1981 Talladega 500

The 1981 Talladega 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that took place on August 2, 1981, at Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega, Alabama.

1981 Talladega 500
Race details[1]
Race 20 of 31 in the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Layout of Talladega Superspeedway
Layout of Talladega Superspeedway
Date August 2, 1981 (1981-August-02)
Official name Talladega 500
Location Alabama International Motor Speedway, Talladega, Alabama
Course Permanent racing facility
2.660 mi (4.280 km)
Distance 188 laps, 500.1 mi (804.8 km)
Weather Warm with temperatures of 84 °F (29 °C); wind speeds of 9.9 miles per hour (15.9 km/h)
Average speed 156.737 miles per hour (252.244 km/h)
Attendance 75,000[2]
Pole position
Driver Mach 1 Racing
Most laps led
Driver Bobby Allison Ranier Racing
Laps 105
No. 47 Ron Bouchard Race Hill Farm Team
Television in the United States
Network CBS
Announcers Ken Squier
Ned Jarrett


Talladega Superspeedway, originally known as Alabama International Motor Superspeedway (AIMS), is a motorsports complex located north of Talladega, Alabama. It is located on the former Anniston Air Force Base in the small city of Lincoln. The track is a Tri-oval and was constructed by International Speedway Corporation, a business controlled by the France Family, in the 1960s. Talladega is most known for its steep banking and the unique location of the start/finish line - located just past the exit to pit road. The track currently hosts the NASCAR series such as the Sprint Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. Talladega Superspeedway is the longest NASCAR oval with a length of 2.66 miles (4.28 km), and the track at its peak had a seating capacity of 175,000 spectators.[3]

Race reportEdit

An all-American grid of 42 drivers would appear at this race; Joe Booher would receive credit for the last-place finish due to an engine issue on the fourth lap.[2] It took more than three hours to resolve the 188 lap race.[2][4] There were eight caution periods for 36 laps with 39 lead changes.[2][4] Harry Gant would win the pole position with a qualifying speed of 195.897 miles per hour (315.266 km/h). Rick Wilson crashed at least four times in this race before finally finishing his Oldsmobile off on lap 148.[2][4]

This race marked the end of the road for an iconic sponsorship as the Wood Brothers' #21 Ford hit the track in its famous Purolator colors for the final time, ending a partnership that dated back to 1971. Alabama's own Neil Bonnett qualified well and led some laps early on before a mechanical gremlin put the #21 on the sidelines.[2][4]

Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, and Ron Bouchard were nose-to-tail going into the final lap. Coming through the trioval to the finish line, Labonte tried to pass Waltrip on the outside, Waltrip forcing him high, up against the wall. Bouchard, in third place, slipped by on the inside and won by 2 feet or 0.61 metres in a spectacular 3-wide photo finish in front of 75,000 spectators.[2][4][5][6] It would be the only Cup victory of his career. The thrilling win would propel him to that year's NASCAR Rookie of the Year award. Bouchard and Pete Hamilton are the only NASCAR Cup Series winners from Massachusetts to date.

Terry Herman would make his first NASCAR Cup start in this race while Sandy Satullo, II would make his last.[4] Stan Barrett would make the best finish of his career in this race;[2][4] he would go on to father independent driver Stanton Barrett. Richard Childress would make one of his final driving appearances before becoming a full-time owner of Richard Childress Racing.

The finish of the race was shown on the CBS Evening News that night, due to the technical problems that happened during the race.


Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Owner
1 33 Harry Gant Buick Hal Needham
2 28 Bobby Allison Buick Harry Ranier
3 2 Dale Earnhardt Pontiac Jim Stacy
4 44 Terry Labonte Buick Bill Hagan
5 27 Cale Yarborough Buick M.C. Anderson
6 21 Neil Bonnett Ford Wood Brothers
7 1 Buddy Baker Buick Hoss Ellington
8 6 Joe Ruttman Buick Jim Stacy
9 62 Rick Wilson Oldsmobile Rick Wilson
10 47 Ron Bouchard Buick Jack Beebe

Finishing orderEdit

  1. Ron Bouchard†
  2. Darrell Waltrip
  3. Terry Labonte
  4. Harry Gant
  5. Bobby Allison
  6. Lake Speed
  7. Kyle Petty
  8. Jody Ridley
  9. Stan Barrett
  10. Dave Marcis
  11. Bill Elliott
  12. Elliott Forbes-Robinson
  13. Benny Parsons
  14. Terry Herman
  15. Dick May
  16. Jimmy Means
  17. Cecil Gordon
  18. Tommy Gale
  19. Bobby Wawak
  20. Rick Wilson*
  21. Rusty Wallace*
  22. Joe Ruttman*
  23. Ricky Rudd
  24. Lennie Pond*
  25. Gary Balough*
  26. Richard Childress*
  27. Mike Potter*
  28. Cale Yarborough*
  29. Dale Earnhardt*†
  30. Bruce Hill*
  31. Sandy Satullo, II*
  32. Buddy Baker*†
  33. Connie Saylor*†
  34. Tim Richmond*†
  35. Mike Alexander*
  36. Morgan Shepherd*
  37. Neil Bonnett*†
  38. Jack Ingram*
  39. James Hylton*†
  40. Richard Petty*
  41. Buddy Arrington*
  42. Joe Booher*

† signifies that the driver is known to be deceased
* Driver failed to finish race

Standings after the raceEdit

Pos Driver Points[2] Differential
1   Bobby Allison 3029 0
2   Darrell Waltrip 2935 -94
3   Harry Gant 2782 -247
4   Ricky Rudd 2664 -365
5   Dale Earnhardt 2608 -421
6   Terry Labonte 2573 -456
7   Jody Ridley 2566 -463
8   Richard Petty 2562 -467
9   Benny Parsons 2417 -612
10   Kyle Petty 2272 -757


  1. ^ Weather information for the 1981 Talladega 500 at The Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i 1981 Talladega 500 at Racing Reference
  3. ^ "Track Facts". talladegasuperspeedway.com. Talladega Superspeedway. November 1, 2012. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g 1981 Talladega 500 racing information at Race Database
  5. ^ 1981 Talladega 500 Archived 2010-04-16 at the Wayback Machine results at Talladega Superspeedway
  6. ^ 1981 Talladega 500 Finish at YouTube
Preceded by
1981 Mountain Dew 500
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
Succeeded by
1981 Champion Spark Plug 400
Preceded by
Talladega 500 races
Succeeded by