|PHOTO: Joey Gase Racing Facebook|
Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington
It’s time for NASCAR’s third annual “Throwback Weekend,” which for the first time will include all three of NASCAR’s top divisions. Leading the ticket is the historic Southern 500 at Darlington, where exactly 40 Cup drivers will arrive to qualify for the 40-car field. Missing this week from Bristol’s entry list is Tommy Baldwin Racing, which did not enter the #7 Chevrolet driven to a 30th-place finish by J.J. Yeley.
Sponsorship issues, combined with their DNQ at Bristol, forced Motorsports Business Management to scrap their planned throwback scheme. The plan had been to run the “Victory Tour” paint scheme Darrell Waltrip ran during his final season as a driver in 2000. One of the races the car failed to qualify was in the Coca-Cola 600, where Carl Long was set to make his Cup debut. Now, more than 17 years after Long let Waltrip drive his car that night in Charlotte, Long will return to his #66 Chevrolet (itself a throwback scheme from 2009) for his first Cup start as a driver since Kansas earlier this year. It will be Long’s first Cup start at Darlington since 2005, when he ran 42nd for Raynard McGlynn. It will also be MBM’s first Cup start since Timmy Hill’s strong 14th at Indianapolis.
Rick Ware Racing was originally slated to run the Clemson Tigers paint scheme from Pocono once more at Darlington, but the preliminary entry list showed uBid.com as the primary sponsor of the team’s #51 Chevrolet. While Cody Ware will return for the first time since the Clemson race at Pocono, the car will not only run Cole Trickle's Mello Yello colors from "Days of Thunder," but do so to promote relief efforts in flood-ravaged Houston.
As in years past, most of the throwbacks in Sunday’s race pay tribute to past Cup Series drivers and teams.
Still hanging onto his spot in the Chase, Jamie McMurray’s #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet will carry the iconic door and roof numbers of the late Hoss Ellington, who fielded Cup cars from 1968 and 1988. The car will bear the maroon shade of one of Ellington’s most iconic cars, the Hawaiian Tropic Chevrolet. While perhaps most widely known for Donnie Allison’s last-lap wreck with Cale Yarborough in the 1979 Daytona 500, this will be a tribute to “The Silver Fox,” David Pearson, who steered the same car to his 105th and final victory at Darlington on April 13, 1980 – Pearson’s 10th win at the track and second in a row. McMurray is still looking for his first Darlington win, though in 2010 he won the pole and finished runner-up to Denny Hamlin. He finished 15th last year, his fourth-straight finish of 16th or better at the track.
“Midnight” returns at Penske Racing as Brad Keselowski will run Rusty Wallace’s classic #2 Miller Genuine Draft colors, run from 1991-1995. Wallace never won a Cup race at Darlington in 43 starts, though he scored 11 Top Fives and 20 Top Tens with two runner-up finishes in the 1987 and 1988 Southern 500s (trailing Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt, respectively). Keselowski is also looking for his first win at “The Track Too Tough To Tame,” looking to close out what he started in 2015, when his Bobby Allison 1983 throwback won the pole and led 196 laps, only to finish second to Carl Edwards. Keselowski started outside-pole last year and finished 9th.
Richard Childress Racing will have two cars in Wrangler blue and gold, similar to Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt's bizarre sharing of Wrangler as sponsor for different teams in 1984. Earnhardt drove to his second and third Winston Cups in 1986 and 1987, and his first with Childress. Following his first win in the Coca-Cola 600, another of NASCAR’s “crown jewel” races, Austin Dillon will make his fourth Darlington start in the American Ethanol #3. Dillon has earned respectable finishes at the track, running 11th, 22nd, and 12th the last three years. Teammate Ryan Newman in the identical #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet will make his 19th Darlington start, a track where he’s finished Top 10 in 12 of those 18. Newman won the pole for the 2003 Southern 500, site of Terry Labonte’s final Cup victory, and was runner-up to Jeff Gordon in the 2002 edition of the Labor Day Classic.
For the second year in a row, Kevin Harvick will run the Busch Beer paint scheme that five-time Darlington winner Cale Yarborough campaigned in 1979 and 1980 for Junior Johnson. In doing so, the 2014 winner of the Southern 500 hopes to avoid the late-race misfortune that ended his strong run in 2016, a sluggish pit stop handing the win to Martin Truex, Jr. Harvick comes into Darlington with four consecutive Top Fives at the track and an astonishing 496 laps led in those races alone.
