Since the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway‘s return to Labor Day weekend in 2015, the NASCAR Cup Series has gone back in time by running throwback paint schemes that honour various parts of the sport’s history.
For 2020, the intended theme is celebrating champions, though it is not a mandatory stipulation for throwbacks. The Chip Ganassi Racing duo (Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth), JTG Daugherty Racing‘s pair of drivers (Ryan Preece and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), Chris Buescher, and Michael McDowell have either not released paint schemes as of this article’s publishing or will not run throwbacks at all.
“Love the throwback to the 2020 pre pandemic car. Pretty cool,” former driver Matt Tifft quipped in response to McDowell’s lack of a throwback. Fellow driver Andy Lally remarked going without a throwback is “like the lazy chick that just gets a cat-ears head band for Halloween and draws mascara whiskers.”
Goodyear is also joining the fun with a throwback tyre look.
The Team Penske trio will focus on different decades.
Brad Keselowski‘s car is a throwback to himself a decade ago when he drove a car with a second digit. His #2 Discount Tire Ford is based on his 2010 Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series championship-winning #22 car. He won six races in what was his first year as a member of the Team Penske organisation.
Although Menards is associated today with neon yellow, Ryan Blaney‘s #12 Menards machine focuses on the home improvement chain’s blue race cars. In particular, Blaney’s throwback is a nod to Paul Menard‘s 2003 ARCA car that he drove to Victory Lane at Talladega. Incidentally, Blaney is a two-time Talladega winner at the Cup level, having won the two latest events.
Joey Logano in the #22 focuses on Bobby Allison‘s 1985 Miller car. Allison finished twelfth in points that year.
Richard Childress Racing
Austin Dillon‘s #3 is a throwback to Junior Johnson. Johnson, who died last December, was enshrined into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 as a member of the Hall’s inaugural class after a legendary career as a driver and team owner.
His partner Tyler Reddick pays tribute to Jeff Burton‘s 1994 Rookie of the Year-winning car. Burton, who raced for Richard Childress Racing from 2005 to 2013, drove a #8 for Stavola Brothers Racing in his rookie campaign. Reddick, himself a rookie, will also sport a special firesuit and helmet to complete the throwback look.
Regular season champion Kevin Harvick‘s #4 is based on his sponsor Busch Beer‘s 1997 can. In adhering to the champions theme, the throwback revolves around title winners in the Busch Series (now the Xfinity Series), including a Busch series logo while the company will produce a specialty can. Harvick is a two-time Busch Series champion in 2001 and 2006.
Aric Almirola throws back to Fireball Roberts‘ 1957 Ford. That year, the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee won eight races and finished sixth in points. Both drivers also hail from Florida.
The #14 of Clint Bowyer pays tribute to Kyle Petty‘s 1990 Rockingham-winning car; both vehicles are sponsored by PEAK Antifreeze. PEAK has sponsored Bowyer since 2013.
Like Almirola, rookie Cole Custer‘s #41 will be red for Darlington. Custer will run a throwback to 2016 Hall of Famer Curtis Turner, who won the 1956 Southern 500 and traditionally raced with #41.
It will be an emotional Darlington weekend for Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports. To honour the retiring seven-time champion, his team-mates will all pilot throwbacks to various cars during his twenty-year career. Many of Johnson’s peers are also paying tribute, with Ryan Vargas and Sheldon Creed running throwbacks to him in the lower series; Brett Moffitt also plans to use a throwback in the Truck Series season finale at Phoenix.
Chase Elliott‘s #9 emulates Johnson’s Lowe’s car that he piloted to seven wins and his fourth title in 2009.
William Byron, who edged out Johnson for one of the final playoff spots last Sunday, rocks a livery based on his team-mate’s 2013 All-Star Race-winning vehicle. Johnson went on to win championship #6 that year.
Alex Bowman goes further back to Johnson’s maiden title in 2006. Johnson won five races that year, including his first Daytona 500.
While his Hendrick brethren salute their elder, Johnson himself will instead tip his hat to a pair of legends. His #48 honours fellow seven-time champs Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, with the bottom half emulating Earnhardt’s famed black #3 and the top resembling the iconic Petty blue #43.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Denny Hamlin will pay tribute to longtime sponsor FedEx with his throwback. His #11 is based on Cale Yarborough‘s 1973 Southern 500-winning #11. FedEx was also founded that year, so the branding on Hamlin’s car mirrors that of the company’s at the time.
Kyle Busch is also going the sponsor route as his #18 M&M’s car is modeled after Elliott Sadler‘s 2004 car. Sadler won two races that year for Yates Racing en route to an appearance in the inaugural Chase for the Cup (now NASCAR Playoffs) and a ninth-place points finish.
“Wow…. I’m blown away .complete surprise .. thanks to @KyleBusch and @JoeGibbsRacing,” Sadler tweeted. “I know Kyle will get like 300 wins for @mmschocolate.. but I am so proud to have gotten their first!!!”
Martin Truex Jr.‘s throwback honours another sponsor and a fellow Jr. It is a throwback to Hank Parker Jr.‘s 2003 Bass Pro Shops scheme that he ran in the Atlanta Busch Series race, where he finished fifth for Chance 2 Motorsports. Truex would later race for the team and win two Busch titles with BPS on his car.
Unlike his peers, Erik Jones‘ #20 car deviates from the sponsor branch and instead honours a former #20 driver. His Sports Clips car is designed after Tony Stewart‘s 2005 fall Martinsville car, which he drove to a second-place finish. Stewart went on to win the championship that year.
