Trisha Shetty (Editor)

1971 Motor Trend 500

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Official name  Motor Trend 500
1971 Motor Trend 500
Date  January 10, 1971 (1971-January-10)
Location  Riverside International Raceway, Riverside, California
Course  Permanent racing facility 2.700 mi (4.345 km)
Distance  191 laps, 500 mi (806 km)
Weather  Chilly with temperatures approaching 64 °F (18 °C); wind speeds up to 8 miles per hour (13 km/h)

The 1971 Motor Trend 500 was the first official race in NASCAR's Winston Cup era (also known as the Winston Cup Grand National Series until approximately 1985) that took place on January 10, 1971. Drivers had to contend with 191 laps on a road course at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California, USA that spanned a total distance of 2.620 miles (4.216 km). Many people who followed NASCAR during the 1960s and the 1970s found Riverside International Raceway to be one of their favorite "road course" tracks.


Despite its connections to Big Tobacco, the Winston Cup era in NASCAR ended up becoming the most popular among traditionalists and racing purists alike. Attendance for this racing event was estimated at 23,000 people. It took four hours, fifty-seven minutes, and fifty-five seconds for the race to resolve itself from the first green flag to the checkered flag. No tickets were required to tour certain places of the track (particularly on the area of the track that was near the chicanes). NASCAR would tighten up their security in the later years; requiring patrons to have special passes to attend pit road prior to the race.

Due to a then-struggling economy, both Ford and Chevrolet cut back on factory-manufacturing new vehicles for the 1971 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. NASCAR would also limit the aerodynamics of the vehicles to 305 cubic inches starting in this race. All 40 vehicles that participated in the race were basically either new or used vehicles purchased from automobile retailers open to the general public for less than $2,500 ($14,784.31 when adjusted for inflation). The costs of hiring a pit crew and driver were much cheaper during the early 1970s than it is today, making it more incentive for professional businessmen like Nord Krauskopf to attempt a full-blown career as a NASCAR team owner.


Defending NASCAR Grand National West series champion Ray Elder won the race. The average speed was 100.783 miles per hour (162.195 km/h) while the pole speed was 107.084 miles per hour (172.335 km/h). Elder essentially became the first winner in NASCAR's "modern" history; carving out a pathway for drivers like Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

Out of the forty drivers that started the race, only twelve of them actually finished the race. The top prize at this race was $18,715 ($110,675.31 when adjusted for inflation) and the prize for finishing last place (40th) was $1,015 ($6,002.43 when adjusted for inflation). Richard Petty competed in this race but failed to finish it; he would end up in 20th place after starting in the pole position. He was driving a Plymouth with the familiar No. 43 that he is famous for. The majority of the drivers who failed to finish had an engine problem. Harry Hyde and Dale Inman were the more notable crew chiefs for this event; working for the immortal Richard Petty (Inman) and fourth-place finisher Bobby Isaac (Hyde).

Even before the 1973 oil crisis, the big American automobile manufacturers were limiting the cubic inch content of their rear-wheel drive manual transmission vehicles as a way to cut costs on the consumers' end. This would serve to keep the carburetor-powered passenger vehicles mainstream in American society until the 1990s when fuel injection offered to limit the emissions on newer vehicles (and help to raise their MPG rating as well). Gas prices would exceed $1.29/gallon ($0.33/litre) by the end of the 1990s, causing carbureted vehicles and rear-wheel drive alike to become irrelevant everywhere except in NASCAR. NASCAR would not acknowledge this until the beginning of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season when they legalized fuel injection for the Cup Series drivers.

At the end of the race, the margin between Elder and Bobby Allison was considered to be ten and a half seconds. Ray Elder would score the first of his two NASCAR cup victories here (with his second victory taking place at the 1972 Golden State 400). Other notable facts about the 1971 Motor Trend 500 is that the race was Ron Grable's only start in the NASCAR Cup series and that G.T. Tallas finished the race with his career best of 11th place.


  • Start of race: Richard Petty had the lead position as the green flag was waved
  • Lap 4: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Richard Petty
  • Lap 5: David Pearson took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Lap 21: Joe Clark's vehicle developed transmission issues
  • Lap 25: Richard Petty took over the lead from David Pearson
  • Lap 36: Ray Johnstone had a terminal crash
  • Lap 38: Problems with the vehicle's clutch ended Mike Kittlekow's day on the track
  • Lap 40: Frank Warren developed terminal issues with his transmission
  • Lap 56: Bob Kauf's vehicle had a terminal transmission issue which knocked him out of the race
  • Lap 58: Bill Champion's vehicle had a terminal transmission issue which knocked him out of the race
  • Lap 76: Dick Guldstrad managed to lose a frame out of his vehicle, making his car too unsafe for further racing
  • Lap 84: Ray Elder took over the lead from Richard Petty
  • Lap 97: Frank James developed a faulty transmission in his vehicle
  • Lap 107: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Ray Elder
  • Lap 118: A faulty lug bolt ended Ron Gaustche's race
  • Lap 120: Ray Elder took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Lap 133: Steering issues brought Dick Bown's day on the track to a premature halt
  • Lap 136: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Ray Elder
  • Lap 150: Ray Elder took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Lap 155: Bob England managed to render his vehicle's engine non-functional
  • Lap 156: Hershel McGriff ruined the ignition of his vehicle by driving at high speeds
  • Lap 157: G.T. Tallas managed to render his vehicle's engine non-functional
  • Lap 166: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Ray Elder
  • Lap 180: Ray Elder took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Finish: Ray Elder was officially declared the winner of the event
  • References

    1971 Motor Trend 500 Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    White Love
    Peter Mannos
    Mike Schad