Kasey Kahne’s Great Clips Chevrolet stirs memories of Hendrick Motorsports’ early years, bringing back the yellow-and-white Levi Garett Tobacco colors driven by Geoffrey Bodine and Ricky Rudd from 1985 through 1990 (and briefly by Stacy Compton in 2001 for Melling Racing). Bodine won the pole at Darlington with this paint scheme in the spring of 1986, but a busted camshaft on Lap 2 left him last in the field. Kahne, the Brickyard 400 winner, hopes for better at a track where he’s won four poles, finished a best of 3rd in 2005, and ran 7th just last year.
After running both the 1997 and 1998 Valvoline paint schemes, Trevor Bayne will run another of Mark Martin’s #6 Fords, this time harkening back to the Stroh’s Light Ford that Martin ran in 1988 and 1989, including his first Cup win at Rockingham. The scheme last hit the track in 2005, during Martin’s original “Salute To You Tour.” Sponsor AdvoCare has elected a different shade of dark blue than that used back then, but has retained the same door and roof numbers. With this scheme, Martin won the pole for the spring Darlington race in 1989 and finished 4th, then ran 2nd to Dale Earnhardt in the Southern 500. Martin ultimately won two Southern 500s in 1993 and 2009. Bayne comes into Darlington as the defending last-place finisher due to an engine problem, though he finished 9th in the 2014 XFINITY race there.
Danica Patrick honors both Dale Jarrett and Robert Yates by driving the famous red-white-and-blue Quality Care / Ford Credit scheme that Jarrett and Yates raced to much success from 1996 through 2000, including Yates’ only series title in 1999. Two of Jarrett’s three Darlington wins came in this paint scheme, both in back-to-back spring races in 1997 and 1998. Patrick is still looking for her first finish better than 22nd at the track, a place where she ran 24th last year.
For the second-straight year, Germain Racing has elected to run the black-and-gold Smokey Yunick paint scheme for its #13 GEICO Chevrolet, though this time with rookie Ty Dillon behind the wheel. Curiously, Yunick’s “Best Damn Garage In Town” never took the checkered flag at Darlington in eight attempts, but Fireball Roberts came the closest, piloting a #22 Pontiac to the pole in 1961 only to come up 2.64 seconds short to first-time winner Nelson Stacy. Ty Dillon will make his first Cup start at Darlington, but in four XFINITY starts finished between 10th and 15th.
25 years ago this week, Darrell Waltrip scored his 84th and final Cup Series win in the 1992 Southern 500 when rain stopped the race after 298 of 367 laps, halting Davey Allison’s bid for the Winston Million. This year, two-time 2017 winner Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. runs a scheme similar to Waltrip’s #17 Western Auto Chevrolet campaigned that day (though the color scheme is closer to Waltrip’s 1997 paint job). Darlington was also the site of DarWal Enterprises' 218th and final start in 1998, when DW ran a throwback of his own to Tim Flock. In three of his four Cup starts at Darlington, Stenhouse has finished between 18th and 20th, the lone exception a 38th-place finish in 2015, when a crash damaged his David Pearson 1968 throwback.
Ryan Blaney’s throwback was one of the first announced this year, the blue-and-white Citgo Ford that Kyle Petty steered to his second Cup victory 30 years ago in the Coca-Cola 600. The Pocono winner makes his third Cup start at the track, where he ran 30th in 2015 and 13th just last year. In all, the Wood Brothers team has eight Darlington victories, 22 Top Fives, and 31 Top Tens in 90 combined starts dating back to 1961. The team’s last win at the track came on September 7, 1981, when the late Neil Bonnett edged Darrell Waltrip and Dave Marcis.
Chase Elliott commemorates another part of his father Bill’s early career with an aqua #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. The simple scheme resembles Bill Elliott’s Ford sponsored by Dahlongea Ford that he raced in his Cup debut at Rockingham on February 29, 1976 (where he ran 33rd of 36 in a race won by Richard Petty). Still searching for his first Cup victory, Chase ran 10th in last year’s Southern 500 and won the XFINITY race in 2014.
Matt DiBenedetto comes into Darlington with finishes of 25th and 26th in his first two Southern 500s. This year, the Go FAS Racing team has selected for its throwback the gold #12 Miller High Life Buick piloted by Bobby Allison during his final Cup season in 1988. Allison won five Darlington races in his Hall of Fame career, scoring 13 Top Fives, 26 Top Tens, and 4 poles in 45 starts. He ran 9th in his final Darlington race on March 27, 1988. In place of Miller, which remains with Penske Racing, the #32 Ford will carry sponsorship from longtime partners Keen Parts and Corvetteparts.net.
