NASCAR Cup SeriesNASCAR Truck SeriesNASCAR Xfinity Series

NASCAR goes back in time with Darlington throwbacks

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Credit: Big Machine Racing

The NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck Series will continue what has become an annual tradition whenever they visit Darlington Raceway: Throwback Weekend. Since the return of the Southern 500 to Labor Day weekend in 2015, NASCAR has encouraged teams to switch to historic liveries while the broadcast has also followed suit. For 2021, the celebration switches to the spring Goodyear 400 weekend on Mother’s Day.

The reason for the change was not explained but it is likely due to the Southern 500 being a playoff race, so the throwback weekend being at Darlington’s other event will balance out the track’s two rounds. Nevertheless, many teams are joining the festivities.

The most common theme is basing paint schemes on those of past drivers. While some went for NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees like Michael McDowell nodding to Bill Elliott and Chase Elliott to fellow Hooters-sponsored champion Alan Kulwicki; Anthony Alfredo is also running a Kulwicki throwback. Michael Waltrip and the late John Andretti are honoured by multiple drivers with the former by Truck drivers Derek Kraus and Danny Bohn, and the latter by Quin Houff and Erik Jones. A more international choice comes from James Davison, whose #15 is based on fellow Australian and Supercars legendary driver/team owner Dick Johnson during his brief stint in NASCAR in 1990, while Akinori Ogata honours fellow Japanese driver Kenji Momota‘s 1995 truck.

Alex Bowman and Ryan Preece are giving shoutouts to their crew chiefs Greg Ives and Trent Owens, both of whom raced in the past. Josh Williams‘s #92 honours team member Rusty Crews, who passed away prior to the 2021 season. Family members are also subjects of celebration: Jeb and Harrison Burton will pay tribute to their fathers Ward and Jeff Burton, while Colby Howard honours his father Rodney and Ryan Ellis‘s car is based on that of his grandfather Vic.

Various drivers’ liveries are tributes to focal moments in their own careers. For example, Kyle Larson‘s #5 is based on his childhood kart and Ryan Blaney‘s #12 is black-and-red and resembles his super late model from 2010/2011, while Martin Truex Jr. is going for a more recent example as his #19 is painted after his Furniture Row Racing days. At the Xfinity level, A.J. Allmendinger‘s #16 is a throwback to his lone Cup victory at Watkins Glen in 2014. Erik Darnell, who makes his return to NASCAR for the first time since 2012 and first Truck start since 2008, throws back to his paint scheme from that year.

Others go outside the stock car world like Joey Logano, whose #22 honours Mario Andretti‘s maiden Formula One victory in the 1971 South African Grand Prix. Ryan Newman‘s #6 is sponsored by Kohler, hence his throwback being to the company’s 1976 SCCA National Championship-winning cars. Another sports car tribute comes from Hailie Deegan, whose #1 truck takes pages from Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby‘s Ford GT that won the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona, part of a larger story that was popularised by the 2019 film Ford v Ferrari, while Jade Buford‘s #48 emulates the 1970 All American Racers Trans-Am car of the legendary Dan Gurney.

Credit: Front Row Motorsports

Kyle Busch and Daniel Suárez go down the sponsor road as their throwbacks acknowledge M&M’s and Camping World, respectively. Justin Haley‘s Xfinity car is modelled after the #32 Go FAS Racing Cup car that marked sponsor LeafFilter‘s first foray into NASCAR.

Rather than history, Truck driver Tyler Ankrum chose to take a page out of entertainment by running a scheme modelled after the titular character’s car in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; the popular Will Ferrell movie and other stock car racing films like Days of Thunder have often spawned tribute schemes. Joe Graf Jr. is following suit, though with a non-sports movie as his #07 is based on the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

Some teams opted not to use throwbacks like Chris Buescher and two of the three pole-sitters Brad Keselowski and John Hunter Nemechek. Noah Gragson and Matt Crafton did not run throwbacks in 2020’s races and will do the same this year. Wood Brothers Racing, who fields the #21 for Matt DiBenedetto, will save their throwback for the Southern 500 instead.

In a more heartfelt throwback skip, as the Cup race is on Mother’s Day, Cole Custer opted to have his #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford honour team owner Gene Haas‘s mother Margaret; the car features flowers and photos of the older Haas, along with a letter from her children. Haley’s #77 Cup car combines both by being a Robert Pressley throwback that includes the names of mothers of Spire Motorsports and Fraternal Order of Eagles members.

