkout took place after drivers experienced inordinately high tire wear with some cars getting no more than three or four laps out of a set of Goodyear tires. Earlier in the week, Firestone officials withdrew their tires, claiming they had not had enough test time to perfect a tire for the high-speed track.
Concerns began to mount during practice when cars were bottoming out at speeds in excess of 190 mph and bits of the track’s asphalt surface began to rip up.
“There is no way you can drive a car at speed under those conditions,” said LeeRoy Yarbrough. “I don’t want to make my wife a widow this early in life.”
After meeting with France on Saturday, members of the Professional Drivers Ass’n voted to boycott the race.
“We have been trying all week to reach a solution with the tire companies and the car companies,” said Richard Petty, president of the PDA. “The drivers all need more time on this track before we are asked to race on it.”
But France vowed the event would run as scheduled and 36 cars, including 23 Grand Touring cars that had raced in the 400-mile preliminary, took the green flag Sunday afternoon.
Brickhouse, who resigned from the PDA so he could race, drove the No. 99 Dodge Daytona originally assigned to Charlie Glotzbach.
The race report in the Sept. 17 issue of National Speed Sport News said Brickhouse showed “considerably more nerve and experience than his driving record indicates” in scoring the first major victory of his career.
He led seven times for 33 of the 188 laps and averaged 153.778 mph in giving the new winged Dodge Daytona a victory in its first race. Jim Vandiver, who led 102 laps, settled for second in a Dodge Charger and Ramo Stott was third in a similar Dodge.
The dire prognostications by the PDA as to the unsafe conditions were not borne out as the full 500 miles was contested without an accident.
The tire story was a different matter, however, as Brickhouse was forced to make 10 pit stops. He used a total of 28 tires, 22 on the right side and six on the left, but never suffered a blowout.