After running team owner Chip Ganassi’s IndyCar paint scheme in 2016, Kyle Larson returns to saluting Felix Sabates’ history in the sport with another classic scheme from the #42. This year’s selection is the SABCO-prepared Coors Light Pontiac which Kyle Petty drove to his eighth and final win at Dover on June 4, 1995. At Darlington’s two races that year, Petty drove the pink-and-purple car to 35th and 24th-place finishes. In place of Coors Light, now the presenting sponsor for the Pole Award, the car will carry returning sponsorship from white flag sponsor Credit One Bank. The car will be purple and red with the classic “Team SABCO” logo on the C-pillar.
Aric Almirola and Richard Petty Motorsports present arguably “The King’s” most famous paint scheme, the red-white-and-“Petty Blue” STP colors from his 200th win at Daytona on July 4, 1984. This particular paint scheme has been run a number of times since, including 1996, when the late Bobby Hamilton celebrated 25 years of STP’s partnership with Petty Enterprises and in late 2009 with A.J. Allmendinger. Despite all his success, Petty only won three 65 Cup starts at Darlington, and none after 1967, five full years before STP even joined the team. Almirola earned his best Darlington finish in 2015, when he ran 11th, but has run no better than 19th in his other four starts.
A.J. Allmendinger’s own JTG-Daugherty Racing throwback honors the Billy Hagan team which fielded cars from 1969 through 1994, most notably the Carolina Blue-colored #44 Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet which carried Terry Labonte to his first of two Winston Cups. Labonte scored two Southern 500 wins in his career - his first career victory in 1980 and his 22nd and last in 2003. Allmendinger carries the 1984 paint scheme with sponsorship from Kroger ClickList and the team’s many partners. It will be the Californian’s 10th Darlington start, a track where his best finish was a 15th in 2014.
One year after running his classic Purolator Filters scheme in the XFINITY Series, Derrike Cope makes his 26th Darlington start, his first in Cup at the track since 2006, and his first in the Southern 500 since 2003. To mark the occasion, Cope and the Premium Motorsports team will campaign another of Cope’s florescent 1990s paint schemes. This time, the subject is the #12 Straight Arrow / Mane ‘n Tail Ford fielded by Bobby Allison in 1995. Cope enjoyed one of his most consistent years that season, finishing 5th in the spring race at Darlington, and runner-up to Ricky Rudd at Phoenix, yielding a 15th-place rank in points. The Premium entry for Sunday will be a Toyota with car #55, but both Straight Arrow and Mane ‘n Tail shampoo companies have signed to back him once more.
Cope's Premium Motorsports teammate Reed Sorenson will run the #15 Toyota with returning sponsor Xchange of America, though this time with the distinctive red and white of the Bud Moore prepared Motorcraft Ford that Morgan Shepherd raced in 1990. Shepherd enjoyed one of his strongest seasons that year, leading the points until Sonoma before winning the finale at Atlanta. With it, Sorenson will make his 9th Darlington start in Cup, a track where his best run was 11th in 2006.
Apparently, according to Landon Cassill, Michael McDowell and the Leavine Family Racing team snatched away their throwback scheme from Front Row Motorsports. The subject for the #95 WRL General Contractors Chevrolet is 1992 Winston Cup Champion Alan Kulwicki, who was honored by two different teams in 2016. This time around, the paint scheme is the #35 Quincy’s Steakhouse Ford which Kulwicki drove to a close victory over Michael Waltrip for Rookie of the Year in 1986. Kulwicki’s best finish in 15 Darlington starts was a 2nd to Lake Speed in the spring of 1988. The track also saw his 207th and final Cup start in 1993, where he ran 6th. Among new rumors about where McDowell will race in 2018, he comes to a track where he finished a track-best 27th last year, his first Southern 500 since 2013.
Many of this weekend’s Cup teams are also running classic XFINITY Series schemes:
Clint Bowyer’s #14 Ford pays homage to Bill Davis’ #1 Carolina Ford Dealers Ford driven by Mark Martin in 1989 and 1990. Bowyer, who won a pole at Darlington a decade ago, has neither led a lap nor finished inside the Top 10 at the track since. His best finish since then were a pair of 11th-place runs in 2012 and 2013. Still outside the cut for this year’s Chase, Bowyer is down to his final two chances to make the playoffs. He ran 22nd last year in a Benny Parsons throwback.
