|Race 1 of 30 in the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season|
Layout of Riverside International Raceway (1969–1988 version)
|Date||January 11, 1981|
|Official name||Winston Western 500|
|Location||Riverside International Raceway, Riverside, California|
Permanent racing facility|
2.700 mi (4.345 km)
|Distance||119 laps, 311.8 mi (501.7 km)|
|Weather||Mild with temperatures reaching up to 75 °F (24 °C); wind speeds up to 15 miles per hour (24 km/h)|
|Average speed||95.263 miles per hour (153.311 km/h)|
|Driver||Junior Johnson & Associates|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Bobby Allison||Ranier Racing|
|No. 28||Bobby Allison||Ranier Racing|
|Television in the United States|
This race would be the final race where 115-inch wheelbase cars were eligible to run; the field was a mix of 1977–1980 racecars and 1981 models. Dale Earnhardt drove a 1981 Pontiac while race winner Bobby Allison drove a 1977 Monte Carlo. During the early 1980s, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series was plagued with top teams running big engines and finishing in third place to avoid inspection.
While January 11, 1981, started out as a typical rainy day on the West Coast during the winter months, the showers had disappeared around the time of the race.
There were 36 drivers on the grid; all of them were American-born except for Canadian Roy Smith. The last place finisher was Cecil Gordon in his Chevrolet due to engine problems on lap 2 out of 119. Bobby Allison defeated Terry Labonte in front of 35,000 spectators. There were 15 lead changes and six cautions for 31 laps; making the race last three hours and sixteen minutes in length. Darrell Waltrip would qualify for the pole position with a speed of 114.711 miles per hour (184.609 km/h) while the average race speed was 95.263 miles per hour (153.311 km/h). The other drivers in the top ten were: Dale Earnhardt, Richard Childress, Richard Petty, Jim Robinson, Jody Ridley, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Buddy Arrington, and Don Waterman. Robinson was declared the winner of the West Series division of this combination race.
Notable crew chiefs who actively participated in the race included Junie Donvaley, Jake Elder, Joey Arrington, Darrell Dieringer, Darrell Bryant, Dale Inman, Waddell Wilson, Bud Moore, and Kirk Shelmerdine.
Ricky Rudd would start his "Ironman" streak of being in the NASCAR Cup Series for 24 seasons without missing a single race. The next race after this one would see cars become boxier and smaller; like the compact cars that were trendy in America during the 1980s. West Coast racer John Borneman, a registered West Series driver, finished 12th in this combination race, earning a third-place finish in the West Series standings under NASCAR's combination race policy. Though it would be his last Cup start, Borneman (whose son would later race at the national level) was primarily a regular at San Diego's Cajon Speedway. This was the final time in NASCAR history that a race would take place prior to the Daytona 500. Also, this race would be the last time that a car owned by a member of the Petty family would have Chevrolet as a manufacturer until the year 2018.
Standings after the race
- Weather information for the January 1981 Winston Western 500 at the Old Farmers' Almanac
- 1981 Winston Western 500 racing information at Racing Reference
- Pre-race rain information Archived 2015-01-28 at the Wayback Machine at Racers Reunion
- 1981 Winston Western 500 Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine racing information at Driver Averages
- 1981 Winston Western 500 crew chiefs at Racing Reference
- 1981 Winston Western 500 information at Race Database
- Qualifying information at Racing Reference
1980 Los Angeles Times 500
| NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
1981 Daytona 500
| Winston Western 500 races