1985 Winston Western 500

The 1985 Winston Western 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that took place on November 17, 1985, at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California.

1985 Winston Western 500
Race details[1]
Race 28 of 28 in the 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Layout of Riverside International Raceway (1969-1988 version)
Layout of Riverside International Raceway (1969-1988 version)
Date November 17, 1985 (1985-November-17)
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 Chilly with temperatures of 66 °F (19 °C); wind speeds of 12 miles per hour (19 km/h)
Average speed 105.065 mph (169.086 km/h)
Pole position
Driver Hagan Enterprises
Time 1:20.658
Most laps led
Driver Terry Labonte Hagan Enterprises
Laps 78
No. 15 Ricky Rudd Bud Moore Engineering
Television in the United States
Network TBS
Announcers Ken Squier
Benny Parsons

The most dominant drivers in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series during the 1980s were Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, Bobby Allison, and Dale Earnhardt.

With the deletion of the two Nashville races the 1985 Winston Cup season was the first since 1974 with less than 30 races.

Race reportEdit

With one race remaining in the championship, Bill Elliott, who won 11 races, trailed Darrell Waltrip by 20 points (between 4-7 positions depending on the order of finish -- the equivalent of 4-7 points under the 2011 scoring system). Qualifying was held on Friday and Terry Labonte scored the pole with a time of 1:20.658.

The 500-kilometer race, lasting 119 laps, would have the championship battle come down to the first six laps of the race. The gearshift lever on Elliott's car broke on the sixth lap, necessitating repairs that lasted thirty minutes, or roughly 22 laps of the race. It would prove costly. Waltrip finished seventh and locked down the championship on Lap 99.[2] On the day his teammate wins the title Neil Bonnett ends 1985 on the podium as he leads a few laps and brings Junior Johnson's red #12 Budweiser Chevrolet home in third.[3] The 1985 season would be one of career highs for Bonnett as he finished fourth in points on the strength of 11 top-5s and 18 top-10s. This would be the last season where Neil ran every race as he proved a little injury prone in the years that followed.[4] This was a combination race with the Winston West series. They had themselves a pretty interesting points battle, with four drivers (Jim Robinson, Hershel McGriff, Glen Steurer, and Ruben Garcia) eligible for the title. Robinson would clinch the title over McGriff with his 12th place finish.

Pit strategy effectively determined the race. On the penultimate pit stop, Labonte's Billy Hagan pit crew changed two tires, while Ricky Rudd's Bud Moore Engineering Ford team changed four tires. On the final round of pit stops, the opposite took place, allowing Rudd to defeat Labonte by almost half a second in front of 40000 live audience members at the last possible moment. Ruben Garcia, later to gain fame from knocking out a wall in a crash during the last race at Riverside in 1988, scores his career-best finish of 14th place.[3]

Three cautions were given for 11 laps; allowing for 14 changes in the first-place position.[3] Bobby Allison came into this race seeking to avoid going winless for the season for the first time since 1977. He qualified well but his chaotic season ended with a 17th-place performance, two laps down.[3] This was the final race for Rusty Wallace competing for Cliff Stewart and Cliff Stewart Racing.[3] To say that Rusty had a rough year in 1985 would have been a misunderstanding, although it began really good with four top tens in the first six races but four for the rest of the year after the spring race at Darlington.

The short track program cars that Elliott drove in 1985 were certainly a huge part of the problem. Consistency is what makes a champion, and Elliott failed to provide a consistent performance throughout the 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. He had no business winning the title, and he didn't.

Blair Aiken, Clark Dwyer, and John Soares, Jr would retire after the end of the race while Scott Autrey and Bud Hickey would make their only Winston Cup Series appearance at this event.[5] Notable crew chiefs for this race included Junie Donlavey, Robin Pemberton, Joey Arrington, Jake Elder, Travis Carter, Bud Moore, Tim Brewer, Jeff Hammond, Harry Hyde, Kirk Shelmerdine and Darrell Bryant.[6]


Grid[3] No. Driver Manufacturer Owner
1 44 Terry Labonte Chevrolet Billy Hagan
2 27 Tim Richmond Pontiac Raymond Beadle
3 11 Darrell Waltrip Chevrolet Junior Johnson
4 15 Ricky Rudd Ford Bud Moore
5 9 Bill Elliott Ford Harry Melling
6 22 Bobby Allison Buick Bobby Allison
7 3 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Richard Childress
8 33 Harry Gant Chevrolet Hal Needham
9 7 Kyle Petty Ford Wood Brothers
10 47 Ron Bouchard Buick Jack Beebe
11 5 Geoffrey Bodine Chevrolet Rick Hendrick
12 75 Lake Speed Pontiac RahMoc Enterprises
13 12 Neil Bonnett Chevrolet Junior Johnson
14 98 Jim Bown Chevrolet Johnny Kieper
15 18 Glen Sturer Chevrolet Glen Steurer
16 78 Jim Robinson Oldsmobile Lois Williams
17 04 Hershel McGriff Pontiac Gary Smith
18 32 Ruben Garcia Chevrolet Fred Stoke
19 71 Dave Marcis Chevrolet Dave Marcis
20 8 Bobby Hillin, Jr. Chevrolet Stavola Brothers