Corey LaJoie’s #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota harkens back to Davey Allison’s #23 Miller High Life machine from 1983-1985, a car autographed by Bobby Allison after its unveiling at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This will be LaJoie’s first-ever start at Darlington, a track where he’s never run in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions. He will be rejoined at BK Racing by Gray Gaulding, who hasn’t driven for the team since Pocono in June. Gaulding will run the #83 for the first time this year with backing from Premium Motorsports’ associate sponsor Champion Machinery, but will not run a throwback of his own.
Chris Buescher’s #37 Cheerios Chevrolet pays homage to Patty Moise, running the same number decals as the Crisco Buick she campaigned as owner and driver in 1988. Moise, wife of Elton Sawyer, made 133 XFINITY starts and 5 in Cup from 1986 through 1998. She made 12 Darlington starts in XFINITY with a best finish of 13th in 1995. Buescher finished 17th in his Darlington debut last year, but in his fourth and most recent XFINITY start there ran 5th for Roush-Fenway Racing.
Jeffrey Earnhardt’s #33 Hulu Chevrolet resembles the #3 Lowe’s Foods Pontiac, a Greg Sacks backup car that Dale Earnhardt ran for to a 4th-place finish at Daytona in 1989. While the preliminary layout shows Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group has elected a darker shade of green than that used in 1989, the team will the team even running the same gold rims. Jeffrey Earnhardt looks for a turnaround after his crash with Austin Dillon at Bristol left him last for a series-leading fifth time in 2017. He ran 38th in this race last year, running another “Intimidator” scheme for Go FAS Racing.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s #88 Nationwide Chevrolet goes back to the simple blue-and-white of his dominant AC-Delco Chevrolet, which he drove to back-to-back Busch titles in 1998 and 1999. Earnhardt’s concussion forced him to miss out on “Throwback Weekend” last year, and Jeff Gordon steered his Buddy Baker “Gray Ghost” scheme to a 14th-place finish. Junior makes his 22nd and final Cup start at Darlington on Sunday, where his best finish was a runner-up to Kevin Harvick in 2014. This particular AC-Delco scheme also finished runner-up here in 1998, this time to the late Dick Trickle.
Standing out in this year’s throwbacks is Denny Hamlin, who will honor “Mr. Modified” Ray Hendrick with his cherry red “Flying 11,” the #11 Sport Clips Toyota. In addition to his dominance in NASCAR’s modified ranks, Hendrick made 17 Cup starts and 7 in XFINITY. His Cup debut came in the Southern 500, his only start at the track, on September 3, 1956. That day, he put a #44 Chevrolet 44th on the grid of a 70-car race, then lost an engine, leaving him 52nd. Hamlin, the 2010 Southern 500 winner, comes into this year’s race with just one finish worse than 6th in his last seven starts, including a pair of runner-up finishes to Jimmie Johnson in 2012 and Matt Kenseth in 2013.
Also taking the short track route is Cole Whitt, who honors his grandfather "Gentleman" Jim Whitt, the 1969 late model champipn at Cajon Speedway. This particular paint scheme is the "Lime Green Machine," the #60 Ted Whitt Plumbing Chevelle that his grandfather raced in 1972 and 1973, both in late models and the NASCAR Winston West Series. Jim Whitt never raced at Darlington, but did make five Cup starts at Ontario, Riverside, and Texas World Speedway. His best finish was an 18th in the 1973 opener at Riverside. Cole Whitt looks for his first Darlington finish better than his track-best 37th last year. TriStar Motorsports' best Cup finish at Darlington came with the late Bobby Hamilton, who ran 10th in the 1991 Southern 500.
Representing open-wheel racing this year is Joey Logano, whose #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford resembles Jimmy Vasser's Shell-sponsored Lola from 2002. Logano has yet to win Darlington in eight attempts, but finishes of 4th and 5th the last two years may help his bid to win his way into the Chase.
Furniture Row Racing has also taken the “throwback” concept in a different direction with defending winner Martin Truex, Jr. honoring Bass Pro Shops’ 40th anniversary while Erik Jones, who ran a strong 2nd at Bristol, commemorates the Rookie of the Year winners of the late 1980s on his #77.
Drivers running “fauxback” schemes, the term some have given to paint schemes with retro logos instead of paint schemes actually raced in the past, are Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Landon Cassill, David Ragan, and Jimmie Johnson. The drivers who will not be running special throwback schemes at all are Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch, Carl Long, and Gray Gaulding.
VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington
On the XFINITY side, there are 41 drivers listed to attempt Saturday’s 40-car field, and with the 2017 road course season complete, many familiar faces are back in their familiar rides, including Tommy Joe Martins in the #78. Missing from the Road America entry list are Mike Harmon’s second car, the #17 Dodge, Precision Performance Motorsports’ #46, which earned their first Top 10 last Sunday with Parker Kligerman, as well as both the Obaika Racing #77 and Motorsports Business Management’s #72, each withdrawn before last Sunday’s race. Returning in their place are Kevin Harvick, who will pilot one of sponsor Hunt Brothers Pizza’s first paint schemes on his #41 Ford, GMS Racing’s second car, the #96 Chevrolet, with Ben Kennedy aboard (driving a throwback to Dale Earnhardt's Will Conkrite prepared from 1978), Morgan Shepherd, with new sponsorship from Council Truck Repair on his #89 Chevrolet, and JD Motorsports’ “start-and-park” #15 Chevrolet – withdrawn at Road America - with Reed Sorenson the listed driver. Several teams will also be running throwback paint schemes, including these revealed by press time.
First off, all eyes will be on Jeremy Clements, who broke through with a dramatic first career victory at Road America. He now arrives at his home track driving a throwback to A.J. Foyt’s own race winner of the 1964 Firecracker 400. Curiously, Foyt made just one Cup start at Darlington in 1985, when he finished 25th after brake trouble in the same Southern 500 where Bill Elliott won the Winston Million. In addition to continuing sponsorship from RepairableVehicles.com, fans have signed on to have their names printed on Clements’ rear decklid.
One of the first throwback schemes announced on the XFINITY side was Cole Custer’s entry in the #00 Haas Automation Ford. Custer will honor the late Sam Ard, the two-time XFINITY Series champion, who passed away this past April. In the first three years of the XFINITY Series, Ard scored 22 victories in his white Thomas Brothers Country Ham Oldsmobile. While he never took the checkered flag at Darlington, he also never finished worse than 6th, including a pair of runner-up finishes to Neil Bonnett in 1983 and Ron Bouchard in 1984. Custer will make his first XFINITY start at Darlington.
Two different drivers – Elliott Sadler and Dakoda Armstrong – will honor Cale Yarborough and his distinctive #28 Hardee’s machine. Of the two, Armstrong will run the actual red-and-white scheme, though the team does not have a sponsor at this time. Armstrong has three XFINITY starts at Darlington, and he’s finished 18th in all three. Sadler, still looking for his first XFINITY win of the year, took the checkered flag in this race last year. His Armour Vienna Sausage 150th Anniversary scheme carries the same template as Armstrong’s, but with dark blue and white.
Running double-duty, Austin Dillon will climb aboard his grandfather's #2 Rheem Chevrolet. Unsurprisingly, the car also honors Dale Earnhardt, though curiously the driver's earlier career with Rod Osterlund. Orange and white are used in place of blue and gold (like Jimmie Johnson's car last year), but now Osterlund's bold number font is on the car.
Similar to Denny Hamlin’s Cup car, Road America runner-up Michael Annett’s #5 TMC Transportation Chevrolet will honor a short track legend in the form of sprint car legend Brad Doty. Doty enjoyed years of success in USAC and the World of Outlaws up until a vicious crash at Eldora ended his career with a fractured vertebra. Annett will make his fifth Darlington start in the series and his first since 2012, when he ran 14th. His best Darlington XFINITY finish was an 11th for Germain Racing in 2010.
This past Tuesday, Justin Allgaier revealed that his #7 Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet would harken back to the white-and-orange Mom ‘n Pops / Western Steer short track cars driven by Kelley Earnhardt, Kerry Earnhardt, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Allgaier has six Darlington starts in the series, including an 11th las year, and finished a track-best 4th in 2011 for Turner Motorsports.
William Byron, one of the hottest drivers on the circuit, honors the life of the late Ricky Hendrick with a paint scheme resembling the GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet that Hendrick raced in XFINITY and Truck Series competition. Hendrick made two Darlington starts in the XFINITY Series, finishing 29th in 2000 and 33rd in 2002, and started outside-pole in the 2001 Truck Series race there before rear end trouble left him 34th. Saturday will mark Byron’s Darlington debut, and will come just after Hendrick Motorsports announced he will run the #24 in Cup for 2018 with Chase Elliott returning to the #9.
