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The 1971 Motor Trend 500 was the first official race in NASCAR's Winston Cup era (also known as the Winston Cup Grand National Series until approximately 1985) that took place on January 10, 1971. Drivers had to contend with 191 laps on a road course at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California that spanned a total distance of 2.620 miles (4.216 km).[2] Many people who followed NASCAR during the 1960s and the 1970s found Riverside International Raceway to be one of their favorite "road course" tracks.

1971 Motor Trend 500
Race details[1]
Race 1 of 48 in the 1971 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Layout of Riverside International Raceway (1969-1988 version)
Layout of Riverside International Raceway (1969-1988 version)
Date January 10, 1971 (1971-January-10)
Official name Motor Trend 500
Location Riverside International Raceway, Riverside, California
Course Permanent racing facility
2.700 mi (4.345 km)
Distance 191 laps, 500 mi (806 km)
Weather Chilly with temperatures of 64 °F (18 °C); wind speeds of 8 miles per hour (13 km/h)
Average speed 100.783 miles per hour (162.195 km/h)
Attendance 23,000[2]
Pole position
Driver Petty Enterprises
Most laps led
Driver Ray Elder Fred Elder
Laps 67
No. 96 Ray Elder Fred Elder
Television in the United States
Network untelevised
Announcers none

Despite its connections to Big Tobacco, the Winston Cup era in NASCAR ended up becoming the most popular among traditionalists and racing purists alike. Attendance for this racing event was estimated at 23,000 people. It took four hours, fifty-seven minutes, and fifty-five seconds for the race to resolve itself from the first green flag to the checkered flag.[2] No tickets were required to tour certain places of the track (particularly on the area of the track that was near the chicanes). NASCAR would tighten up their security in the later years; requiring patrons to have special passes to attend pit road prior to the race.

Due to a then-struggling economy, both Ford and Chevrolet cut back on factory-manufacturing new vehicles for the 1971 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season.[3] NASCAR would also limit the aerodynamics of the vehicles to 305 cubic inches starting in this race.[3] All 40 vehicles that participated in the race were basically either new or used vehicles purchased from automobile retailers open to the general public for less than $2,500 ($15,466 when adjusted for inflation). The costs of hiring a pit crew and driver were much cheaper during the early 1970s than it is today, making it more incentive for professional businessmen like Nord Krauskopf to attempt a full-blown career as a NASCAR team owner.

Race reportEdit

Defending NASCAR Grand National West series champion Ray Elder won the race; making it the first time that the 500-mile event at Riverside was won by a manufacturer other than Ford.[2] The average speed was 100.783 miles per hour (162.195 km/h) while the pole speed was 107.084 miles per hour (172.335 km/h). This race was the final NASCAR Cup Series event with triple-digit numbered cars; with three of them qualifying for the racing day (Kittlekow #107, Schilling #148, Collins #177).[2] Elder essentially became the first winner in NASCAR's "modern" history; carving out a pathway for drivers like Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.[4] The "modern" era of NASCAR, however, would see the cost of maintaining a racing team skyrocket. It would be practically impossible for an independent team to purchase their own vehicle for the race, to have an all-volunteer crew, and transport the vehicles to and from the races by the start of the 21st century.[5]

Only 11 cars finished this 5-hour marathon; making the last hour of this race into a decent battle for the win going on.[2] The 8th-place finisher was 22 laps down, and the 11th-place finisher dropped out with 34 laps to go.[2] The top prize at this race was $18,715 ($115,781 when adjusted for inflation) and the prize for finishing last place (40th) was $1,015 ($6,279 when adjusted for inflation).[2] Richard Petty competed in this race but failed to finish it; he would end up in 20th place after starting in the pole position. He was driving a Plymouth with the familiar No. 43 that he is famous for.[2] The majority of the drivers who failed to finish had an engine problem.[2] 43-year-old Hershel McGriff enters and races a Cup race for the first time since 1954, when he won a Grand National race at North Wilkesboro in an Oldsmobile, back when he was 26. McGriff would qualify in 8th and finish in 12th place.[2]

Harry Hyde and Dale Inman were the more notable crew chiefs for this event; working for the immortal Richard Petty (Inman) and fourth-place finisher Bobby Isaac (Hyde).[6]

Even before the 1973 oil crisis, the big American automobile manufacturers were limiting the cubic inch content of their rear-wheel drive manual transmission vehicles as a way to cut costs on the consumers' end. This would serve to keep the carburetor-powered passenger vehicles mainstream in American society until the 1990s when fuel injection offered to limit the emissions on newer vehicles (and help to raise their MPG rating as well). Gas prices would exceed $1.29/gallon ($0.33/litre) by the end of the 1990s, causing carbureted vehicles and rear-wheel drive alike to become irrelevant everywhere except in NASCAR.[7] NASCAR would not acknowledge this until the beginning of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season when they legalized fuel injection for the Cup Series drivers.

