Photo Cutline: Ron Bouchard (47) passes Darrell Waltrip (center) and Terry Labonte at the line to win at Talladega Superspeedway in 1981. It is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in Talladega history. Bouchard’s car will be driven in a ceremonial lap this Sunday by six-time Talladega winner and NBC Sports’ Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to honor the 1981 accomplishment.
Bouchard Came From Third to First in 1981 Through the Tri-Oval on the Last Lap at NASCAR’s Biggest and Baddest Track, Passing Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte for his Only Career Triumph; The YellaWood 500 Playoffs Race is set for 1 p.m. CDT Sunday
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Sept. 28, 2021) – To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of one of biggest upsets in NASCAR history – Ron Bouchard’s remarkable triumph at Talladega Superspeedway in 1981 – the track has something special planned for fans in pre-race prior to the start of Sunday’s YellaWood 500.
Six-time Talladega Superspeedway Champion and NBC Sports’ Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will drive Bouchard’s authentic 1981 No. 47 Buick during a ceremonial lap around the biggest and baddest track on the planet just before the engines are fired to start the YellaWood 500. The beautiful yellow and white, blue numbered car will also be on display during the weekend in the track’s one-of-a-kind Talladega Garage Experience, allowing fans to get an up-close view of the historic machine.
On August 2, 1981, Bouchard, a rookie from Fitchburg, Mass, in only his 11th career race as a NASCAR Cup Series driver (rookie season), was running third on the final lap entering the tri-oval. He trailed future NASCAR Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte, and was really an afterthought as the two high-profile legends looked to settle the race amongst themselves. Bouchard, however, had other plans.
As the trio came through tri-oval, Waltrip continued to lead as Labonte shot to the outside to make the pass. Meanwhile, Bouchard, utilizing the draft, dove low, and unbelievably, made the pass on both, leaving Waltrip, Labonte and a packed house stunned. Bouchard’s margin of victory? Two feet. It was Bouchard’s only career victory, while Waltrip and Labonte would go on to win six races at Talladega between them.
“When we first went there, Buddy Baker told me that one of the differences at this track was, that when you came off Turn 4, you had to remember that the start-finish line wasn’t in the tri-oval (1,250 further down toward Turn 1),” Bouchard said after his win. “He actually went through the scenario with me where he said, if for some reason I was third coming off Turn 4, I needed to wait until the second-place guy made his move then go the other way because, at that point, there was still plenty of time to draft by those guys at the line.
“When we came off Turn 4, I remembered what Buddy told me, and I waited. Terry jumped to the high side of Darrell. Then the only one Darrell was worried about was Terry. I got a draft off the two of them. When I passed them, I remember thinking as we crossed the stripe, ‘I’ll be a son-of-a-gun if Baker didn’t talk about this very thing, and it happened just like he said.’”
The winning car is now housed at the Ron Bouchard Museum in Fitchburg (open here). Bouchard would continue to compete in NASCAR’s premier series through 1987. His Talladega victory would be his lone trip to the winner’s circle in 160 career races. In all, Bouchard competed in 160 career races with 19 top-five finishes, 60 top-10 efforts and three pole positions. He drove for three car owners in the Cup Series, the majority with Jack Beebe and the No. 47 Race Hill Farm Racing team. He passed away in December of 2015.
The most competitive track in the world continues another chapter in its storied history this weekend. Great tickets are available for the YellaWood 500 (1:00 p.m. CDT start), the culmination of a tripleheader NASCAR Playoffs weekend. NBC Sports will present race coverage at 1 p.m. CDT on NBC, beginning with pre-race coverage at noon CDT on the broadcast network. Tickets are also available for Saturday’s (Oct. 2) duo of races on Saturday, Oct. 2 with the Sparks 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series (3:30 p.m. CDT start on NBCSN) and the Chevy Silverado 250 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The action begins at Noon CDT.
Admission to the traditional Saturday Night Infield Concert, headlined by platinum-selling Dustin Lunch, is FREE to all infield guests, who purchases a ticket to the YellaWood 500. To see all admission options, including the Talladega Garage Experience (includes access to Garage Viewing Walkways, Pre-Race Ceremonies on Sunday, Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane, historic cars, including the No. 47 of Bouchard), visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA.