Childress Talladega 1969

RCR 50 TBT: Richard Childress’ Big Break at Talladega in 1969

With the 2019 season serving as the 50th anniversary of Richard Childress Racing, we plan to dip into the archives to present the stories of iconic moments, race wins, championships and much more as part of our weekly Throwback Thursday series.

This weekend the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the 101st event in the track’s iconic 50-year history. The 2.66-mile track was opened in September 1969 and shrouded in controversy, but one man from Winston Salem, North Carolina saw it as an opportunity.

When Talladega Superspeedway opened as the bigger, wider and faster version of Bill France Sr.’s Daytona International Speedway, drivers began voicing their concerns as soon as they hit the track.

The high speeds were unlike anything the drivers had experienced before and the tire companies, Firestone and Goodyear, were not prepared for the wear their products would see. This caused drivers to express their concerns to NASCAR, Firestone pulled their tires from the event and the rumblings of a driver boycott began to circulate the garage area.

In His Own Words: Richard Childress – Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX

While the NASCAR premiere series was the highlight of the inaugural race weekend at Talladega, they were not the only ones at the track. The NASCAR Grand American touring car series was also slated to run an event on the track’s infield road course, which also utilized the high banked turns and backstretch.

After making his first start in the series at Daytona International Speedway earlier in the year, Richard Childress took his No. 13 Chevrolet Camaro to Talladega for this event. Childress took part in the Grand American event but receive an unexpected opportunity that would change the course of his life.

Those rumblings of a boycott turned into a near-total walkout of NASCAR’s top drivers, led by Richard Petty. With the sport’s biggest names leaving the track and opting not to race due to their concerns about safety, France was forced to find drivers to fill the field and go on with the show.

He turned, in part, to those drivers from the Grand American series, including Childress.

WATCH: Museum Monday – RCR’s Dominance at Talladega in 1999

Childress started the inaugural Talladega 500 in the 26th position and retired early with a broken axle. The record books show him finishing in the 23rd position and collecting just over $1,000 for his winnings. After the race, however, France showed his appreciation for those that avoided the boycott and braved the speeds to race by giving them an additional payout at the end of the day.

“I came back with about $4,000 – $5,000, more money than I had ever seen in my life,” said Childress. “I figured I would never have to work another day in my life, but here I am still working 50 years later.”

Following that weekend, Childress incorporated his race team as Richard Childress Racing, Inc. and the start of this 50-year journey was born. Childress used his winnings from that inaugural Talladega race to purchase a parcel of land to build his first official race shop.

From there, Childress and his newly founded race team would embark on a journey that would cement them as one of NASCAR’s most influential and successful teams in the sport’s long history.