At the end of the race, the margin between Elder and Bobby Allison was considered to be ten and a half seconds.[2] Ray Elder would score the first of his two NASCAR cup victories here[2] (with his second victory taking place at the 1972 Golden State 400[8]). Other notable facts about the 1971 Motor Trend 500 is that the race was Ron Grable's only start in the NASCAR Cup series and that G.T. Tallas finished the race with his career best of 11th place.


Grid[2] No. Driver Manufacturer
1 43 Richard Petty '70 Plymouth
2 12 Bobby Allison '70 Dodge
3 96 Ray Elder '70 Dodge
4 71 Bobby Isaac '71 Dodge
5 48 James Hylton '70 Ford
6 02 Dick Bown '70 Plymouth
7 72 Benny Parsons '69 Ford
8 04 Hershel McGriff '70 Plymouth
9 39 Friday Hassler '69 Chevrolet
10 32 Kevin Terris '70 Plymouth
11 38 Jimmy Insolo '69 Chevrolet
12 10 Bill Champion '69 Ford
13 24 Cecil Gordon '69 Ford
14 44 Dick Guldstrand '68 Chevrolet
15 08 John Soares, Jr. '70 Plymouth
16 17 David Pearson '70 Ford
17 19 Henley Gray '69 Ford
18 88 Don Noel '70 Ford
19 64 Elmo Langley '69 Mercury
20 83 Joe Clark '69 Chevrolet
21 99 Pat Fay '71 Ford
22 26 Carl Joiner, Jr. '69 Chevrolet
23 6 Jerry Oliver '70 Oldsmobile
24 95 Bob Kauf '69 Chevrolet
25 15 Paul Dorrity '71 Chevrolet
26 82 Ron Gautsche '69 Ford
27 4 Dick Kranzler '70 Chevrolet
28 07 Ivan Baldwin '69 Chevrolet
29 23 G.T. Tallas '69 Ford
30 00 Frank James '69 Chevrolet
31 7 Jack McCoy '70 Dodge
32 77 Ray Johnstone '69 Plymouth
33 5 Ron Grable '70 Ford
34 70 J.D. McDuffie '69 Mercury
35 148 Harry Schilling '69 Dodge
36 177 Roy Collins '69 Dodge
37 79 Frank Warren '69 Plymouth
38 108 Mike Pittlekow '69 Chevrolet
39 33 Glenn Francis '70 Chevrolet
40 18 Bob England '70 Chevrolet

Finishing orderEdit


Section reference: [2]

  • Start of race: Richard Petty had the lead position as the green flag was waved
  • Lap 4: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Richard Petty
  • Lap 5: David Pearson took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Lap 21: Joe Clark's vehicle developed transmission issues
  • Lap 25: Richard Petty took over the lead from David Pearson
  • Lap 36: Ray Johnstone had a terminal crash
  • Lap 38: Problems with the vehicle's clutch ended Mike Kittlekow's day on the track
  • Lap 40: Frank Warren developed terminal issues with his transmission
  • Lap 56: Bob Kauf's vehicle had a terminal transmission issue which knocked him out of the race
  • Lap 58: Bill Champion's vehicle had a terminal transmission issue which knocked him out of the race
  • Lap 76: Dick Guldstrad managed to lose a frame out of his vehicle, making his car too unsafe for further racing
  • Lap 84: Ray Elder took over the lead from Richard Petty
  • Lap 97: Frank James developed a faulty transmission in his vehicle
  • Lap 107: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Ray Elder
  • Lap 118: A faulty lug bolt ended Ron Gaustche's race
  • Lap 120: Ray Elder took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Lap 133: Steering issues brought Dick Bown's day on the track to a premature halt
  • Lap 136: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Ray Elder
  • Lap 150: Ray Elder took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Lap 155: Bob England managed to render his vehicle's engine non-functional
  • Lap 156: Hershel McGriff ruined the ignition of his vehicle by driving at high speeds
  • Lap 157: G.T. Tallas managed to render his vehicle's engine non-functional
  • Lap 166: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Ray Elder
  • Lap 180: Ray Elder took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Finish: Ray Elder was officially declared the winner of the event


  1. ^ "1971 Motor Trend 500 weather information". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "1971 Motor Trend 500 information". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
  3. ^ a b "Summary of the 1971 Motor Trend 500". Muscle Car Films. Retrieved 2012-09-06.
  4. ^ "Basic timeline of NASCAR". Legends of NASCAR. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
  5. ^ "Reunion Is About Respecting the Elders". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  6. ^ "Notable crew chiefs". Race Database. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
  7. ^ "U.S. Retail Price of Gasoline". Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
  8. ^ "Ray Elder's second victory". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
Preceded by
1970 Tidewater 300
NASCAR Grand National/Winston Cup Races
Succeeded by
1971 Daytona 500
Preceded by
1970 Motor Trend 500
Motor Trend 500 races
Succeeded by
becomes the Winston Western 500