On this day in 1969 the inaugural Talladega 500 was run, despite NASCAR’s biggest names skipping the race. Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Wendell Scott, Buddy Baker and other members of the Professional Driver Association boycotted the event, claiming tire concerns. During Grand National practice at the new track, which held its first auto race the day before, multiple drivers experienced tire failures. It was believed the cause of the trouble was the track was too fast, resulting in increased tire wear. Bill France enticed enough drivers from the previous day’s Grand Touring event to race the 500 too, making sure the race would happen. Amid the controversy, a new car hit the track for the first time, the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona.
The new Dodge was designed to do one thing, win high profile NASCAR races. On the heels of failure with the limited edition Dodge Charger 500, and losing Richard Petty to Ford, the car needed to be an instant hit, and it was. Premiering at the Talladega 500, Richard Brickhouse drove the car to victory. While more controversy followed the race, with the second place winner claiming they had lapped Brickhouse, the Daytona was ultimately granted its first victory on the track. A legend had been born.
The Daytona featured a 23 inch tall stabilizer wing, a sheet metal nose cone, window caps and other body modifications to make it more aerodynamic. Per specifications of NASCAR, 500 had to be built for the car to compete in NASCAR in 1969. A total of 503 Daytonas were sent to dealerships, giving the car the green light to race for the checkers. Of those 503, only 70 were equipped with the 426 cu in Hemi V8.
The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona fared well on the track, winning twice in 1969. The car excited Richard Petty enough to draw him back under the Chrysler Umbrella to race a Plymouth Superbird, the younger sibling of the Daytona. In 1970 Daytonas won four more races, while Superbirds earned eight wins that year. Also during that year, Buddy Baker broke the 200 mph mark at Talladega in a Daytona. He became the first driver to do so in the series. By the end of the 1970 season, NASCAR instituted a ban on aero cars with engines bigger than 300 cubic inches, closing the book on the Winged Warriors.