The most common theme when you talk to longtime fans of NASCAR is a harkening back to the “days of old” when, in their opinion, races were better and the stars had more of a connection to the working man. While we can’t go back in time, I have a proposal that will allow, all be it one race, fans to enjoy taking a look back.
My proposal is to have a retro day race, which would make most sense as an all-star race, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a good idea to make it some place historic like Darlington. We’ve seen every so often a team will roll out a retro paint scheme, such as Jeff Gordon at Talladega in 2009, Brad Keselowski at Bristol in 2012, Denny Hamlin at Michigan in 2013, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Darlington in 2008.
My concept has all NASCAR teams participating on the basis of what their existing sponsor is or an inspiration from the number they drive for. The later has been done when Mark Martin raced a retro #25 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. It had sponsorship from Farmers Insurance, but the inspiration was from when Folgers was on the car back in the late 1980s.
Below I will go through some drivers and what car I propose they use for this special occasion.
#1 Jamie McMurray McDonald’s Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. My pick would be the ride Bill Elliott drove in 1996, I liked how adding white on the front really made the car pop. A runner up would be the 1999 edition which had black on the roof of the car. Beyond that you could make a case for the original 1993 Hut Stricklin paint scheme as well and I wouldn’t be offended.
#2 Brad Keselowski Miler Lite Ford for Team Penske. This is a no brainer, you have to go with midnight aka the early 1990s Miller Genuine Draft paint scheme Rusty Wallace dominated with. I know that Miller Lite is what the company leverages now, but the MGD paint scheme is the best hands down.
#3 Austin Dillon Dow Chemicals Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. This will probably spark the biggest debate among fans on whether this concept should be done or not. There was enough of a fire storm at the idea that Dillon would run the iconic #3, but I say put the 1990s GM Goodwrench paint scheme on the car that Dale Earnhardt ran. Dow Chemicals would probably work the best on it versus his other sponsors, but it would be nice if Goodwrench came back for one race.
#4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. Budweiser has been in the sport for a very long time and has had pretty much the same scheme during that time. Usually the car has been flat red without much of anything else with it. Bill Elliott rocked the boat in 1992 when a white stripe was added down the side, but when the company went to Hendrick Motorsports that was scraped. I like having another color on there, so that’s why I put my vote on Darrell Waltrip’s 1985 version of the car. Mostly white the red really pops in contrast to it, plus it doesn’t hurt that he dominated that year too.
#5 Kasey Kahne Pepsi Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Farmers Insurance is Kahne’s primary sponsor, but they don’t have the historic background of other sponsor. Kahne will have Pepsi MAX colors on his car later this year, so I’m grabbing Pepsi for him and going with Jeff Gordon’s 1999 Nationwide Series ride for inspiration. I almost went with Darrell Waltrip’s 1983 Pepsi Challenger scheme, but that yellow is just too much for me.
#7 Michael Annett Pilot Travel Centers Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing. I almost left Annett off the list as I was stumped with what to do. Part of me wanted to honor the late Alan Kulwicki with a Hooters inspired scheme, but then it came to me. Gary Bradberry. Bradberry drove a Pilot Travel Center sponsored car during the 1998 Sprint Cup Series season, how can we not honor Bradberry by resurrecting that scheme?
#9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Power Tools Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Just having the number 9 brings back many memories of quality schemes, highest of all being Bill Elliott’s Coors paint scheme of the 1980s, but with DeWalt on board we had to go a little more recent. Matt Kenseth drove DeWalt sponsored cars for many years with many different schemes. I’m going back to basics and picking his rookie year 2000 paint scheme for Ambrose.
#10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. When looking at just the number, 10, I wanted to incorporate Derrike Cope or Ricky Rudd somehow. Instead I’m going to go with the scheme Patrick ran in the Nationwide Series which actually had some colors to it versus just a neonish green all over the car.
#11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. This was a no brain and has already been done. Wrap the car like it was when Jason Leffler drove the inaugural FedEx car for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin drove this car last season as a tribute to the late Leffler and I think it made a lot of people happy to see it on track once again despite the circumstances.
