1981 Coca-Cola 500 (partially found footage of NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; 1981)

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1981cocacola5001.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Partially Found

The 1981 Coca-Cola 500 was the 5th race of the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 15th March at the Atlanta International Raceway, the race would ultimately be won by Cale Yarborough in a Buick, controlling the race after taking the lead from fellow Buick driver Harry Gant.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1981 Coca-Cola 500 was the 22nd running of the event, with the annual race typically lasting around 500 miles in length.[1] It was one of two 1981 Winston Cup races at Atlanta International Raceway, the other being the Atlanta Journal 500,[2] which occurred on 8th November and was won by Neil Bonnett in a Ford.[3] It was the first instance of the event gaining the Coca-Cola title sponsorship, which lasted until 1985.[4][5] The Coca-Cola 500 also has ties to the modern Quaker State 400, which resumed the event at a 400 mile length in 2021 after not being held from 2011-2020.[6][7][5]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Terry Labonte winning the pole position in a Buick with a speed of 162.94 mph.[1] Directly behind him was Harry Gant, with Oldsmobile driver Buddy Baker lining up third.[1] Cale Yarborough qualified only 17th out of 42 competitors.[1] Also before the event, Bill Gazaway, the Director of Racing Operations for NASCAR, announced new rules for spoilers, including one that limited the rear-end spoiler height to a maximum of one and five-eighths inches. The rules were incorporated into the Cup Series primarily to tackle the competitive advantage of Bobby Allison's Pontiac LeMans, with some deeming the car controversial.[8] Allison himself only qualified 30th for this race.[1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1981 Coca-Cola commenced on 15th March.[1] Gant shot into the lead on the first lap, holding it for the first 22 laps.[1] After the first position was then fought between Pontiac's Richard Childress, Ford's Benny Parsons, and Chevrolet's David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip took the lead and held it for 26 laps in a Buick.[1] Richard Petty then passed him on lap 55, defending the first position for 25 laps before dropping it back to Waltrip.[1] But as the race entered its middle stages, it appeared the three main contenders were Yarborough, Gant, and Ford's Neil Bonnnett, the latter leading for 84 laps overall.[1] Meanwhile, Petty and Waltrip dropped out of contention after suffering engine failures after 113 and 131 laps respectively.[1]

On lap 218, Yarborough overtook Parsons for the first position, Bonnett having successfully defended it for 48 laps.[1] Gant then took over a lap later, with Bonnett retiring after 234 laps after experiencing water pump issues.[1] Therefore, the battle for the lead generally centred around Gant and Yarborough, who achieved a few further lead changes until the latter made the final one on lap 282.[1] For the remaining 47 laps, Yarborough generally extended his leading, crossing the line with a 33-second margin to claim victory and $28,950 in prize money.[1] Gant finished second, while Dale Earnhardt took third in a Pontiac.[1]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to NASCAR on TV, 45 minutes of footage was televised live by ABC as part of its Wide World of Sports, alongside coverage of the World Cup Bodybuilding.[9] This broadcast has yet to resurface publicly however, although home video footage from the stands remains publicly available.

See Also[edit | edit source]

External Link[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]