Did Talladega change everything in 1969?

Richard Childress and Austin Dillon pose with the championship trophy after winning the 2011 Series Championship in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2011 in Homestead,Florida (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Sometimes it’s fun to play what if. What if such and such had never happened? What if such and such had happened differently? You get the picture.

Back when Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway first opoened in 1969, the drivers at the top level of NASCAR pretty much went on strike, because tires were falling apart, causing safety concerns at NASCAR’s newest behemoth of a track.

Big Bill France, determined that the race would go on, whether NASCAR’s biggest stars of the day were there or not, recruited some Grand National drivers to run the first big-time event at Talladega — drivers who regularly competed in the series that was the forerunner of what’s now the Nationwide Series.

Richard Childress was one of those drivers. Yes, the Richard Childress who is the namesake of Richard Childress Racing, which was the racing home of the late Dale Earnhardt through most of his Cup Series career.

That start at Talladega in 1969 was the first for Childress, then an owner driver, at the Cup level. Childress didn’t win that day. Heck, he never won a Cup race as a driver. But still, his winnings from that Cup debut allowed him to start Richard Childress Racing, the Cup Series team.

In those early years, Childress continued on, driving his own race cars with no success. It wasn’t until the early 1980s when he began putting other drivers in the car that he began to win Cup races as a car owner.

But what if there hadn’t been a tire issue because of the then-unheard of speeds at Talladega that first year? What if the Cup regulars of the day hadn’t gone on strike? What if France hadn’t decided to run the race anyway with Grand National drivers?

Would there be a Richard Childress Racing today? Even if the team still would’ve formed somehow, would it be the racing force it is now? Okay, the organization is having somewhat of a down year at the Sprint Cup level this year. But, traditionally, RCR is one of the frontrunners.

What about Earnhardt? Had RCR never become what it was in the 1980s and 1990s, how would the seven-time champion and Hall of Famer’s career been different?

As the Sprint Cup Series prepares for the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega on Sunday, I just thought it would be the perfect time to ponder how NASCAR over the last several decades may have been different if things had gone differently at Talladega back in 1969.

Just something to wonder about.

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Tags: NASCAR Richard Childress Racing Talladega Superspeedway

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