|Official name Winston Western 500|
|Date January 11, 1981 (1981-January-11)|
Location Riverside International Raceway, Riverside, California
Course 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)
The 1981 Winston Western 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race that took place on January 11, 1981, at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California.
During the preceding season, NASCAR had completely stopped tracking the year model of all the vehicles and most teams did not take stock cars to the track under their own power anymore. This would also serve as 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.
Road courses were one of the more attractive features for NASCAR during the 1981 Winston Cup Series season. NASCAR would develop a liking towards mile and a half tracks by the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
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. Only manual transmission vehicles were allowed to participate in this race; a policy that NASCAR has retained to the present day.
There were 36 drivers on the grid; all of them were American-born except for Roy Smith who was born in Canada. 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 loyal NASCAR 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 top speed of 114.711 miles per hour (184.609 km/h) while the average race speed was only 95.263 miles per hour (153.311 km/h). The other drivers with a top ten finish were: Dale Earnhardt, Richard Childress, Richard Petty, Jim Robinson, Jody Ridley, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Buddy Arrington, and Don Waterman.
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 would end his career at this race with a respectable 12th-place finish. This was the final time in NASCAR history that a race would take place prior to the Daytona 500.
Bob Bondurant would make his entrance into NASCAR during this race while John Borneman and Robert Tartalgia would leave professional stock car racing after this race.