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1981 Winston Western 500 (November)

The 1981 Winston Western 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that was held on November 22, 1981, at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California.

1981 Winston Western 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 31 of 31 in the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Layout of Riverside International Raceway (1969-1988 version)
Layout of Riverside International Raceway (1969-1988 version)
Date November 22, 1981 (1981-November-22)
Official name Winston Western 500
Location Riverside International Raceway (Riverside, California)
Course Permanent racing facility
2.700 mi (4.345 km)
Distance 119 laps, 311.8 mi (501.7 km)
Weather Temperatures of 72 °F (22 °C); wind speeds of 7 miles per hour (11 km/h)
Average speed 95.288 miles per hour (153.351 km/h)
Attendance 46,000[2]
Pole position
Driver Junior Johnson & Associates
Most laps led
Driver Bobby Allison Ranier Racing
Laps 49
No. 28 Bobby Allison Ranier Racing
Television in the United States
Network Untelevised
Announcers None

Richard Childress decided to run a second Junior Johnson car if Darrell Waltrip were to have trouble or if he needed a car to drop out to win the championship. However, this obviously was not needed because Darrell Waltrip would clinch his first Winston Cup series championship at this race over Bobby Allison. He would become the first champion not from the Carolinas since Virginia's Joe Weatherly in 1963.

Dave Marcis finishes the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season at Riverside in a Pontiac, after racing in a Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Dodge, and Chrysler throughout the rest of the year.



This race and two others at Riverside during the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season were used to make up for the loss of the season-ending race at Ontario Motor Speedway. In previous years Riverside had the opening date in January and a race in June. Then they changed it leaving the June Riverside race and putting the second race as the finale from 1982 to 1986 before Atlanta got the finale until 2000. Riverside kept its two races until its last race in June 1988 and the later date went to Phoenix. Then they added a second Pocono race in 1982 but then lost Texas World Speedway.

It took three hours and sixteen seconds for Bobby Allison to defeat Joe Ruttman by a time of 0.24 seconds in front of 46000 live spectators while driving Harry Ranier’s No. 28 Hardee’s Buick. There was a great battle for the win between Allison and Ruttman for the last 20 laps. Bobby passed Joe with nine laps to go and Ruttman got back alongside Allison several times but was never able to complete the pass. While Ruttman managed to get his first of three 2nd place finishes, this was considered to be his best chance to get a NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory.[2][3]

Richard Childress would make his final racing appearance here before devoting his career to running Richard Childress Racing.[2] Former Formula One racer Bob Bondurant would retire from the NASCAR Cup Series after this race with his best career finish of 18th place.[2] Seven cautions slowed the race for 33 laps on this road course that spanned 2.620 miles (4.216 km) per lap; for a grand total of 311.8 miles (501.8 km).[2] Darrell Waltrip qualified for the pole position with a speed of 114.981 miles per hour (185.044 km/h) while the average race speed was 95.288 miles per hour (153.351 km/h). Unfortunately, this would be the first time in 14 races that Waltrip failed to finish in the top three.[2] Out of the entire 40-driver grid, 38 drivers were American while Roy Smith and Gary Kershaw were Canadians.[2][4]

Ricky Rudd would finish last with an engine problem on the second lap in his Buick; earning $6,150 in prize winnings ($16,948.52 when inflation is taken into effect).[2][5][6] J.D. McDuffie would finish in 11th place;[2] a rarity for a driver with the most last-place finishes in NASCAR history. Joe Millikan would make his final "top five" finish in this race.[2]

Notable crew chiefs in attendance for the race included Junie Donlavey, Joey Arrington, Elmo Langley, Jake Elder, Travis Carter, Waddell Wilson, Bud Moore, Tim Brewer, Kirk Shelmerdine, and Dale Inman.[7]


Grid No. Driver Manufacturer
1 11 Darrell Waltrip Buick
2 44 Terry Labonte Buick
3 3 Dale Earnhardt Pontiac
4 33 Harry Gant Pontiac
5 28 Bobby Allison Buick
6 37 Tim Richmond Buick
7 15 Benny Parsons Ford
8 24 Morgan Shepherd Buick
9 5 Joe Millikan Pontiac
10 21 Neil Bonnett Ford

Failed to qualify: Ferrel Harris (#64), Don Stanley (#61)[8]

Finishing orderEdit

Section reference: [2]

  1. Bobby Allison (No. 28)
  2. Joe Ruttman (No. 2)
  3. Terry Labonte (No. 44)
  4. Dale Earnhardt (No. 3)
  5. Joe Millikan (No. 5)
  6. Darrell Waltrip (No. 11)
  7. Richard Petty (No. 43)
  8. Harry Gant (No. 33)
  9. Jody Ridley (No. 90)
  10. Ron Bouchard (No. 47)
  11. J.D. McDuffie (No. 70)
  12. Gary Kershaw (No. 74)
  13. Morgan Shepherd (No. 24)
  14. Bill Schmitt (No. 73)
  15. Don Waterman (No. 38)
  16. Lake Speed (No. 17)
  17. James Hylton (No. 48)
  18. Bob Bondurant (No. 69)
  19. Gary Balough (No. 75)
  20. Tim Richmond (No. 37)
  21. Don Puskarich (No. 13)
  22. Gene Thonesen (No. 7)
  23. Mark Stahl (No. 85)
  24. Buddy Arrington (No. 67)
  25. Dave Marcis* (No. 71)
  26. Tommy Gale* (No. 64)
  27. Benny Parsons* (No. 15)
  28. Chuck Pettinger* (No. 1)
  29. Scott Miller* (No. 51)
  30. Roy Smith* (No. 0)
  31. Terry Herman* (No. 99)
  32. Jim Robinson* (No. 78)
  33. Neil Bonnett* (No. 21)
  34. Pat Mintey* (No. 35)
  35. Don Whittington* (No. 93)
  36. Jim Bown* (No. 16)
  37. Kyle Petty* (No. 42)
  38. Hershel McGriff* (No. 1)
  39. Richard Childress* (No. 41)
  40. Ricky Rudd* (No. 88)

* Driver failed to finish race

Standings after the raceEdit

Pos Driver Points[2] Differential
1   Darrell Waltrip 4880 0
2   Bobby Allison 4827 -53
3   Harry Gant 4218 -662
4   Terry Labonte 4052 -828
5   Jody Ridley 4002 -878
6   Ricky Rudd 3991 -889
7   Dale Earnhardt 3978 -902
8   Richard Petty 3883 -997
9   Dave Marcis 3510 -1370
10   Benny Parsons 3452 -1428


  1. ^ Weather for the November 1981 Winston Western 500 at the Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m 1981 Winston Western 500 information at Racing Reference
  3. ^ Tracks of Yesterday - Riverside International Raceway information at Inside Racing News
  4. ^ 1981 Winston Western 500 information at Database Racing
  5. ^ 1981 Winston Western 500 Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine information at Driver Averages
  6. ^ 1981 Winston Western 500 information at ESPN
  7. ^ 1981 Winston Western 500 crew chiefs at Racing Reference
  8. ^ Qualifying information for the 1981 Winston Western 500 at Racing Reference
Preceded by
1981 Atlanta Journal 500
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
Succeeded by
1982 Daytona 500
Preceded by
January 1981
Winston Western 500 races
Succeeded by