How The ’69 Daytona Changed NASCAR

From the inception of NASCAR in 1948, GM, Ford, and Chrysler waged an ongoing, full-fledged battle for stock car supremacy. But the war reached fever pitch in the 60s as engineers, designers and even aerospace experts were drafted by the manufacturers to pursue the ultimate racing machine.


“Stock” cars, of course, are just that: cars offered both to race drivers on the circuit speedway and to ordinary folks on city streets in identical packages. As racing fans demanded more and more speed, stock car manufacturers, conscious of both target audiences, responded with cautious creativity.


Until 1969, that is, when Chrysler took caution out back and shot it.


At the time, team Ford was pushing for the unveiling its Torino Talladega and the pressure was on Chrysler to create a fiercer, faster stock car than anything seen before. So the Chrysler engineers took their old Dodge Charger 500 to the laboratory… and created a monster.


The 1969 Dodge Daytona was a different animal altogether from the muscular-but-acceptable stock cars of the past. It was so ugly that everyday consumers hated it as much as racing fans adored the thing. It was built for speed and, on the racetrack, the Daytona cut through the pack with a speed and stability never seen before — killing the competition and shaking NASCAR to its core.


The Daytona was an engineering marvel. A protruding 18 inch fiberglass nose was added to the front to combat drag, The shark-like snout lowered the car’s drag factor to near zero, allowing the beast to attain unheard-of speeds. But there was a problem: The faster the Daytona ran, the less traction the rear wheels had.


Keeping the rear end of the test model down became the number-one factor in getting this baby out of the gate and past the checkered flag. The issue was resolved with a visually striking addition, one which was both counter-intuitive and, by most accounts, even uglier than the car’s snout. A massive two-foot wing was positioned on the backside of the Daytona. Sure, it was awkward and unappealing to a lot of people, but the results on the speedway soon quieted critics.


On its virgin run at 1969’s inaugural Talladega 500, the Daytona shot through the pack to victory, its high tail sticking up like a big middle finger to every other car on the field. It was the first refined stock car to reach an unimaginable 200 miles per hour on the superspeedways. After winning that first race, the Daytona became the stock car of choice for Bobby Isaac during his championship run the following year.


Officially the fastest stock car in U.S. competition, the Daytona would hold that title for more than a decade.


Riding the momentum of the Daytona’s success, Chrysler developed a sister model, the Plymouth Superbird. Like the Daytona, the Superbird would win its first race out of the blocks, seemingly confirming Chrysler’s reign as the premier breed of stock car.


The racing world was changed forever by the introduction of Chrysler’s devastating Daytona. And that’s exactly what NASCAR couldn’t abide. NASCAR sensed a dangerous new age of development where monsters of speed would eat up the competition by virtue of the science behind the machine instead of the skill behind the wheel.


Beyond the philosophical argument was the fact that Chrysler’s design advances were miles ahead of tire manufacturing feats, and NASCAR felt something had to be done to delay the uneven distribution of engineering expertise. So they killed off the most exciting thing to ever happen on the NASCAR circuit.


NASCAR’s method of execution was stringent new regulations for stock car manufacturers, including smaller engine size and increased consumer purchasing requirements. Where manufacturers once had to provide only 500 cars to the public, now one stock car had to be created for every two U.S. dealers. The result is what’s come to be known as the modern era of stock car racing, a homogeneous field of like-size and strength. A battle of the bland.


The 1969 Dodge Daytona lived and died in one short year. Just 505 of the cars were ever distributed. But the Daytona’s place in NASCAR history is cemented for its record-setting speed and forward-thinking design. It is the car that changed the game and, ultimately, was burned at the stake for its devilish creativity.


  • Tazallen

    Thank you Dodge…. I had a real hard day today (my dad was sick and had to go the hospital) and this article about the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona made me smile!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

    It is still a great car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish you guys would build a modern” Mopar wing warrior”!!!!!

