|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 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)|
|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 and bringing about Buick's first win in NASCAR since 1956. Ricky Rudd, Buddy Baker, and Dale Earnhardt rounded out the Top 5. A new generation of smaller cars, with a wheelbase of 110 inches (280 cm), down from the previously used 115 inches (290 cm), made their debut in this race.
David Pearson had the only Chevrolet in the field but he qualified well with his new Monte Carlo in the top-10 after a great run in his Twin 125. On race day the Silver Fox led a few laps and ran in the top-5 for much of the event before the motor in the Halpern Enterprises #16 grenaded and ended his day. Most GM teams went for Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, and Buicks for this one because of aerodynamic advantages with most of the few Chevrolet entrants going with the boxy Monte Carlo. Steve Moore attempted this race in a Chevrolet Malibu but his #73 didn't make the 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 back bumper of the Oldsmobile was not good, it created aerodynamic problems the Buick did not have. Most NASCAR racing teams basically blackballed the Cutlass after this race while the Oldsmobile didn't really become relevant again in Cup until the new cars came out for the 1986 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. Many teams ran the Grand Prix during the early-1980s, despite the Cutlass looking like have a more aerodynamic front end as well.
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.
Top 10 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|
- "Weather of the 1981 Daytona 500". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Archived from the original on 2013-07-01. Retrieved 2013-06-24.
- Official results of 1981 Daytona 500 on Racing-Reference.info
- Driver Dickie Boswell's NASCAR Xfinity Series races
1981 Winston Western 500
| NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
1981 Richmond 400