Rick Ware Racing
The #15 of Brennan Poole honours the legendary team owner Bud Moore and his ride for Ricky Rudd, who won five races for Bud Moore Engineering from 1984 to 1987. The car is sponsored by R.E.D. (Remember Everyone Deployed), which is especially fitting as Moore was a veteran of World War II who served in Europe. To add to the apt military theme, the Southern 500 takes place four days after the seventy-five-year anniversary of Japan’s surrender to officially end that war.
J.J. Yeley‘s #27 evokes memories of the 1990s, which is exactly what Rick Ware Racing intended as it is based on the late Kenny Irwin Jr.‘s #27 Nerf car. Irwin, who was coincidentally 27 at the time, qualified for four races in 1997 and scored a top ten at Richmond.
Joey Gase was the first driver to reveal his throwback, doing so in April even before the season resumed. His scheme is based on Bobby Allison’s 1971 Southern 500-winning car; Allison would win the event four times. The red-and-gold design had also previously used as Tony Stewart’s throwback in 2016.
In the #53 is James Davison, whose red car is a tribute to 1983 Indianapolis 500 winner and occasional NASCAR driver Tom Sneva. Sneva drove a #53 owned by Bay Darnell at the 1983 Daytona 500, where he finished seventh for his only career Cup Series top ten.
Single-car teams and other
StarCom Racing rookie Quin Houff will turn the clock way back with his throwback. Courtesy of sponsor Permatex, his #00 is modeled after the Ford V8 Roadster driven by Milt Marion to victory in the first stock car race on the shores of Daytona Beach in 1936.
“During that historic first race in 1936, NASCAR’s founder, Bill France Sr., built the engine on Milt Marion’s #23 Roadster without gaskets, using only Permatex Form-A-Gasket products,” explained Permatex brand manager Erika Marko. “Marion went on to win the race at Daytona Beach and France Sr. founded NASCAR shortly after.”
Buescher might not be joining the throwback fun, but Roush Fenway Racing partner Ryan Newman will. Newman’s #6 Oscar Mayer car resembles his 1999 USAC Silver Crown Series car that he drove to that year’s championship.
The #7 of Josh Bilicki is fielded by Tommy Baldwin Racing, whose owner’s father will be the subject of the team’s throwback. Bilicki’s car is bright yellow and is based on Tom Baldwin Sr.‘s car. The scheme was revealed on 19 August, the sixteen-year anniversary of “Tiger” Tom’s death.
“Today marks 16 years since he passed away, and I can’t think of a better way to honor him than to run his paint scheme in the Southern 500. Love You Dad,” Baldwin Jr. said.
Germain Racing and Ty Dillon throws back to the team’s Truck Series heyday. His #13 is based on Todd Bodine‘s 2010 Truck title vehicle. Bodine, a two-time Truck champion, tweeted, “Wow!!!! What an honor! Thank you so much. Always family”.
Matt DiBenedetto begins his maiden playoff run in a #21 car designed after his Wood Brothers Racing team’s 1963 Ford Galaxie. The car was driven by Tiny Lund to Victory Lane in that year’s Daytona 500, while late team founder Glen Wood won his last race as a driver at Bowman Gray Stadium and Marvin Panch rebounded from injuries in a sports car accident to win at North Wilkesboro. The vehicle would lift WBR to its only owners’ title.
Panch’s name is listed below the passenger’s side door, while Lund’s is in tape on the driver’s side to reflect the latter’s substitute role in the Daytona 500.
Like Newman, John Hunter Nemechek will be the only driver in his Front Row Motorsports team with a throwback. Like Busch, it is an Elliott Sadler tribute. Nemechek’s #38 CITGARD Ford is based on Sadler’s CITGO car that he raced for the Wood Brothers in 1999 and 2000. Busch and Nemechek revealed their throwbacks on the same day.
“If you grew up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, that red CITGO car always stood out on track,” Nemechek commented. “It’s really cool to be able to bring that paint scheme back to life at Darlington. I know my #38 Front Row Motorsports crew will bring a fast car to the track, and we’ll do everything we can to win on Sunday.”
Sadler tweeted on Monday, “This truly has been a humbling day .a small town kid who grew going to races with my dad to becoming apart of the sport I love to being voted MPD by the fans to now having multiple throwback schemes this weekend . dreams really do come true .my family and I are very appreciative”.
The #43 car of Bubba Wallace will be green and mean as it throws back to an obscure time in team owner Richard Petty’s legendary driving career. In 1986, Petty wrecked his #43 car at the Coca-Cola 600, prompting him to take over D.K. Ulrich‘s #6 entry. Petty finished thirty-eighth in a rare race not for Petty Enterprises.
Timmy Hill‘s #66 MBM Motorsports machine harks back to 1984 and Phil Parsons‘ Skoal Bandit vehicle, which he drove to four top tens. Similar to what was done for the team’s Xfinity throwbacks, sponsor RoofClaim.com redesigned its logo to match the Skoal bandit branding.
Ross Chastain returns to Spire Motorsports for Darlington, and his #77 will honour Dale Earnhardt’s 1976 car. Chastain revealed the scheme alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Dirty Mo Media crew, and the company will sponsor the #77.
Toyota’s single-car teams Leavine Family Racing and Gaunt Brothers Racing chose recent but especially familiar schemes for their drivers’ throwbacks. The former’s Christopher Bell will drive a black-and-red car based on his 2017 championship-winning truck, while the latter will field an orange Arris car for Daniel Suárez based on the one used during his 2016 Xfinity Series title run.