1981 Daytona 500
|Race 2 of 31 in the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season|
Track map of Daytona International Speedway.
|Date||February 15, 1981|
|Location||Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida|
Permanent racing facility|
2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
|Distance||200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)|
|Weather||Chilly with temperatures reaching up to 69.1 °F (20.6 °C); wind speeds approaching 15.9 miles per hour (25.6 km/h)|
|Average speed||169.651 miles per hour (273.027 km/h)|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Bobby Allison||Harry Ranier|
|No. 43||Richard Petty||Petty Enterprises|
|Television in the United States|
Ken Squier |
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.
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. 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.
First Daytona 500 starts for Ronnie Sanders, Tim Richmond, Kyle Petty, and Billie Harvey. Only Daytona 500 starts for Glenn Jarrett and Don Sprouse. Last Daytona 500 starts for Johnny Rutherford, Bill Elswick, Don Whittington, James Hylton, Cecil Gordon, Bruce Hill, and Blackie Wangerin.
Dickie Boswell would make his only Winston Cup Series attempt at this race.
Top ten finishers
|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|
1981 Winston Western 500
| NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
1981 Richmond 400
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