Others seem to miss the mark or show little effort in celebrating the weekend. The #47 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. features Tide sponsorship, which provided an avenue for tributes to other “Tide Ride” drivers like Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd, and Ricky Craven. Although JTG Daugherty Racing labelled Stenhouse’s scheme as a throwback to Craven’s #32, it was widely ridiculed as it bears virtually no similarities to the intended tribute outside of colours and sponsor.

Cup throwbacks

NumberDriverTeamThrowback
00Quin HouffStarCom RacingJohn Andretti’s 1990s RCA
1Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingN/A
2Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeN/A
3Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingFireball Roberts
4Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingHarvick’s first Cup car in 2001
5Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsLarson’s first kart
6Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingKohler Generators’ 1976 SCCA National Championship
7Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsAlan Kulwicki’s Zerex
8Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingMarty Robbins
9Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsAlan Kulwicki’s Hooters
10Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingMark Martin’s Winn-Dixie
11Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingJulius “Slick” Johnson
12Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeBlaney’s 2010/2011 super late model
14Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingA.J. Foyt’s 1986 NASCAR
15James DavisonRick Ware RacingDick Johnson’s 1989/1990 NASCAR
17Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingN/A
18Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingM&M’s 80th Anniversary
19Martin Truex JrJoe Gibbs RacingFurniture Row Racing
20Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingN/A
21Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingN/A
22Joey LoganoTeam PenskeMario Andretti’s 1971 South African Grand Prix
23Bubba Wallace23XI RacingWendell Scott
24William ByronHendrick MotorsportsNeil Bonnett’s Valvoline
34Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsBill Elliott’s 1985 Coors
37Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingTrent Owens’ 2003 truck
38Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsAlan Kulwicki’s 1985 Hardee’s
41Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingMargaret Haas tribute
42Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingHut Stricklin’s 1993 McDonald’s
43Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsJohn Andretti’s 1999 STP
47Ricky Stenhouse JrJTG Daugherty RacingRicky Craven’s Tide
48Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsGreg Ives’ late model
51Cody WareRick Ware RacingDarrell Waltrip’s Superflo
52Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingLennie Pond’s Burger King
53J.J. YeleyRick Ware RacingN/A
77Justin HaleySpire MotorsportsRobert Pressley
78B.J. McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsJoe Weatherly’s 1963 Darlington winner
99Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamCamping World’s 55th Anniversary
Credit: Brandon Brown

Xfinity throwbacks

NumberDriverTeamThrowback
0Jeffrey EarnhardtJD MotorsportsDale Earnhardt’s 1996 Summer Olympics
1Michael AnnettJR MotorsportsDarrell Waltrip’s 1979 Gatorade
2Myatt SniderRichard Childress RacingGrandfather’s car driven by Jimmie Lewallen
02Brett MoffittOur MotorsportsN/A
4Landon CassillJD MotorsportsN/A
5Matt MillsB.J. McLeod MotorsportsN/A
6Ryan VargasJD MotorsportsMark Martin’s 1994 Valvoline
7Justin AllgaierJR MotorsportsDale Earnhardt’s 2000 Daytona 500
07Joe Graf Jr.SS-Green Light RacingDeLorean from Back to the Future
8Josh BerryJR MotorsportsDale Earnhardt Jr.’s 2001 Pepsi 400
9Noah GragsonJR MotorsportsN/A
10Jeb BurtonKaulig RacingWard Burton’s 1995 MBNA
11Justin HaleyKaulig RacingKaulig Racing’s first Cup race as sponsor (2014)
13Matt JaskolMBM MotorsportsMike Skinner’s 1991 Glidden
15Colby HowardJD MotorsportsRodney Howard’s late model
16A.J. AllmendingerKaulig RacingAllmendinger’s 2014 Watkins Glen-winning car
17J.J. YeleySS-Green Light RacingMatt Kenseth’s 2012 Valvoline
18Daniel HemricJoe Gibbs RacingRed Farmer
19Brandon JonesJoe Gibbs RacingTodd Bodine’s 2006 truck
20Harrison BurtonJoe Gibbs RacingJeff Burton’s Holiday Inn
22Austin CindricTeam PenskeN/A
23Tanner BerryhillOur MotorsportsN/A
26Brandon GdovicSam Hunt RacingKyle Petty’s Hot Wheels
36Alex LabbéDGM RacingKenny Wallace’s 1994 Red Dog
39Ryan SiegRSS RacingN/A
44Tommy Joe MartinsMartins MotorsportsRich Bickle’s Dial 10-10-345
47Kyle WeathermanMike Harmon RacingRichard Petty’s 1981 STP
48Jade BufordBig Machine RacingDan Gurney’s 1970 Trans-Am
51Jeremy ClementsJeremy Clements RacingDale Jarrett’s 2006 UPS
52Gray GauldingJimmy Means RacingN/A
54Ty GibbsJoe Gibbs RacingDale Jarrett’s 1992 Interstate Batteries
61David StarrMBM MotorsportsRichie Evans
66Timmy HillMBM MotorsportsRusty Wallace’s 2004 Duraflame
68Brandon BrownBrandonbilt MotorsportsDale Jarrett’s 2002 UPS
74Bayley CurreyMike Harmon RacingBobby Allison’s 1981 Tuf-Lon
78Jesse LittleB.J. McLeod MotorsportsN/A
90B.J. McLeodDGM RacingKen Schrader’s 1985
92Josh WilliamsDGM RacingRusty Crews
98Riley HerbstStewart-Haas RacingTony Stewart’s 1999 Home Depot
99Ryan EllisB.J. McLeod MotorsportsVic Ellis
Credit: Bill McAnally Racing