Top 20 finishersEdit

Pos[3] No. Driver Manufacturer Laps Laps led Time/Status
1 15 Ricky Rudd Ford 119 27 2:58:03
2 44 Terry Labonte Chevrolet 119 78 +0.45 seconds
3 12 Neil Bonnett Chevrolet 119 3 Lead lap under green flag
4 33 Harry Gant Chevrolet 119 1 Lead lap under green flag
5 3 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet 119 6 Lead lap under green flag
6 5 Geoffrey Bodine Chevrolet 119 2 Lead lap under green flag
7 11 Darrell Waltrip Chevrolet 119 1 Lead lap under green flag
8 43 Richard Petty Pontiac 119 0 Lead lap under green flag
9 75 Lake Speed Pontiac 118 1 +1 lap
10 47 Ron Bouchard Buick 118 0 +1 lap
11 11 Glen Steurer Chevrolet 118 0 +1 lap
12 78 Jim Robinson Oldsmobile 117 0 +2 laps
13 8 Bobby Hillin, Jr. Chevrolet 117 0 +2 laps
14 32 Ruben Garcia Chevrolet 117 0 +2 laps
15 73 Bill Schmitt Chevrolet 117 0 +2 laps
16 98 Jim Bown Chevrolet 117 0 +2 laps
17 22 Bobby Allison Buick 117 0 +2 laps
18 71 Dave Marcis Chevrolet 117 0 +2 laps
19 07 Derrike Cope Ford 116 0 +3 laps
20 52 Jimmy Means Pontiac 116 0 +3 laps


Section reference: [3]

  • Start: Terry Labonte was leading the starting grid as the green flag was waved.
  • Lap 10: Darrell Waltrip took over the lead from Terry Labonte.
  • Lap 11: Terry Labonte took over the lead from Darrell Waltrip.
  • Lap 19: First caution of the event, ended on lap 21.
  • Lap 21: Ricky Rudd took over the lead from Terry Labonte.
  • Lap 22: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Ricky Rudd.
  • Lap 26: Terry Labonte took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt.
  • Lap 41: Second caution of the event, ended on lap 44.
  • Lap 42: Lake Speed took over the lead from Terry Labonte.
  • Lap 43: Terry Labonte took over the lead from Lake Speed.
  • Lap 48: Third caution of the event, ended on lap 50.
  • Lap 71: Harry Gant took over the lead from Terry Labonte.
  • Lap 72: Neil Bonnett took over the lead from Harry Gant.
  • Lap 75: Ricky Rudd took over the lead from Neil Bonnett.
  • Lap 77: Geoffrey Bodine took over the lead from Ricky Rudd.
  • Lap 79: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Geoffrey Bodine.
  • Lap 81: Terry Labonte took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt.
  • Lap 96: Ricky Rudd took over the lead from Terry Labonte.
  • Lap 116: Greg Sacks' vehicle suddenly developed issues with its transmission.
  • Finish: Ricky Rudd was officially declared the winner of the race.

Standings after the raceEdit

Pos Driver Points[3] Differential
1   Darrell Waltrip 4292 0
2   Bill Elliott 4191 -101
3   Harry Gant 4028 -264
4   Neil Bonnett 3897 -395
5   Geoffrey Bodine 3862 -430
6   Ricky Rudd 3857 -435
7   Terry Labonte 3683 -609
8   Dale Earnhardt 3561 -731
9   Kyle Petty 3532 -769
10   Lake Speed 3507 -785


  1. ^ Weather information for the 1985 Winston Western 500 at The Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ [1] New York Times: Waltrip Wins NASCAR Title from Elliott
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i 1985 Winston Western 500 racing information at Racing Reference
  4. ^ Driver Neil Bonnett 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Results at Racing Reference
  5. ^ Drivers who retired from NASCAR after this event at Race Database
  6. ^ 1985 Winston Western 500 crew chiefs at Racing Reference
Preceded by
1985 Atlanta Journal 500
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
Succeeded by
1986 Daytona 500