With seven victories, nobody won more than Tim Richmond in 1986. In the season-ending Winston Western 500, he would outduel Dale Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine in the closing laps, capturing win number seven at Riverside.
Richmond started the weekend off in grand fashion, blitzing the previous track record on his pole-winning run. Despite blowing his engine heading into turn 9, he would continue on to set the pace with a lap speed of 118.247mph. The pole-award was his eighth of the year, tying him with Hendrick teammate Bodine for most poles amongst drivers. In doing so, he would pick up a bonus worth $30000, edging Bodine 7-6 in 2nd place starts for the tie breaker.
Locking up the Winston Cup two weeks prior with a win at Atlanta, Earnhardt would settle for second, with a last-lap pass of Bodine. His day was not without fault though, falling a lap down early on before battling his way back through the field. Likewise, Richmond fell behind after several pit-road mishaps and a flat tire, before finding his own way back to the front and leading the final eleven circuits of the 2.6 mile course.
Championship runner-up Darrell Waltrip, in his last season with owner Junior Johnson, started the day on the outside front row. Heading into this event, he held a 21-point advantage over Richmond in the standings, a position which payed $225000 in prize money. With his strong showing in a fourth place finish, he would leave Riverside up only 6 points, but securing the payout. Richmond would come away with a check worth $145000 for his third place triumph in the final standings, and a further $50955 for the win itself.
Also starting the race was Al Unser, his final appearance in NASCAR. In five career starts he would twice record a best finish of fourth, coming at the 1968 Daytona 500 and the Motor Trend 500 in 1969. He would go on to win the Indianapolis 500 in 1987, his fourth such victory in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and first since 1978. He still holds the record to this day as the oldest winner in race history, aged 47 years and 360 days. This win also gave him share of the record for most Indy 500 victories, along with Rick Mears and AJ Foyt.
The event at Riverside would also be Richmond’s final start for seven months, as he continued to battle several health problems heading into 1987. Upon his return to NASCAR competition at Pocono, he picked up where he left off by winning the Miller High Life 500. His final career victory and 13th overall would come a week later, once again at Riverside in the Budweiser 400, the same race he scored his first victory back in 1981. He would start a further six races in 1987, recording his 14th pole position in the return to Pocono a month after winning, before parting ways with Hendrick in September.