#13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet for Germain Racing. I was looking originally for some GEICO paint scheme that was used with Max Papis, but those were ugly. Really they were, nothing about that looks good. Then going to the Nationwide Series, same thing, red/blue and uninspiring. So this one goes back until the current scheme is the best, but luckily we’re not bounded by sponsor. Because I liked it, I’m going with the FirstPlus Financial scheme Jerry Nadeau ran for Elliott-Marino Racing. Yup, that happened, Bill Elliott co-owned a team with Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino. Since I’m a Dolphins fan you didn’t have to say much more, but then make the car look like a Dolphins car? Sign me up!
#14 Tony Stewart Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. It is a toss-up between Stewart’s two sponsors, Bass Pro Shops and Mobil 1, but in the end Mobil 1 wins. I would go with the 1998 paint scheme Jeremy Mayfield ran for Team Penske which featured the iconic Mobil 1 Pegasus on the side of the car. A close second is the 2000 paint scheme that was a tad bit more streamlined.
#15 Clint Bowyer PEAK Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. A soon as I saw this sponsor I thought of when Kyle Petty ran this beauty in 1990 for PEAK Antifreeze. It’s a shame the series only visited Rockingham twice a year back then or else Petty would have had 200 wins like his Dad. The also ran this scheme the year prior, but it certainly doesn’t draw in your eyes like the blue/pink combo from 1990.
#16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Biffle has been paired with 3M for what seems like forever with different variations of the same paint scheme used each year. My pick is a little outside the box, but utilizes the same colors 3M uses. Go with the 1994 Family Channel scheme that Ted Musgrave rocked and was one of my favorite 1/64th scale collectable cars growing up.
#17 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Nationwide Insurance Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Stenhouse has a lot of sponsors going on and none have any real NASCAR history. You could argue about NOS and how they sponsored Stanton Barrett before it was cool, but instead I’m going to opt with a Darrell Waltrip scheme. Waltrip is extremely popular in my book for paint schemes, so why not? Let’s take the awesome 1991 Western Auto paint scheme, where they used silver. Enough silver that he made a chrome helmet for good measure. This is pre-Parts America era when they killed it with this weird blue/gray combo.
#18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch’s primary sponsor is M&M’s, but since they joined the sport in 1999 the same basic paint scheme has been used. A yellow base with M&M’s all over the car. Prior to that it was Skittles, which was cool, but the new Skittles paint scheme used this year was cooler in my opinion. Instead we’re going to use the original Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor in Interstate Batteries and go with that inaugural year of 1992. Dale Jarrett raced this scheme on the track and into our hearts over a three year period and it was then used for two more season with Bobby Labonte. After 1997 the scheme went wild, but retained its green primary base. That changed the past couple of season with Busch running a white based scheme, which seems unnatural to me.
#20 Matt Kenseth The Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. The Home Depot has backed off in how active in NASCAR they, instead pushing their Husky brand of tools rather than their stores (I blame Jimmie Johnson for that). I vote bring back the store branding and use Tony Stewart’s rookie paint scheme. I always enjoyed the scheme, even though I tried to recreate it in my first NASCAR computer game and failed miserably doing so. They’re another sponsor that went with a single color for their schemes and it annoyed me that they did that. It’s not like teams paint anymore, get creative will ya!
#21 Trevor Bayne Motorcraft Ford for Wood Brothers Racing. I could have gone one of two directions here, stick with Motorcraft or bring back Ford Quality Care Service. I kept it Motorcraft because I was not a Dale Jarrett fan when he was doing well in the blue #88 (sorry Dale!) so I say go with the 1990 scheme that Morgan Shepherd drove to an Atlanta victory in. This year feature red and white as equals instead of the basic red they used the next four years after.
#22 Joey Logano Shell Ford for Team Penske. One of my favorites and a very underrated paint scheme was what Tony Stewart ran in the Nationwide Series in 1998. I like how the yellow/black/white all come together and just think the scheme looks cool. I usually don’t purchase Nationwide Series collectable cars, but when I saw this one available I didn’t think twice. A close second would be Michael Waltrip’s 1990s Pennzoil paint schemes, but it’s just yellow and that’s not cool in my book. Distant third is Steve Park’s Pennzoil 1998 paint scheme, which at least introduced some other colors into it.
