In Darlington, Everything Old Is New Again
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and a heart-felt “Hey there” to our assigned spy… I mean reader of all things NASCAR related. It’s just noon on Tuesday as I finally pull up to the keyboard with intent to write. After an unprecedented week off shortly before the “real” season ends, it’s Labor Day Weekend in the offing and we’re off to Darlington for the storied and historical Southern 500. While perhaps not “quite” as prestigious in the eyes of Brian Z. France as the Daytona 500, this one has always been a lot more fun, with the exception of the years it spent in exile, first in “Southern” California, which was nothing Harold Brasington ever envisioned, and then banished to Atlanta for reasons this scribe has never understood.
She’s home now, in Darlington, South Carolina, where she never should have left… brought home by the same man that told us at the time that tradition didn’t matter; that weekend was going to a much larger market. He explained he was “growing the sport.” Californians it seems, are not as hardy as South Carolinians and won’t come out and sit in the scorching sun of early September in a hot climate. He lost that round. Today, Darlington is about the only track on the circuit that can fill a grandstand.
Someone over there knows a thing or three about marketing, and when it was announced a couple years back that the Southern 500 was coming home, Darlington Raceway announced a Retro “Throwback” theme for the race. The most popular part of that by far was the cars that came to the party dressed as the cars of yesteryear. Iconic paint schemes were the word of the day, and this year will be no exception, with retro schemes and tributes in evidence on a great majority of the cars.
After viewing those not being kept under wraps, we have an assortment similar to those of the past two years. Not all of them are actual “Throwbacks”; some are billed as “tributes” while a few merely sport a different paint scheme for a current sponsor. To my mind, those don’t count. You can see each of them in detail at Jayski.com and draw your own conclusions on that point.
However, being your favorite scribe (I am, aren’t I?) I’ve not only picked out a few of my favorites but rounded up the pictures of the car they represent, so you can see both cars together.
(Author and Editor Note: Last year, I blithely sent Jim over 30 pictures to mount in this article. This year, it’s this old gal doing the work, so that number will probably be drastically cut.)
Let’s start with one of my favorite paint schemes ever… This is Brad Keselowski’s #2 Ford done up in the livery of Rusty Wallace’s #2 Miller Genuine Draft car.
Next in my numerical order is like a double farewell. This is the #5 driven presently by Kasey Kahne, paying tribute to the first car in the Hendrick stable, driven by Geoff Bodine. At the end of this season, Kahne will move on, making way for young William Byron. As recently announced, Byron will drive it as the #24, while that car will sport the #9 for driver Chase Elliott, the same number that took his dad Bill to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Kudos to the #10 team. Last year, I didn’t feel they even tried, but this year, the throwback car honors crew chief/owner/engine builder Robert Yates and it’s a stirring tribute.
I have to include this car simply because the driver of the original #11, Ray Hendrick, was very special to some dear friends. It’s tough to see a Toyota Camry looking much like an old Modified coupe, but they got the “Flying #11” decal right. The rest still looks like a Camry, but here’s what the real thing looked like in the hands of Ray Hendrick, the driver they called “Mr. Modified.”
If anyone wondered why I passed by the entry from the #6 team, honoring Mark Martin, it’s because I knew this one was coming up and I love it! This is the Clint Bowyer version of Mark’s Bill Davis owned Busch Series car circa 1989. Sweet memories…
This next one is “interesting.” I know it’s a sponsor thing, but it’s still either amazing or amusing to see an IndyCar reincarnated as a Ford Fusion. This comes from the #22 team of Joey Logano recalling the Shell car driven by Jimmy Vasser.
Last year I couldn’t even figure out what the #23 car was supposed to represent. This year, they took their shoestring budget and struck gold with this uncanny likeness to the Busch Series car driven by Davey Allison in 1984 and 1985.
And this would be the other half of the story told with the #5 car. This is Chase Elliott in his #24, to become #9 next year. In fairness, the color on the old pic of Bill has faded, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to show the newer fans that flaming red Afro! Right in style in 1976.
