MRN Flashback: 1981 Gabriel 400

B.Allison

In June 1981 at Michigan International Speedway, Bobby Allison closed the first half of the NASCAR season the same way he opened it five months earlier - with a trip to Victory Lane. (Photo: ISC Archives)

In June 1981, Bobby Allison closed the first half of the NASCAR season the same way he had opened it five months earlier – with a trip to Victory Lane, this time at Michigan International Speedway.

Allison charged from seventh to first on the final green-flag lap of the Gabriel 400 to claim his fourth win in the year’s first 16 races – including that season-opening victory on the old road course at Riverside Raceway in California.

With the laps winding down in Michigan, Kyle Petty blew an engine – scattering parts and spraying oil through Turns 1 and 2.  But NASCAR chose not to throw a caution flag.

As race leader Darrell Waltrip roared into the first turn, second-place Cale Yarborough slipped in Petty’s oil and collected Harry Gant.  While Buddy Baker and Benny Parsons were spinning, Dale Earnhardt swept under Yarborough to take second place.

Allison was still a distant third heading down the backstretch but up ahead, contact was made as Earnhardt tried to pass Waltrip.  They slid out of control and Allison steered his No. 28 Ranier Racing Buick to the checkered flag with the caution flag finally waving, as well.

"I knew somebody had blown an engine," Allison said of the late-race mayhem.  "I dove for the gray part of the track and held control.  I can’t believe I came from that far back on one lap to win the race."

Despite colliding with Yarborough, Gant finished in second place.  Parsons recovered from his spin to grab third with Jody Ridley fourth in his Junie Donlavey-owned Ford.  Earnhardt completed the top five – two spots ahead of Waltrip, who had started from the pole.

The race featured 47 lead changes among 11 drivers.  There were seven cautions for 36 laps, with just eight of the 37 cars running on the lead lap at the finish.

Allison would win one more race that season and finish second in the final standings to Waltrip, who led the Cup Series with 12 victories and ended the year 53 points ahead of Allison.  Both drivers are now in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway this week for Sunday’s 46th running of the Gabriel 400, known today as the Quicken Loans 400.

Visit MRN.com on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (ET) to hear the complete broadcast of the 1981 Gabriel 400 from Michigan International Speedway, anchored by Barney Hall and Mike Joy.  Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – features a classic race each week on “Throwback Thursday” only at MRN.com.

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