For the second-straight year, Blake Koch will race a vintage Darrell Waltrip paint scheme, this time the Budweiser Chevrolet that Waltrip drove to his third and final Winston Cup in 1985. Koch ran 19th last year in a throwback scheme to Waltrip’s Mountain Dew Buick, one spot short of his track-best 18th back in 2011 with MacDonald Motorsports.
Wednesday saw J.J. Yeley and TriStar Motorsports unveil the sharp black and orange #14 Toyota in its own tribute to A.J. Foyt. Specifically, the scheme resembles Foyt's Copenhagen Oldsmobile from the late 1980s. Yeley will make his 8th XFINITY start at Darlington, a track where his best series finish was 9th in 2006. His best finish in 8 Cup starts there was an 18th in 2007.
Ryan Reed joins in Michael McDowell’s effort to honor Alan Kulwicki with a throwback to the #7 Zerex Ford the owner-driver raced in the Cup Series in 1989 and 1990, including his second career victory at Rockingham. Reed has three Darlington starts in XFINITY with a track-best 13th in 2014 and last year, his other start a 23rd in 2015.
Matt Tifft came oh-so-close to his first XFINITY Series victory at Road America, and this week has another stab at it with a unique throwback. The #19 Ron John Surf Shop Toyota, fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing, recalls a car driven by Dale Earnhardt at Charlotte in 1977, finishing 38th of 41 starters. The car itself was owned by veteran owner-driver Henley Gray, who with longtime sponsor Belden Asphalt raced in 374 Cup starts from 1964 through 1977. Gray never won a NASCAR race, but in 19 Darlington starts, his best finish was an 11th in 1971, a race won by Buddy Baker.
Erik Jones joins Corey LaJoie’s Cup effort in honoring Davey Allison with his #20 Reser’s Main Street Bistro designed to resemble Allison’s 1987 Rookie of the Year entry for Harry Rainier. Jones, who is currently battling for rookie honors in Cup, will be making just his 2nd XFINITY start at Darlington, where he ran 6th last year.
Daniel Hemric's #21 Blue Gate Bank Chevrolet takes on the crimson and white Rockwell Automation scheme the Richard Childress entry campaigned from 2000 to 2002 with Mike Dillon, Robby Gordon, Mike Skinner, Jeff Purvis, and Jeff Green, among others. Purvis and Green scored the only Childress wins in the car with Green earning the car's best Darlington finishes - 3rd in both 2002 races. Green himself will drive RSS Racing's #93 Chevrolet. It will be Hemric's first Darlington start.
Spencer Gallagher throws it back to 1986 as his Allegiant Airlines Chevrolet dons the red, yellow, and blue colors of Michael Waltrip’s #23 Hawaiian Punch Pontiac, the same car Alan Kulwicki beat that year for rookie honors. Waltrip’s car that year was fielded by Chuck Rider, whose team Bahari’ Racing would go on to field cars for the Kentucky driver through 1995. This 1986 scheme ran 13th and 16th that year at Darlington, a track where in 43 Cup starts Waltrip came closest to winning in 1991 before a bad late-race pit stop. Gallagher is set to make his Darlington debut.
Dylan Lupton and JGL Racing bring back Jeff Gordon’s “Rainbow Warrior” scheme to the track for the first time since Gordon’s final night race at Bristol in 2015. This time around, the scheme resembles Gordon’s rookie car in 1993 with “NUT UP” replacing “DU PONT” on the hood and quarter panels. Lupton will be making his first NASCAR start at Darlington.
On Tuesday, Ryan Sieg and RSS Racing announced that they will be driving in honor of Ryan’s late brother Shane with the scheme his older brother raced in late models back in 2003. Shane Sieg’s final XFINITY start came at Darlington in 2004, when he ran 37th for Rick Ware Racing after an early crash. He also ran 12th in Darlington’s Truck Series race in 2011, this time in an RSS truck. After a difficult afternoon in Road America, Ryan Sieg returns to a track where he finished a track-best 15th last year, his second-straight Top 20 at the track.
Motorsports Business Management returns to double-duty this weekend, and have also joined in the throwback festivities. The #40 Dodge, driven by Chad Finchum, is painted Petty Blue without any sponsor decals, calling back to the late Pete Hamilton’s upset in the 1970 Daytona 500. Teammate Timmy Hill, who tweeted himself wearing a hat from his father Jerry Hill’s Cup effort in the 1990s, will run “a blue Dodge” as well in the #13.
