gettyimages-82103485.jpg
Getty Images

In his post-racing career, among the notable endeavors of soon-to-be NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been education about and the preservation of racing's past. Those efforts will continue Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, as Earnhardt will start this year's Talladega playoff race by commemorating one of the track's unlikely heroes and the 40th anniversary of his greatest triumph.

Prior to the start of this weekend's YellaWood 500, Talladega has announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will take a ceremonial lap around the speedway behind the wheel of the No. 47 Buick driven by Ron Bouchard that won the 1981 Talladega 500. This will mark the second time this season that Earnhardt has made a ceremonial lap in a classic car, as he previously drove a restored 1984 Chevrolet Nova that his father drove in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series prior to the start of an Xfinity Series race at Darlington.

In August of 1981, Bouchard -- a Cup rookie from Fitchburg, Mass. making only his 11th career start -- was in third on the final lap as Terry Labonte and Darrell Waltrip were setting up to race each other for the win. As Labonte made his move to the outside in the tri-oval, Bouchard cut to the inside of the unsuspecting leaders, beating them at the line by two feet to earn the first and only victory of his Cup career.

While the win was the only one Bouchard earned in his career, he would go on to run 160 Cup races from 1981 to 1987, earning 19 Top 5s, 60 Top 10s, three poles, and a best finish of 8th in points in 1982. Bouchard went on to be regarded as one of the great drivers in the history of New England regional racing, and he was named an inaugural member of the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 1998. Bouchard died of cancer in December of 2015 at the age of 67.

Bouchard's winning car will make the trip to Talladega from Fitchburg, where it has been on display at the Ron Bouchard Museum at the family's auto dealership. Prior to its lap on Sunday, Bouchard's car will be displayed at the Talladega Garage Experience to allow fans to get an up-close look at the historic machine.