|Official name Winston 500|
|Date May 10, 1997 (1997-May-10)|
Location Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Alabama
Course Permanent racing facility 2.660 mi (4.280 km)
Distance 188 laps, 500.1 mi (804.8 km)
Weather Mild with temperatures approaching 71.6 °F (22.0 °C); average wind speeds of 6.3 miles per hour (10.1 km/h)
The 1997 Winston 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that took place on May 10, 1997, at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, U.S.. Heavy rain and prior NASCAR commitments forced this race to be re-scheduled all the way back from April 27, 1997.
This race would be last time that the number 20 would be used on a Winston Cup Series vehicle until Tony Stewart came along and revived the number as a part of Joe Gibbs Racing. Stewart was asked to drive the vehicle just prior to qualifying but had to turn it down due to prior commitments.
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 Sprint 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.
There were 43 American-born drivers at this racing event. Those who failed to qualify were: Billy Standridge, Mike Wallace, Gary Bradberry, Joe Nemechek, Phil Barkdoll (in his final NASCAR attempt), and Ed Berrier. Geoffrey Bodine received credit for the last-place finish of the race due to an engine problem on lap 78 of the advertised 188 laps. Mark Martin defeated Dale Earnhardt by almost 0.150 seconds in front of an unspecified number of audience members. This completely caution-free race had 26 changes in the first-place position.
It took more than two and a half hours for Martin to record his average speed of 188.354 miles per hour (303.126 km/h); one of the fastest speeds recorded prior to Dale Earnhardt's death. John Andretti earned the pole position of the race with a speed of 193.627 miles per hour (311.612 km/h). Drivers who participated at this race and are still active are: Michael Waltrip, Derrike Cope, and Morgan Shepherd
The aero packages at the time allowed for lots of passing; despite the race using restrictor plates per NASCAR's policy on racing at Talladega and its sister track at Daytona Beach, Florida. Lake Speed's ACE Hardware sponsorship in this race completely fabricated so that he would resemble the villain in Fox's made-for-TV movie Steel Chariots. Five years later at the 2002 Aaron's 499, the action at Talladega became slower and with more cautions.
After this race, Labonte would take the championship points away from Dale Jarrett. The total prize purse at the race was $1,317,496 ($1,965,592.60 when considering inflation); Martin would earn $92,220 ($137,584.44 when considering inflation).
Top ten finishers
- Mark Martin (No. 6)
- Dale Earnhardt (No. 3)
- Bobby Labonte (No. 18)
- John Andretti (No. 98)
- Jeff Gordon (No. 24)
- Terry Labonte (No. 5)
- Jimmy Spencer (No. 23)
- Jeff Burton (No. 99)
- Johnny Benson, Jr. (No. 30)
- Ernie Irvan (No. 28)