    Thank You very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Tazallen

  • HEMIhead

    Great article! Keep these Mopar history stories comming!
    I think the Daytona is a great looking car. Its pure perfection.
    This is the type of thinking that always drew me towards MOPAR,
    and this is what the competition feared.

  • coolmancool

    It was never too late to build a new Challenger, and it is never too late to build a new Charger Daytona (one with a tall wing and nose cone). Surprise us Dodge and make it happen!

  • coolmancool

    By the way, this website is so much better. You really are listening to our comments. Thanks!

  • Mike Douglas

    Ok, you talk the talk, now walk the walk! Let’s get some Mopar muscle working in NASCAR again. Losing Richard Petty and Kasey Kahne to Ford is one of the worst racing decisions Mopar has ever made. But it’s not too late yet, but you need to get some more viable teams. Penske Racing is a great team to have in the stable, but more Mopars on the track are badly needed. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday!

  • The Snowman

    Stop living in the past! Sorry, but your glory days are long past!
    You can bring some of the glory back by trully redesigning the 2011 Charger as a 2 door/coupe. Not the staid 4 dr family sedan AND/OR cop car that you call a charger! Jeez!
    Good luck…

  • coolmancool

    RLD, you have heard the customers…2 door retro Charger with a Daytona (big wing) option and you will sell cars. I would mortgage my house to have an old style Daytona Charger!

  • Curt

    Great article! Leave everything as is and bring some more ponies out of the stable! I for one am hoping a new Dodge Dart is on the way!

  • ROAD/TRACK

    DODGE does not need two large 2dr models! They do need to do a convertible CHALLENGER
    and a smaller 2dr rear drive coupe please!!!

  • MoparzRule

    ROAD/TRACK what the heck do you know? It is that kind of thinking that has driven Dodge to bankruptcy. I hate four doors, yet I have a family and friends that would rather look cool in a sharp looking two door Charger and don’t mind sitting in the back as long as there is some leg room, versus riding in some 4 door brick shaped vehicle. Come on, the two door 1968-1970 Charger was one of the best looking cars ever designed. It is not short and stubby like the Challenger.

  • ROAD/TRACK

    My very first car back in the 80s was a 69 CHARGER ! I agree it is one of the best styled cars
    ever made. Todays CHARGER replaces the INTREPID as DODGE’s large family car. Poor choice
    of name yes, but most familys prefer four doors. Easy access trumps style to them.

    Todays market can barely support one large 2 door let only two. Give me a
    3500 lb coupe that will match the lb/hp ratio of the new SS PLEASE and price it likewise
    so us average working people can afford it!

  • MoparzRule

    ROAD/TRACK, yes the issue is that the Challenger is overpriced for a car that has less performance than a Camaro or Mustang. Dodge has got to build a vehicle that is better than the competition if they want to charge more than the competition. People are not stupid.

  • coolmancool

    Are we going to make a real two door Dodge Daytona or are you just going to tease us like this? Definitely one of the most sought after legendary cars to go down in history and yes you can do it again.

  • 200.447

    do you know that the photo of the #88 daytona is really the bogus car, not the real one?
    see aerowarriors.com/88daytona.html for the real story.

    Th car in the photo was red and repainted blue, then donated to nascar. chrysler pulled a FAST one on nascar by donating a bogus car to them instead of the actual record setting 200 mph daytona! HA!

  • Matt G.

    Ummm, doesn’t anyone know about the HPP Daytona???
    bushautoblog.com/2009/11/hpp-daytona-retro-cool-just-got-cooler.html

    :)

  • SUBLIME

    Matt G., these posts were written in 2009 before the HPP Daytona. The wing is out of proportion on the HPP. They should have used a Daytona wing instead of a Superbird wing. They need to shorten the wing as well. The wheels are hideous and the fake door bends are awful. They tried too hard and then they painted it that awful copper color. What were they thinking? The trim around the nose cone should have been painted as well. The HPP guys have a lot of skill and talent, however, their sense of elegant design is subpar.

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