1981 Daytona 500

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1981 Daytona 500
Race details[1]
Race 2 of 31 in the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Track map of Daytona International Speedway.
Track map of Daytona International Speedway.
Date February 15, 1981 (1981-02-15)
Location Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
Course Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
Distance 200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)
Weather Chilly with temperatures of 69.1 °F (20.6 °C); wind speeds of 15.9 miles per hour (25.6 km/h)
Average speed 169.651 miles per hour (273.027 km/h)
Attendance 130,000[2]
Pole position
Driver Harry Ranier
Most laps led
Driver Bobby Allison Harry Ranier
Laps 117
No. 43 Richard Petty Petty Enterprises
Television in the United States
Network CBS
Announcers Ken Squier
David Hobbs
Ned Jarrett
Brock Yates

The 1981 Daytona 500, the 23rd running of the event, was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race held at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was held on Sunday, February 15, 1981.

Race report

Contested over 200 laps and over the course of 2 hours and 56 minutes, the race was won by Richard Petty for his record seventh at the Daytona 500, beating Bobby Allison to the line by 3.5 seconds. Ricky Rudd, Buddy Baker, and Dale Earnhardt rounded out the Top 5.[2] A new generation of smaller cars, with a wheelbase of 110 inches (down from 115in.) made their debut in this race.

Bobby Allison dominated Speedweeks from the beginning, winning the pole position, his 125-mile qualifying race, and was considered the prohibitive favorite for the 500. He was driving a 1980 Pontiac Le Mans, which was the only car in the race with a "fastback" sloped rear window, greatly improving aerodynamics and downforce on the rear spoiler over the "notchback" profiles of the Buick Regals, Pontiac Grand Prixs, and Ford Thunderbirds. The Le Mans was on the NASCAR approved model list, but no other team thought to build one.

Allison led the most laps and appeared to be the car to beat. But Allison lost considerable time when he ran out of fuel and had to coast through most of a lap to make his final pit stop. Meanwhile, on Richard Petty's final planned pit stop, Petty's crew chief Dale Inman, who was working his final race with the team before leaving to become Dale Earnhardt's crew chief, opted not to change tires and only took on fuel. Petty then re-entered the track with a considerable lead that Allison rapidly closed, but could not overcome before the finish.

The race was contested in front of 130,000 paying spectators and featured 49 lead changes. 18 laps were run under the caution flag. It also gained the distinction of being one of the few Daytona 500 races where the final caution flag occurred before the halfway point of the race.[2]

Petty earned $90,575 ($249,612 when adjusted for inflation) for winning, the greatest purse of his entire career. Blackie Wangerin finished last at the event after an accident on lap 17.[2]

First Daytona 500 starts for Ronnie Sanders, Tim Richmond, Kyle Petty, and Billie Harvey.[2] Only Daytona 500 starts for Glenn Jarrett and Don Sprouse.[2] Last Daytona 500 starts for Johnny Rutherford, Bill Elswick, Don Whittington, James Hylton, Cecil Gordon, Bruce Hill, and Blackie Wangerin.[2]

Dickie Boswell would make his only Winston Cup Series attempt at this race.[2] He went on to be fairly successful in the Xfinity Series, though he never won at that level.[3]

Top ten finishers

Pos[2] Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Laps Laps led Winnings Points Time/Status
1 8 43 Richard Petty Buick 200 27 $90,575 180 2:56:50
2 1 28 Bobby Allison Pontiac 200 117 $84,050 180 +3.5 seconds
3 5 88 Ricky Rudd Oldsmobile 200 8 $53,115 170 Lead lap under green flag
4 6 1 Buddy Baker Oldsmobile 200 10 $35,740 165 Lead lap under green flag
5 7 2 Dale Earnhardt Pontiac 200 4 $37,365 160 Lead lap under green flag
6 16 9 Bill Elliott Ford 199 5 $30,615 155 +1 lap
7 27 90 Jody Ridley Ford 198 0 $29,965 146 +2 laps
8 29 27 Cale Yarborough Oldsmobile 197 0 $20,325 142 +3 laps
9 34 75 Joe Millikan Buick 197 0 $21,500 138 +3 laps
10 35 98 Johnny Rutherford Pontiac 195 0 $17,285 134 +5 laps

Post-race standings

Pos Driver Points[2] Differential
1 Bobby Allison 365 0
2 Richard Petty 340 -25
3 Dale Earnhardt 325 -40
4 Jody Ridley 292 -73
5 Ricky Rudd 281 -84
6 Joe Millikan 267 -98
7 Don Whittington 242 -123
8 Elliott Forbes-Robinson 230 -135
9 Buddy Arrington 223 -142
10 Terry Labonte 218 -147


  1. ^ "Weather of the 1981 Daytona 500". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Archived from the original on 2013-07-01. Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Official results of 1981 Daytona 500 on Racing-Reference.info
  3. ^ Driver Dickie Boswell's NASCAR Xfinity Series races

External links

  • NASCAR.COM - Daytona Countdown: '81 - Jan 26, 2005
Preceded by
1981 Winston Western 500
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
Succeeded by
1981 Richmond 400

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