By Jared Turner
When Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers hit the track at Darlington Raceway for Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500, it’s going to feel like the mid-to-late 1980s again. And some other seasons from yesteryear, too.
In recognition of the fabled South Carolina track’s third annual “throwback” weekend, drivers’ uniforms and cars will sport retro paint schemes harkening back to the years 1985-1989, with a few exceptions.
As the sport moved into the late 1980s, NASCAR legends such as Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott and Rusty Wallace were in their heyday. They and others will be celebrated during the Labor Day weekend festivities at the track “Too Tough to Tame.”
Darlington’s award-winning throwback campaign has earned terrific reviews throughout the racing industry since its 2015 inception. The campaign has aligned virtually all key stakeholders in the sport and provided a historical celebration that has earned considerable praise from fans and corporate partners.
“We have worked closely with NASCAR to ensure that Darlington Raceway now has the exclusive rights to the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR for promotions and advertising of our event,” Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp said. “Our return to Labor Day weekend, coupled with the throwback theme, has elevated our event across the entire sport, and this move only solidifies that among our fans, race teams, sponsors, broadcast partners and media, among others.”
While most drivers’ firesuits and cars will be clad in colors synonymous with the mid-to-late 1980s, others are reverting to different eras in NASCAR history. Dale Earnhardt Jr., for example, will run colors resembling the ones he drove to the 1998 and 1999 championships in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
“This scheme means a good deal to me and I hope we have as much success at Darlington as we had in this car in ’98/’99,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We almost won at Darlington in one of those races in (‘98) – we were door-to-door with Dick Trickle coming to the finish line and lost by a few feet.
“So, hopefully we can recreate some of that magic.”
Here are some of the other more unique throwback designs:
Brad Keselowski — Black and gold No. 2 car honoring Rusty Wallace’s paint scheme from 1991 to 1995
Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman — Wrangler Jeans paint scheme that Dale Earnhardt drove to championships in 1986 and 1987
Trevor Bayne and Clint Bowyer — paint schemes formerly used by legend Mark Martin
Danica Patrick — paint scheme honoring Robert Yates Racing and the RYR car that Dale Jarrett drove to the 1999 championship
“The throwback race at Darlington is such a cool event,” Patrick said. “The track has done such a great job of getting the teams and drivers involved. I’m excited to run a true throwback scheme this year. It’s great that we’re able to honor Robert Yates and all he’s done for our sport.”
Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford will carry the STP colors that Petty drove to his historic 200th career win in 1984.
“When you think of Richard Petty, one of the first moments you think of is his 200th win at Daytona International Speedway,” Almirola said. “It was like a storybook being on the Fourth of July and with President Reagan there. That race is even more special to me with my first Cup Series win coming 30 years later to the weekend in the same Victory Lane.
“I really enjoy the throwback weekend, and it will be very special to throwback to such a substantial moment in NASCAR history. I always like to have a little fun with it off the track. Although, I’m not sure I’ll be able to top the Fu Manchu (that he had at Darlington in 2015). We’ll work on it though.”