Western 500 – The final race where 115-inch wheelbase cars were eligible to run, the field was a mix of 1977 racecars and 1981 models. Dale Earnhardt drove a 1981 Pontiac while race winner Bobby Allison drove a 1977 Monte Carlo. This race was also the first of what would be 788 consecutive Cup series starts for Ricky Rudd.
Daytona 500 – The new cars proved to be disturbingly ill-handling and there were several airborne crashes in testing and preliminary events. NASCAR increased spoiler size twice during the week to keep the cars on the ground. The ensuing 500 saw only four minor cautions and 49 lead changes. Bobby Allison drove a 1981 Pontiac Lemans whose sloped rear glass made it more stable and faster, but Richard Petty got out to the lead after his last pitstop by not changing tires; once in the lead he was uncatchable by Allison as he took his seventh 500 win.
Richmond 400 – Darrell Waltrip drove Junior Johnson's Buick to his first win of the season, edging Ricky Rudd, driving Waltrip's former car, the DiGard Oldsmobile. Bobby Allison wrecked his Pontiac Lemans and drove Butch Lindley's car rather than run a backup Oldsmobile in the team's shop for fear NASCAR would use the existence of the backup to justify banning the Lemans altogether.
Atlanta 500 – Team owner Harry Ranier protested NASCAR-mandated spoiler reduction to the Pontiac Lemans the team was running but got no support from rival teams. Cale Yarborough edged Harry Gant for the win while Dave Marcis flipped violently after sliding hard into a mammoth truck tire shielding the pit wall abutment.
Southeastern 500 - Waltrip led 323 laps and edged Ricky Rudd for the win, his third of the season. There were eight yellows, one of them involving a hard set-to between Benny Parsons and Joe Millikan. "I admit I lost my cool," Millikan said, to which team owner Bud Moore replied, "I'll straighten out Millikan's cool."
Rebel 500 – Waltrip edged Gant, who was making his debut in a Pontiac Grand Prix owned by Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham. Bobby Allison debuted a new Buick as the team gave up on the Lemans because of NASCAR spoiler reduction on the car.
Melling Tool 420 - Ricky Rudd in the DiGard No. 88 and Benny Parsons in the Bud Moore No. 15 bearing the race sponsor's colors led 419 of 420 laps; only Darrell Waltrip broke this duopoly. Waltrip futilely chased Parsons over the final 84 laps as Parsons grabbed his first win with Bud Moore.
Mason-Dixon 500 - David Pearson won the pole in the Kenny Childers No. 12 and led the first 41 laps before falling out with engine failure. Neil Bonnett in the Wood Brothers No. 21 led 404 laps but blew up with 41 laps to go; twenty laps later Cale Yarborough blew his engine and this left Jody Ridley effectively alone to the checkered. It was Ridley's only Winston Cup win, coming in his 55th start, and it was the only Cup win for team owner Junie Donlavey.
World 600 – Allison won in a crash-torn race in which his brother Donnie suffered a serious leg injury.
Budweiser 400 - Benny Parsons and Dale Earnhardt squared off in a hard-fought race as the lead changed 35 official times, the most in Texas World Speedway's history. Parsons edged Earnhardt after five lead changes between them in the final eleven laps. The 1981 race proved to be the final major stock car race at the troubled Texas superspeedway until Ishin Speed Sport took it over ten years later.
Firecracker 400 - Bobby Allison has taken a 256 point lead over Darrell Waltrip but after burning a valve and finishing 28th his point lead fell to 206. Cale Yarborough won the pole and led 78 laps while Harry Gant led 43 laps; Gant took the lead on Lap 138 but Cale stormed past for the win on the final lap. Dale Earnhardt led the opening lap in the first race with J.D. Stacy as new owner of the former Rod Osterlund Pontiac, but fell out with a vibration after 71 laps.
Mountain Dew 500 - Six years after the 1975 Purolator 500 and the controversial win by a Purolator-sponsored car, Darrell Waltrip's Buick with the race's sponsor took the win amid controversy. Cale Yarborough fell a lap down but got it back, but he pitted too early on a late yellow and lost the lap again. He stormed past Richard Petty on a last-lap restart thinking he was the leader, and Waltrip took the lead from Petty for the win. Yarborough initially protested the outcome thinking he was on the lead lap, but NASCAR score cards showed Waltrip indeed was the leader.
Talladega 500 – Bobby Allison led the most laps but slipped back in the final laps, leaving Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, and rookie Ron Bouchard in contention for the win. On the final lap in Talladega's trioval, Labonte swung high on Waltrip and as the two jostled, Bouchard dove to the bottom and beat them to the stripe by inches. Bouchard's victory is considered by many to be the biggest upset in NASCAR history.
Yankee 400 – Richard Petty stormed past five cars with five laps to go and held off Waltrip and Ricky Rudd in the most competitive race of the season (65 lead changes among 14 drivers).