Rush To Conclusion

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Who won the first-ever race at Talladega when the superspeedway initially opened its gates in 1969? Richard Brickhouse, you say? That would be the answer given by most, but it’s incorrect.

Try Ken Rush, winner of the ‘Bama 400 run before the Talladega 500 Brickhouse captured. True, the ‘Bama wasn’t a Cup event, but it was the track’s first staged race.

Rush was an unassuming racer, modest, and out to do his job without the glitter. Little-known about him as well is the fact that he was NASCAR’s first officially recognized Rookie of the Year in 1957, when he was driving Cup and Convertible division cars. Even thought he went winless that year, his tenacity drew the attention of the sanctioning body, earning him the honor.

In like fashion to being overshadowed as Talladega’s first winner, Rush is often not credited with being the first Rookie, either. Seldom misstated is that fellow Convertible competitor Shorty Rollins was the first in 1958, but it just ain’t so. NASCAR did issue a news bulletin stipulating Rush received the first annual rookie trophy at their year-end banquet.

The ‘Bama 400 at Talladega in September 1969 was conducted for the NASCAR Grand Touring cars. The 38-year-old Rush drove a ’68 Camaro out of North Carolina. He had also won the GT event at Michigan International Speedway the month before. He emerged at the end of the year as national champion of the class.

Rush didn’t have the fastest car, but he knew how to be around at the race’s conclusion. He began his racing in 1952, stemming from his interest in working on cars.

So, tell your friends — Ken Rush wore the wreath first at Talladega.

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