Last week, Jimmy Means Racing unveiled their newest throwback to an event 30 years ago. The car carries the colors of Folger’s Coffee with the same #52 on the doors and roof. The scheme calls back to Jimmy Means’ one-off for Hendrick Motorsports at Charlotte in 1987, an opportunity which opened up when an ailing Tim Richmond was ultimately forced into early retirement. Means put the Hendrick car a strong 5th on the starting grid, but an accident not of his own making eliminated him after just 20 laps, leaving him 40th in a field of 42. Joey Gase, who ran a track-best 24th last year in a throwback to Means’ Alka-Seltzer Pontiac, finished 32nd last week in Road America.
Brendan Gaughan rejoins NAPA Auto Parts with a paint scheme he last raced in the Truck Series back in 2002. Gaughan won his first two of eight Truck victories that year, finishing 11th in points, vaulting him to a six-win 2003 that fell just short of the season title. Still running the same #62, Gaughan returns to the site of a 16th-place finish last year and a track-best 13th in 2015. He also has three Truck Series starts at Darlington to his credit, including a best finish of 3rd in 2003.
Mike Harmon has continued to find ways to make sure his single-car operation can participate in throwback weekend, particularly as he honors “The Alabama Gang,” including Davey Allison and Neil Bonnett. His chosen subject this year is the ageless Red Farmer, specifically the gold-and-white #97 Long-Lewis Ford Torino from 1972. Farmer never made a Cup start at Darlington, preferring instead the superspeedways in Atlanta, Daytona, and Talladega, though one of his career-best 4th-place finishes came at the tiny Middle Georgia Raceway in 1967. Harmon has 13 Darlington starts to his credit, the best of which a 27th in 2003.
On Tuesday afternoon, Brandon Brown revealed the paint scheme for King Autosport’s #90 Coastal Carolina Univeristy Chevrolet. The school’s colors of teal and black perfectly complement a throwback to Donlavey Racing, complete with the proper font of the door and roof numbers. The result is a paint scheme similar to the Heilig-Meyers paint scheme run by the late Dick Trickle in 1996 and 1997. Trickle’s best Darlington finish in the paint scheme came in the 1997 Southern 500, where he came home 13th, though his track-best in Cup was a 7th in 1992. He also won the aforementioned 1998 XFINITY Series race at the track, beating Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in what was his second and final series win. Brown will make his first series start at Darlington, a track where team owner Mario Gosselin ran 26th last year.
Ray Black rejoins SS Green Light Racing in the #07 MSW Spyders Chevrolet. The team has elected a simple throwback to Butch Miller, specifically the #08 car he took to his first XFINITY win at IRP in 1986. Black finished 21st in his XFINITY debut last year.
Johnny Davis of JD Motorsports continues his own remembrance of classic short trackers from the past. Ross Chastain’s #4 South Carolina Education Lottery Chevrolet will carry the name and 1980 paint scheme of Mike Duvall, the modified racer known for fielding “The Flintstone F1yer” in the 1970s and 1980s. Both Duvall and Johnny Davis call Gaffney, South Carolina home. Chastain's best finish in XFINITY at Darlington was a 10th two years ago.
Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport)
Exactly 32 drivers are entered to attempt the 32-truck field in Sunday’s annual trip to the road course in Canada.
Missing from the last round at Bristol are Mike Mittler’s second truck, the #36 Chevrolet which missed the cut with Chris Windom, the Martins Motorsports #44 Chevrolet (withdrawn after the return of Tim Self’s #22 team), Kyle Busch and his own #46 Toyota, Stewart Friesen (whose #52 Halmar Friesen Racing team is in the process of aligning with GMS Racing instead of Tommy Baldwin Racing), Clay Greenfield in his #68, RAB Racing’s #92 Ford with Regan Smith, and Jesse Little in the #97 Toyota.
Returning in their place are Jennifer Jo Cobb’s second truck, the #0 Chevrolet, with Tommy Regan back behind the wheel, Austin Wayne Self’s #22 Don’t Mess With Texas / B&D Industries Toyota, a team but not a driver last seen at Kentucky in July, Gaunt Brothers Racing’s #96 (see below), Mike Harmon’s #74 Chevrolet, a team which hasn’t made a Truck Series start since last fall at Phoenix, and Bolen Motorsports’ #66, a team which took its last green flag in Pocono.
