The 1987 Winston 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that took place on May 3, 1987, at Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega, Alabama, USA. The race was a turning point in the balance between stock car speed and safety in NASCAR.
Davey Allison was the winner of the race, cut ten laps short due to darkness. It was Allison's first win in his career.
Allison's victory was somewhat overshadowed by a lap 22 crash in which the car of his father, Bobby Allison went airborne near the track's start/finish line, ripping down almost 100 feet of protective catch fence. Two large steel cables backing the fence managed to deflect Allison's car and prevent it from spearing unabated into the spectator grandstands. If this had happened, the accident had the potential to be a disaster on the scale of the 1955 Le Mans disaster.
Unrestricted high-speed races at Talladega Superspeedway ended after the 1987 Winston 500 because of the lap 22 crash. While the summer race (Talladega 500) would be run with a smaller carburetor, restrictor plates would end up being compulsory by the end of the year.
Talladega Superspeedway, originally known as Alabama International Motor Superspeedway (AIMS), is a motorsports complex located north of Talladega, Alabama. It is located on the former Anniston Air Force Base in the small city of Lincoln. The track is a Tri-oval and was constructed by International Speedway Corporation, a business controlled by the France Family, in the 1960s. Talladega is most known for its steep banking and the unique location of the start/finish line - located just past the exit to pit road. The track currently hosts the NASCAR series such as the Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. Talladega Superspeedway is the longest NASCAR oval with a length of 2.66 miles (4.28 km), and the track at its peak had a seating capacity of 175,000 spectators.
Bill Elliott won the pole for this race. At a qualifying speed of 212.809 mph (which converts to a qualifying lap time of 44.998 seconds) this speed created headlines across the country and especially in Alabama newspapers near Talladega. Elliott had a picture taken of himself with his car and a sign proclaiming it "World's Fastest Race Car".
For comparison, this qualifying speed was rivaling contemporary Indy Car racing; the 1987 Indianapolis 500 saw a qualifying speed of 216.809 mph logged by Bobby Rahal a few days later.
Concerns were already being raised about these speeds. Chevrolet team drivers were reporting that rear tires of the Monte Carlo SS cars were lifting off the track in turn 3 of the track.
The Winston 500 was scheduled for 188 laps. 178 laps were run.
A major wreck occurred on lap 22, when Bobby Allison suffered a blown engine. Debris from the malfunctioning engine cut a tire, causing the car to turn backwards, go airborne, and shear off several feet of the catch fence in front of the start/finish line. Speeds for this event were upwards of 200 miles per hour or 320 kilometres per hour, a major factor in the severity of Allison's crash. Five spectators would be injured as a result of Allison's crash; two of them had to be treated in the hospital while three were treated in the infield medical center and released. Allison's crash did not cause any fatalities, although one spectator lost an eye as a result of flying debris.
The race was red flagged, and remained stopped for two hours, twenty-six minutes while crews worked to repair the damaged catch fence. Talladega did not have track lighting in 1987, so this delay in particular, as well as other caution periods, caused the race to be cut short at 178 laps due to darkness.
There were 41 American-born drivers on the starting grid. More than one hundred thousand people would go and see Davey Allison defeat Terry Labonte by more than three-quarters of a second. Average speed of the race was 154.228 miles per hour (248.206 km/h) lasting three hours and four minutes, excluding the red flag period. Carburetor restrictor plates - now fuel injection restrictor plates - became de rigueur at Talladega and Daytona races after this event; enforcing a status quo of vehicles not going as fast as their engines desire to the present day.
Eighteen changes in the race's first-place position were made; with Bill Elliott and Davey Allison each surviving 30 laps in the lead. Chet Fillip was the last-place finisher due to a faulty engine situation that developed on the third lap. Bill Elliott would qualify for the pole position during the solo qualifying sessions with a top speed of 212.809 miles per hour (342.483 km/h). Ford and Chevrolet vehicles made up the majority of the participating manufacturers. Ron Bouchard made his final entry into NASCAR Cup Series competition in this race while Ed Pimm made his introduction into professional stock car racing. Davey Allison would score his first victory in this race.
* Driver failed to finish race
Start: Bill Elliott's vehicle was the first to leave the start/finish line as the green flag was waved in the air
Lap 19: Terry Labonte took over the lead from Bill Elliott
Lap 24: Slick Johnson took over the lead from Terry Labonte
Lap 26: Benny Parsons took over the lead from Slick Johnson
Lap 28: Terry Labonte took over the lead from Benny Parsons
Lap 30: Bill Elliott took over the lead from Terry Labonte
Lap 60: Davey Allison took over the lead from Bill Elliott
Lap 62: Ken Schrader took over the lead from Davey Allison
Lap 66: Davey Allison took over the lead from Ken Schrader
Lap 92: Ed Pimm took over the lead from Davey Allison
Lap 93: Davey Allison took over the lead from Ed Pimm
Lap 117: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Davey Allison
Lap 121: Rusty Wallace took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt
Lap 122: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Rusty Wallace
Lap 123: Davey Allison took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt
Lap 153: Neil Bonnett took over the lead from Davey Allison
Lap 155: Davey Allison took over the lead from Neil Bonnett
Lap 164: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Davey Allison
Lap 169: Davey Allison took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt
Finish: Davey Allison was officially declared the winner of the event
- Blackie Wangerin (No. 39)
- Ronnie Sanders (No. 86)