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The 1997 Winston 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that took place on May 10, 1997, at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Heavy rain and prior NASCAR commitments forced this race to be re-scheduled all the way back from April 27, 1997.[2]

1997 Winston 500
Race details[1]
Race 10 of 32 in the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Layout of Talladega Superspeedway
Layout of Talladega Superspeedway
Date May 10, 1997 (1997-May-10)
Official name Winston 500
Location Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Alabama
Course Permanent racing facility
2.660 mi (4.280 km)
Distance 188 laps, 500.1 mi (804.8 km)
Weather Mild with temperatures of 71.6 °F (22.0 °C); wind speeds of 6.3 miles per hour (10.1 km/h)
Average speed 188.354 miles per hour (303.126 km/h)
Pole position
Driver Cale Yarborough Motorsports
Most laps led
Driver Dale Earnhardt Richard Childress Racing
Laps 76
No. 6 Mark Martin Roush Racing
Television in the United States
Network ESPN
Announcers Bob Jenkins
Benny Parsons
Ned Jarrett

This race would be last time that the number 20 would be used on a Winston Cup Series vehicle until Tony Stewart came along and revived the number as a part of Joe Gibbs Racing. Stewart was asked to drive the vehicle just prior to qualifying but had to turn it down due to prior commitments.


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

There were 43 American-born drivers at this racing event. Those who failed to qualify were: Billy Standridge, Mike Wallace, Gary Bradberry, Joe Nemechek, Phil Barkdoll (in his final NASCAR attempt), and Ed Berrier.[4] Geoffrey Bodine received credit for the last-place finish of the race due to an engine problem on lap 78 of the advertised 188 laps.[4][5] Mark Martin defeated Dale Earnhardt by almost 0.150 seconds; bringing an end to an uneventful caution-free race.[4][5] The aero packages at the time allowed for 26 changes in the first-place position during the race.[4][5] Bobby Hillin would acquire his best finish of the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season by finishing in 20th place after qualifying in second place.[4][5] This race would be the final start for Greg Sacks in the 20 and Robert Pressley in the 29.[4][5]

John Andretti, driving Cale Yarborough's car, would've won this race if some of the better drivers in NASCAR had been willing to draft with him.[4][5] Instead, Andretti would finish in the top five.[4][5] This race was actually rain-delayed from its original date, was attempted on Monday, then set back to the Saturday before Mother's Day.

Joe Nemechek ran the #40 car in this race because Robby Gordon had activities for the Indy 500 that was conflicting with the Winston 500.

It took more than two and a half hours for Martin to record his average speed of 188.354 miles per hour (303.126 km/h); one of the fastest speeds recorded prior to Dale Earnhardt's death.[4][5] Despite being twice the distance this race was only 32 minutes longer than the 2017 I Love New York 355 at The Glen. The cars simply didn't feel the need to use their brakes during the event and rarely went under 175 miles per hour (282 km/h) due to the lack of cautions.[4][5][6] John Andretti earned the pole position of the race with a speed of 193.627 miles per hour (311.612 km/h).[4][5] This race brought to a close the existence of Harry Ranier's vaunted race team.[4][5]

This race was done using restrictor plates per NASCAR's policy on racing at Talladega and its sister track at Daytona Beach, Florida during that time. Lake Speed's ACE Hardware sponsorship in this race completely fabricated so that he would resemble the villain in Fox's made-for-TV movie Steel Chariots. Five years later at the 2002 Aaron's 499, the action at Talladega became slower and with more cautions.

Mark Martin's race speed record still stands as of 2019. Given the reason they set the record was this race going caution free; it is unlikely the record will be broken anytime soon since NASCAR has added mandatory stage break cautions to all races.

After this race, Labonte would take the championship points away from Dale Jarrett.[5] The total prize purse at the race was $1,317,496 ($2,056,266 when considering inflation); Martin would earn $92,220 ($143,931 when considering inflation).[7]


Grid[4] No. Driver Manufacturer
1 98 John Andretti Ford
2 77 Bobby Hillin, Jr. Ford
3 3 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet
4 2 Rusty Wallace Ford
5 31 Mike Skinner Chevrolet
6 33 Ken Schrader Chevrolet
7 28 Ernie Irvan Ford
8 18 Bobby Labonte Pontiac
9 88 Dale Jarrett Ford
10 94 Bill Elliott Ford
11 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet
12 36 Derrike Cope Pontiac
13 20 Greg Sacks Ford
14 9 Lake Speed Ford
15 75 Rick Mast Ford
16 4 Sterling Marlin Chevrolet
17 30 Johnny Benson, Jr. Pontiac
18 6 Mark Martin Ford
19 7 Geoffrey Bodine Ford
20 23 Jimmy Spencer Ford

Top ten finishersEdit

Section reference: [4]

  1. Mark Martin (No. 6)
  2. Dale Earnhardt (No. 3)
  3. Bobby Labonte (No. 18)
  4. John Andretti (No. 98)
  5. Jeff Gordon (No. 24)
  6. Terry Labonte (No. 5)
  7. Jimmy Spencer (No. 23)
  8. Jeff Burton (No. 99)
  9. Johnny Benson, Jr. (No. 30)
  10. Ernie Irvan (No. 28)


Section reference: [4]

  • Start: John Andretti was leading the starting grid as the green flag was waved
  • Lap 55: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Geoffrey Bodine
  • Lap 78: Geoffrey Bodine's engine just couldn't stand up to the pressures of high-speed racing
  • Lap 85: Ward Burton's engine just couldn't stand up to the pressures of high-speed racing
  • Lap 90: Rusty Wallace took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt
  • Lap 91: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Rusty Wallace
  • Lap 93: Steve Grissom's engine just couldn't stand up to the pressures of high-speed racing
  • Lap 105: Michael Waltrip took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt
  • Lap 106: Sterling Marlin took over the lead from Michael Waltrip
  • Lap 108: Jeff Burton took over the lead from Sterling Marlin
  • Lap 113: Sterling Marlin's engine just couldn't stand up to the pressures of high-speed racing
  • Lap 140: Mark Martin took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt
  • Lap 155: Ernie Irvan took over the lead from Mark Martin
  • Lap 157: Jeff Gordon took over the lead from Ernie Irvan
  • Lap 158: Mark Martin took over the lead from Jeff Gordon
  • Lap 169: David Green's engine just couldn't stand up to the pressures of high-speed racing
  • Lap 180: Rusty Wallace's engine just couldn't stand up to the pressures of high-speed racing
  • Finish: Mark Martin was officially declared the winner of the event

Standings after the raceEdit

Pos Driver Points[4]
1   Terry Labonte 1544
2   Jeff Gordon 1505
3   Dale Jarrett 1492
4   Mark Martin 1394
5   Bobby Labonte 1329
6   Dale Earnhardt 1287
7   Jeff Burton 1277
8   Ricky Rudd 1172
9   Michael Waltrip 1126
10   Bobby Hamilton 1121


  1. ^ Weather information for the 1997 Winston 500 at The Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ Original date of the 1997 Winston 500 Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine at Driver Averages
  3. ^ "Track Facts". 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 h i j k l m n o p 1997 Winston 500 racing information at Racing Reference
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l 1997 Winston 500 racing information at Race Database
  6. ^ Mark Martin's NASCAR Winston Cup Series record at Jayski
  7. ^ Prize winnings at the 1997 Winston 500 at Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet
Preceded by
1997 Save Mart Supermarkets 300
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
Succeeded by
1997 Coca-Cola 600