At the beginning of the 1969 NASCAR Grand National season, Ford and Mercury were virtually unbeatable. On the big tracks hosting races of 300 miles or more, Ford tied together a 13-race winning streak. Fords took the top five spots at Atlanta, the top four at Michigan, and finished first and second in eight of the 13 victories. All of that changed in September with the introduction of the Dodge Charger Daytona at the Talladega 500.
Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes frustrations built among the drivers, who held a secret meeting in Ann Arbor in August and formed the Professional Drivers Association. The rough track at Talladega proved to be a catalyst: Drivers wanted to postpone the race to wait for safer tires to be developed that could handle the surface, but officials refused. Most of the drivers loaded up their cars and went home. The first official drivers boycott in NASCAR history had become a reality.
In the final months of the 1969 campaign, the PDA drivers returned to the speedway, albeit with considerable tension, to cap off another season of thrills and controversy. To get a better picture of this season, this article will guide you through the year's highlights, photos, and standings.
February 1, 1969: Motor Trend 500
In his first start in a Ford, Richard Petty wins the Motor Trend 500 on the Riverside road course. Petty finishes 25 seconds ahead of runner-up A.J. Foyt.
After a 1968 season that produced only one superspeedway win in his Plymouth Roadrunner, Richard Petty requested that Chrysler officials shift him to the more aerodynamic Dodge for the 1969 NASCAR Grand National campaign. Chrysler balked, indicating they wanted to keep him in the Plymouth nameplate. In a shocking decision, Petty bailed out of the Chrysler camp entirely and joined the powerful Ford team. The King of NASCAR racing won his first start in a Ford. See more pictures of NASCAR.
February 23, 1969: Daytona 500
LeeRoy Yarbrough passes Charlie Glotzbach on the final lap to win the Daytona 500. Yarbrough wins in his back-up car.
March 30, 1969: Atlanta 500
Cale Yarborough dominates the Atlanta 500 in his Mercury, leading 308 of the 334 laps at Atlanta International Raceway. Yarborough's win marks a successful debut for the new Blue Crescent Boss 429-cid engine.
April 27, 1969: Virginia 500
Richard Petty, with relief help from James Hylton, wins the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Petty's Torino Talladega finishes three seconds ahead of runner-up David Pearson.
John Sears' #4 Ford flanks Richard Petty on the fourth row at the start of the May 4 Fireball 300 at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway. Sears, a burly driver from Ellerbe, N.C., was one of NASCAR's top independent drivers, finishing among the top 10 in the final points standings on four occasions. Sears had a fine run in this 300-lapper at Weaverville, finishing third.
May 10, 1969: Rebel 400
LeeRoy Yarbrough drives a battered Mercury to victory in the Rebel 400 at Darlington Raceway. Yarbrough and Bobby Allison tangle while battling for the lead with four laps to go. Allison crashes, while Yarbrough limps to victory.
June 15, 1969: Motor State 500
Cale Yarborough survives a brush with LeeRoy Yarbrough on the final lap to win in the inaugural Motor State 500 at Michigan International Speedway.
July 6, 1969: Mason-Dixon 300
Richard Petty finishes six laps ahead of the field to win the Mason-Dixon 300 at the new Dover Downs International Speedway. Part-time driver Sonny Hutchins finishes second.
David Pearson's Ford and Cale Yarborough's Mercury line up on the front row before the start of the Sept. 28 Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The annual 500-lapper was run two weeks after the Talladega boycott, and many of the spectators were angered with PDA president Richard Petty for calling the strike. Late in the race, a fan hurled a beer can that struck Petty's windshield. Despite the close call, Petty outran Pearson down the stretch and won the race.
July 20, 1969: Volunteer 500
David Pearson prevails in a wreck-strewn Volunteer 500 at Bristol International Speedway. It is the first event on the 1/2-mile oval since the turns were redesigned and banked to a staggering 36 degrees.
August 22, 1969
Richard Petty drives his Ford to a narrow victory in the 250-lap race at Winston-Salem's Bowman Gray Stadium. It is Petty's 100th NASCAR Grand National victory.
August 24, 1969: Western North Carolina 500
Bobby Isaac rallies from a five-lap deficit to win the Western North Carolina 500, finishing four laps ahead of runner-up David Pearson. It is Isaac's 11th win of the season.
Number 98 LeeRoy Yarbrough battles #6 Buddy Baker during the Oct. 5, 1969 Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Yarbrough finished fourth and Baker took fifth in the 250-miler. Richard Petty was seemingly on his way to victory until a late-race caution was thrown to remove a bottle that had been thrown from the grandstands. Petty's big lead was erased and David Pearson came on in the final lap to steal the win.
September 1, 1969: Southern 500
LeeRoy Yarbrough passes David Pearson on the final lap to win the rain-shortened Southern 500 at Darlington.
September 14, 1969: Talladega 500
Unheralded Richard Brickhouse drives a winged Dodge Daytona to victory in the inaugural Talladega 500 at the new Alabama International Motor Speedway. The event is boycotted by virtually all the top NASCAR drivers.
October 26, 1969: American 500
LeeRoy Yarbrough scores his seventh superspeedway win of the season in the American 500 at Rockingham. Yarbrough loses a lap when a tire blows, sending him into the wall. He scrambles back into contention and takes the lead for keeps with 57 laps remaining.
Ford Motor Co. introduced sloped nose extensions on their Ford Torinos and Mercury Cyclones in 1969 in an effort to lengthen their advantage over Chrysler products. The extensions provided a definite advantage over the conventional Dodge Chargers, particularly on the high-speed ovals. The new Ford was coined the Torino Talladega while the Mercury special edition was the Cyclone Spoiler. Fords didn't lose on a superspeedway until September.
December 7, 1969: Texas 500
Bobby Isaac claims his first career superspeedway victory in the inaugural Texas 500 at the new Texas International Speedway. Cale Yarborough is seriously injured when his Mercury clobbers the wall.
December 17, 1969
NASCAR signs a contract with ABC Television, which will televise nine NASCAR Grand National races, including five live broadcasts during the 1970 season.
See the next section for the full standings and statistics from the 1969 NASCAR Grand National tour.
For more information on all things NASCAR, see:
- NASCAR Home Page
- NASCAR Season Recaps
- NASCAR Tracks
- NASCAR Results
- NASCAR Drivers
- How NASCAR Race Cars Work
- How the Daytona 500 Works