Both teams will have drivers making their series debut. Harmon will be in Darlington for Saturday's XFINITY race, putting short tracker Joe Hudson in the #74. Driving for Bolen in the #66 is Jason Hathaway. A nine-time Pinty’s Series winner who won a round at Mosport in 2015, the Ontario native will drive for Bolen Motorsports in the #66 Chevrolet with sponsorship from his Pinty’s backers Choko Authentics and Fast Eddie Speed Wear. Hathaway’s last Pinty’s Series start came June 3 of this year at the half-mile Delaware (Ontario) Speedway, where he ran 10th after brake trouble.
Also rejoining the circuit this week is Gaunt Brothers Racing and D.J. Kennington – a team last seen in Cup with a DNQ at Talladega, and a driver whose engine let go in July at Daytona. Kennington returns to his native Canada in a sharp-looking #96 Castrol Edge Toyota, and will certainly be one to watch. The fifth of his six Truck starts came in this race last year, where he drove Premium Motorsports’ #49 Chevrolet to a strong 14th, tying Daytona for their best run of the year. Kennington has also won a combined four times at Mosport between CASCAR Super Series and NASCAR Pinty’s Series competition, most recently in 2012.
Gary Klutt also returns to NASCAR for the first time since his 31st-place finish in his Cup debut last month at Watkins Glen. Now as then, Klutt drives for Premium Motorsports, this time with sponsorship from Pioneer Family Pools and Color Compass Corporation, the former his sponsor in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. Like Kennington, Klutt is a proven winner at Mosport as his lone Pinty’s Series victory came there in 2015. This past May, Klutt carried those same sponsors to a 3rd-place finish in the Pinty’s Series opener at Mosport, trailing race winner Kevin Lacroix and runner-up Andrew Ranger. Klutt finished 11th in this race last year driving for Kyle Busch.
Another Canadian returning to NASCAR competition is 2011 Indianapolis 500 polesitter Alex Tagliani, who this year replaces Tyler Young in Randy Young's #02 Chevrolet. Tagliani has made two starts in this rae, both times winning the pole for Brad Keselowski in 2014 and 2015, but didn't run this race last year. On the heels of his 6th Pinty's Series win just this year at Trois-Rivieres, Tags makes his first start in NASCAR's top three series since he ran 7th in last year's XFINITY race at Road America.
Also welcome back to Newport Beach, California driver Brian Wong, who eyes his first Truck Series start since he ran 12th in this race two years ago for Bill Venturini. This time around, Wong drives for the #99 MDM Motorsports team, the group with which Darrell Wallace, Jr. brought home an encumbered win at Michigan. Most recently, Wong raced in last Sunday ARCA race at Road America in another MDM car, finishing 14th after starting 10th.
Joining the trip down the comeback trail is Victor Gonzalez, Jr., who we last saw crash out of his second Cup start at Watkins Glen in 2013. This time around, he steps in for T.J. Bell in Al Niece's #45. It will be Gonzalez' Truck Series debut.
Defending Mosport winner John Hunter Nemechek and NEMCO Motorsports join the “Throwback Weekend” effort with a #8 Fire Alarm Services, Inc. Chevrolet decaled the same as Ron Fellows’ Watkins Glen winner in 1999, complete with the BellSouth rainbow scheme both Nemechek and his team made famous in the late 1990s. Joe Nemechek himself is again entered in the #87, which will likely continue on “start-and-park” duty along with Mike Senica in Norm Benning’s #57 and Tommy Regan in the Cobb #0.
Also joining the throwback effort is Brad Keselowski Racing, which has retro paint schemes for both the #19 and #29 Fords, each a tribute to the Keselowski family. Austin Cindric, who ran well in his XFINITY debut at Road America before a spin and a flat tire, drives a #19 Reese Products, Inc. Ford reminiscent of Ron Keselowski’s #19 Dodge. Teammate Chase Briscoe will drive the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, a scheme resembling the Dodge that Brad’s father Bob Keselowski drove to his lone Truck Series win at Richmond in 1997. While Briscoe makes his Mosport debut, Cindric finished 23rd here last year after starting outside-pole.
Todd Peck returns to Truck Series competition for the first time since Michigan, and for the first time since Charlotte, he will drive Mike Mittler’s #63 Chevrolet. Sunday will be Peck’s Mosport debut, while the Mittler team’s best finish at the track came just last year with Norm Benning in a strong 20th. Benning himself will again run his #6 Chevrolet. Returning to Copp Motorsports’ #83 Chevrolet is Monster Jam racer Camden Murphy, who last raced at Michigan and ran 31st at Mosport last year for the shuttered Carlos Contreras team.