Next up is another good likeness of the now iconic Miller High Life Buick from Stavola Brothers that won the 1988 Daytona 500 with Bobby Allison at the wheel and son Davey in Harry Ranier’s Ford T-Bird nipping at his heels.
This next car completely surprised your scribe. I didn’t think there was a car that Dale Earnhardt ever drove that I did not remember, but I don’t ever remember seeing this one. That might be attributable to the fact that in 1989, not all Busch races were televised. In any case, this likeness comes from Circle Sport Racing and driver Jeffery Earnhardt, cloning the #3 Pontiac driven by his Grandfather, the late Dale Earnhardt in the 1989 Goodys’ 300 at Daytona. The car belonged, not to Richard Childress, but to Dale Earnhardt Inc.… yes, way back then. Dale never drove a Childress car in the Busch Series. Note the #3 on the car is not the stylized and patented RCR #3. Oh yes, and the sponsor here is Lowes Foods. No, that is not the Hardware store turned Big Box. It was a local market chain and I don’t believe there is any relation between the two.
Next here’s someone that provided both pictures for me. I like that. This is the #47 team with Driver A.J. Allmendinger paying homage to the 1986 version of Billy Hagan’s Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile and driver Terry Labonte.
Next of course, we see the “other” Lowe’s represented as Jimmie Johnson brings forth the livery of a 1986 Lowe’s Truck!
Next is one I find fascinating. Premium Motorsports has painted the #55 driven by Derrike Cope in a very good likeness of a Bobby Allison-owned Ford vintage 1994-95 with sponsorship from Straight Arrow products, the best known of which is Mane ‘n Tail. The driver of Bobby’s car back then was… Derrike Cope. I believe this is the first time someone has thrown back to himself, and it’s a nice job.
The Leavine Family with driver Michael McDowell brings forth an interesting tribute, dressing up the #95 to look like Alan Kulwicki’s rookie year Cup car, #35 owned by Bill Terry.
One more car gets at least an honorable mention. I love the idea, though I don’t think it represents the spirit of “Throwback.” That would be the Barney Visser owned #77 driven by Erik Jones. Instead of being a Throwback, this car is a Tribute to the Rookies of the Year in the period from 1984 through 1989. They were:
1984 - Rusty Wallace
1985 - Ken Schrader
1986 - Alan Kulwicki
1987 - Davey Allison
1988 - Ken Bouchard
1989 - Dick Trickle
Well, that’s my list of what caught my eye. Please understand that there may still be late-comers to this parade, but the website has deadlines, albeit in my case they are self-imposed, but while waiting for some team to unveil what they think is the grandest thing since the smell of bacon frying, the rest of us, your scribe included, have lives to be lived and things to accomplish. The Jayski link above is where you’ll find all that have been made public. If you don’t find your favorite scheme on my list, that’s just life. We’re all different, and wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same? I read once that if two people think exactly the same on everything, then one of them is unnecessary. I’ve kept that in my arsenal of snappy answers ever since!
Oh! My favorite? It’s really, really hard to pick one from those shown above, and by the time this article is ready to see daylight I might have changed my mind more than once, but right now, looking at them one more time, I have to say that I favor that #55 with Derrike Cope. Remember, I’ve seen them all when the originals were on track, and I’m trying not to pick one just because I liked the driver or the colors are pretty. I started off with one of my favorite cars of all time… that Rusty Wallace black and gold scheme. I feel that Bobby’s #12, with all those colors and graphics had to be very difficult to duplicate on today’s car, and I feel Premium Motorsports did a fabulous job of it. That said, the #14 likeness to Bill Davis' #1 Busch car is uncanny and right on a par with the other one. So difficult to pick a favorite!
Time for me to close this one out, with a very retro pair of tunes by Carson Robison. No, most of you won’t recognize the name, but both he and the songs were much older than your scribe. The man and his music lie at the very heart of Country Music and this pair of tunes seem the perfect way to close out an article on Throwbacks.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!