In both racing camps, the 1970 NASCAR season was to bring significant change. For Ford, this change would be a reorganization of upper management, which resulted in a whopping 75% decrease in the manufacturer’s NASCAR racing budget. At Chrysler, the change would come in the form of an all-out effort to get Richard Petty to return to the Plymouth fold. As early as June 1969, Chrysler executives were negotiating with “The King” to return to racing a Plymouth. As in 1968, Petty’s response was that he wanted a winged Plymouth similar to the new Charger Daytona. Finally, a deal was struck and the design team had to go back to the drawing board to design a winged version of the Plymouth Road Runner. At first glance the project would have appeared to be quite simple, however, subtle body configuration differences between the Charger and the Road Runner necessitated major redesigning of most of the body panels to make the car aerodynamically work as a whole. Additionally, NASCAR had recently changed its minimum homologation numbers from 500 units per year to 1000! So, in the course of less than 6 months, the Plymouth crew had to redesign and manufacture 1000 updated Road Runners, now known as Superbirds, to qualify for the 1970 NASCAR season. Amazingly, sufficient cars were produced to qualify the new Superbird for the season-opening race at Riverside, California, in January.
The opening race of the 1970 season was, oddly enough, a road race, held at Riverside Raceway in Southern California. A number of Charger Daytonas were present, as well as the new Superbirds being driven by the likes of Richard Petty and road racing star Dan Gurney. The Chryslers again showed great promise in qualifying, with Gurney capturing the pole in his Superbird; however, an action packed race enabled A.J. Foyt in a Ford Torino to snatch the win away from second-place Roger McCluskey in his new Plymouth Superbird. This would prove to be one of the few victories that Ford would enjoy all year.
The second race of the season was the all-important Daytona 500 and Chrysler was determined not to leave the track, yet again, empty handed. In an all-out effort to ensure victory, Chrysler fielded no less than 18 Aerocars for the famed Florida event. As the green flag fell, pole-sitter Cale Yarborough, in a Ford, led for the first 30 laps until an ailing motor forced him to be devoured by a pack of Daytonas and Superbirds led by Charlie Glotzbach. Dodge Daytonas led the majority of the race until lap 192, when Pete Hamilton’s Superbird took the lead. Despite a challenge from David Pearson’s Ford in the final laps, Hamilton went on to win the Daytona 500, scoring the Superbird’s first NASCAR victory and beginning an unprecedented win streak for Chrysler.
1970 proved to be Chrysler’s long-waited-for year in the sun. After Daytona, Richard Petty won the next race at Rockingham in his Superbird, followed by Bobby Allison’s victory in a Daytona at Atlanta. By mid-season, Chrysler drivers were on a streak, winning 19 straight victories, including Dover, Atlanta and Trenton for Richard Petty, another Talladega victory for Pete Hamilton, and a significant win for Buddy Baker in the Southern 500 at Darlington. By the the end of the season, Daytona and Superbird drivers had claimed 38 victories out of 47 races, with Bobby Isaac taking the coveted NASCAR Grand National title in his K & K Insurance-sponsored Dodge Daytona. After three long years, Chrysler had clawed its way back to the top of the NASCAR heap.
Elated with their hard-fought success, the Chrysler team returned once again to the drawing board to improve their Aerocars for the upcoming ’71 season. However, NASCAR kingpin Bill France, Sr. wasn’t happy with the new “aerodynamic” direction that his series had taken. Resultantly, he decreed that for the ’71 season and beyond, any special aerobodied stock cars would be limited to an anemic 305-cu.in. of engine displacement. With this new rule in effect, one of the most interesting and exciting periods in NASCAR history drew to a hasty conclusion.