THE WINDSHIELD OR THE BUG?
They might be in the driver’s seat, but racers don’t
have a great record of controlling racing’s destiny.
WORDS Andrew Crask
MAIN IMAGE ISC Archives via Getty Images
RIGHT) provided an
NASCAR drivers to flex
their muscles...but the
race went ahead in
any case (MAIN).
winning was evident in
Victory Lane (BELOW).
acing may be fundamentally about
people, but the record suggests that the
people most directly associated with the
sport in the public mind – the drivers –
are some way down the list when it
comes to controlling its direction or
wielding any real power. Competitive
instincts tend to mitigate against a
united front when drivers have sought
to defend their common interests – and
on the rare occasions when they have
done so, the results have been mixed.
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images
A key test case of race drivers’ ability
to control events came with the inaugural
Talladega 500 at Alabama International
Motor Speedway, as the 2.66-mile,
high-banked oval was known at its
Richard Petty – announced a boycott
of the race the day before the event,
citing dangerous conditions resulting
from excessive tire wear.
Their concerns were legitimate, as tires
had been failing with alarming regularity
in pre-race testing at Talladega, and
qualifying had produced 199mph laps. But
it was the last straw for the drivers, who
had become increasingly frustrated with
NASCAR over prize money. Petty later
admitted that PDA members got together
a week before Talladega to discuss the
need to take some kind of action.
NASCAR’s Grand National division, the
1969 equivalent of today’s Sprint Cup
Series, featured 54 races that year, some
of which paid just $1,000 to the winner.
An attempt by Curtis Turner and Tim
Flock to unionize NASCAR drivers with
50 SEPTEMBER 2012