Earnhardt History
1981 Season

1981 Pontiac

1981 Season

Starts 31
Wins 0
Top 5's 9
Top 10's 17
Points Rank 7
Crew Chief:
Dale Inman
Car Owners:
Rod Osturlund until Rod sold the team to Jim Stacey in late June. Dale stayed with Stacey until he left in early August. Richard Childress quit racing to become a full-time owner 4 days later. Dale finished season with Childress.
Car Make:
Pontiac Grand Prix
Car No: 2
Sponsor: Wrangler



Dale Earnhardt was set to defend the title he had won driving for Osturlund Racing the previous year, and with a spanking-new paint job that screamed Wrangler from all sides, Dale and car owner Rod Osturlund felt they had every base covered for the new season. There was one major change to be noted: The Osturlund team had discarded the Chevrolets they had used to win the 1980 title, and would compete in 1981 with Pontiacs.

Earnhardt and his team were determined to repeat but just couldn't find the magic during the first half of the season, despite the veteran leadership Dale Inman brought to the party. By the time the World 600 rolled around in May, the garage was beset with rumors that Rod Osturlund, a California real estate developer feeling the pinch of high interest rates, was ready to sell his team. Days later (in early June), he said the team was not for sale. But within three weeks, he had sold the team to none other than Jim Stacy.

Stacy had been out of sight since the fall of 1978, but in no time, he had begun putting his own stamp on the team. Within a few days, team manager Roland Wloydka was fired by the new owner.

Dale was devastated. The man whom he had regarded as a father figure had sold the team to someone who had previously been nothing more than a garage-area acquaintance. A month later, following a 29th-place finish at the Talladega 500, Earnhardt quit the team.

Then, just four days later, longtime independent driver Richard Childress announced that he was retiring from driving duties to concentrate on his role as owner and that Earnhardt would drive his cars for the remainder of the season. It was a decision that would ultimately change the sport. Wrangler has traveled with Earnhardt and would now sponsor his efforts in Childress' cars.

The rest of the season was a wash for Earnhardt. Childress admittedly didn't have the equipment to carry Dale to victory lane, and although Dale did have four top-six finishes in the remaining races and finished seventh in the final point standings, Richard encouraged Earnhardt to find a better ride for the '82 season.  The two had become close friends, and Richard understood that Dale's talent far outstripped what he had available at the time.


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