BOTH THE MOVER
AND THE SHAKER
Eric Schweikardt /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
For Bill France Sr.,
Talladega was a pet
project. He wanted
a track larger
and later brought
Motorsports Hall of
Fame to Alabama,
rather than Florida.
the help of the Teamsters had been
ruthlessly suppressed by NASCAR
founder Bill France Sr. in 1961, with both
drivers being banned from the sport.
France, whose International Speedway
Corp. had built the Talladega track, looked
no more sympathetically on the
insurrection by Petty’s PDA.
France put together a field of 13 Grand
National cars and 23 from the second-tier Grand Touring class, which had raced
the day before. “Big Bill” also offered
admission to any future race at Daytona
or Talladega to all fans in attendance.
That was enough to attract a crowd of
62,000 that saw Richard Brickhouse – a
Grand National sophomore who had
broken with the PDA when he was offered
Paul Goldsmith’s Dodge Charger Daytona
for the race – score his first (and only)
RACERS AS DEAL-MAKERS
Drivers’ associations are common
in professional racing, but have been
unable – or haven’t tried – to acquire
the political and economic gravitas of
players’ unions in other pro sports.
F1 drivers’ GPDA started out quite
literally as a grass-roots fraternity.
“We didn’t go in as a club and
say, ‘You’ve got to do this
or we’re leaving’”
top-level win. NASCAR responded to
the concerns about tire wear by calling
caution periods every 25 laps to change
tires, although Brickhouse admitted that
he backed off in the closing laps to keep
the rubber on his wheels.
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A few weeks later, the PDA was quietly
disbanded, and the “union” word was
not heard in NASCAR circles again.
However, the group’s concerns were
ultimately taken onboard by NASCAR via
its Winner’s Circle program, which
bolstered payouts to series regulars.
“It changed their outlook a little
bit, even if it wasn’t unionized, wasn’t
organized,” recalled Petty 40 years later.
“We didn’t go in as a club and say, ‘You’ve
got to do this or we’ve leaving.’ NASCAR
said, ‘OK, if we don’t do this, maybe
they might do something like that.’”