Truck throwbacks

NumberDriverTeamThrowback
1Hailie DeeganDavid Gilliland Racing1966 Daytona 24 Hours Ford GT
2Sheldon CreedGMS RacingJason Leffler’s ASE
02Kris WrightYoung’s MotorsportsRon Hornaday Jr.’s Goodwrench
3Jordan AndersonJordan Anderson RacingMark Martin and Larry McReynolds 1982
4John Hunter NemechekKyle Busch MotorsportsN/A
04Cory RoperRoper RacingBobby Hamilton 2005
6Norm BenningNorm Benning RacingN/A
9Codie RohrbaughCR7 MotorsportsN/A
10Jennifer Jo CobbJennifer Jo Cobb RacingN/A
11Spencer DavisSpencer Davis MotorsportsDarrell Waltrip 2004
12Tate FoglemanYoung’s MotorsportsFather Jay Fogleman’s Pro All Stars/X-1R Cup car
13Johnny SauterThorSport RacingN/A
15Tanner GrayDavid Gilliland RacingN/A
16Austin HillHattori Racing EnterprisesMike Stefanik
17David GillilandDavid Gilliland RacingN/A
18Chandler SmithKyle Busch MotorsportsSafelite’s original MobileGlassShop vehicle design
19Derek KrausMcAnally-Hilgemann RacingMichael Waltrip’s NAPA
20Spencer BoydYoung’s MotorsportsJack Sprague’s Con-Way
21Zane SmithGMS RacingGlen Wood
22Austin Wayne SelfAM RacingTony Raines’s Pennzoil
23Chase PurdyGMS RacingDavey Allison 1981
24Ryan ReedGMS RacingN/A
25Timothy PetersRackley WARBobby Hamilton
26Tyler AnkrumGMS RacingRicky Bobby from Talladega Nights
30Danny BohnOn Point MotorsportsMichael Waltrip’s Country Time
33B.J. McLeodReaume Brothers RacingN/A
34Akinori OgataReaume Brothers RacingKenji Momota 1995
38Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsRicky Benton’s late model
40Ryan TruexNiece MotorsportsMarquis throwback
41Dawson CramCram Racing EnterprisesCamping World throwback
42Carson HocevarNiece MotorsportsJohnny Benson’s 2002 Valvoline
44Bayley CurreyNiece MotorsportsMike Stefanik
45Erik DarnellNiece MotorsportsDarnell’s Northern Tool
51Corey HeimKyle Busch MotorsportsN/A
52Stewart FriesenHalmar Friesen RacingTim Richmond’s Folgers
56Timmy HillHill MotorsportsKenny Irwin Jr.’s 1997
75Parker KligermanHenderson MotorsportsN/A
88Matt CraftonThorSport RacingN/A
98Grant EnfingerThorSport RacingN/A
99Ben RhodesThorSport RacingN/A
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History major and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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