#24 Jeff Gordon Axalta Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. While it’s technically the same sponsor, Axalta will have to replace DuPont on Gordon’s retro scheme as we go back to the Rainbow Warrior days. This paint scheme won three titles and a bunch of races, but was bounced for flames starting in 2001. I’ve always loved it and never understood why we couldn’t see it at least once a year.
#27 Paul Menard Menards Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. The tough part for Menard is his Menards sponsorship has never really yielded anything but neon yellow. The number he carries, 27, hasn’t had any real inspiring paint schemes with its various team/sponsor combinations. The only thing I could pull was this blue Menards paint scheme Menard ran for Andy Peetre Racing in one start.
#31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Caterpillar has been in NASCAR a long time and true to the company’s colors, has used black and yellow in all schemes. It’s hard to pin point one that stands out from another, actually this year’s is probably the best, but it wouldn’t be retro if we didn’t dig deep. This case I’m going with David Green’s 1997 scheme he ran in his rookie season.
#40 Landon Cassill Chevrolet for Hillman Racing. Without a sponsorship we get another free reign paint scheme so I’m going to honor Sterling Marlin with this one. Coors Light has some good paint schemes back in the day and most would associate the all silver paint scheme as vintage Marlin. Heck that’s a ton better that whatever threw up all over Kyle Petty’s 1995 and 1996 cars. Instead of the silver, I’m going with the 2000 black Coors Light paint scheme. I like how it works in Coors Original and Coors Light all on one car. Smart marketing at its best. This might actually make me root for Cassill…well no, not really.
#41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. While Haas Automation has sponsored a car or two in the past, the schemes aren’t all that great. So ditching the sponsor theme, I’m going with something I enjoy, although the driver ran in the back with it most of the time. After securing sponsorship from Kodiak, Larry Hedrick brought up a rookie from Maine named Ricky Craven to drive for him. During his two year tenure, Craven was known more for flipping at Talladega then much else. But he did so in a very cool looking ride.
#42 Kyle Larson Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. My favorite all-time scheme that Target used in the Sprint Cup Series was an IndyCar inspired number run by Juan Pablo Montoya at Indianapolis in 2008. It’s probably because that’s when I got into IndyCar racing when that scheme was run with Alex Zenardi and Jimmy Vasser at the wheel. Normally I’d go with my favorite, because after all I’m writing this, but instead I’m going to defer to the scheme Jimmy Spencer ran in 2001. I like the use of white top and red bottom, reminds me of what they’re doing this year with Larson’s paint scheme.
#43 Aric Almirola STP Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. When you’re looking at the #43 how can you not go with STP? It’s just a matter of picking out the STP paint scheme that fits with the reader. In this case as someone who got into NASCAR in the early 1990s, I’m going with The King’s last year’s paint scheme as my inspiration. Other variations have come and gone, but I like this one the best.
#48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. This entry was the one that sparked me actually put my thoughts of a retro race on paper. I think Johnson should run, at least once a year, a scheme equal to that of Mike Skinner in 1997. I like to associate my Lowe’s with a golden yellow rather than neon yellow of the numbers. We’ll skip over the Brett Bodine years, of course. Over the years Lowe’s schemes have gotten very basic and plain, and I’m not a fan of that. Oh look, a creative computer user already did a mock up of this beauty!
#55 Brian Vickers Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. With number 55 I was tempted to go with one of the Square D paint schemes run by Kenny Wallace or Bobby Hamilton. I held back and stayed on point with the sponsor, opting for the 2000 scheme run by Johnny Benson. Benson lost his sponsor Lycos.com (which itself was a cool scheme) and Aaron’s stepped up.
#83 Ryan Truex Burger King Toyota for BK Racing. I know BK Racing is shying away from Burger King being on their cars, but how can you not do the Joe Nemechek/Burger King throwback? The car he raced in 1996 is the winner and it’s just awesome. The 1995 model? Not so much. The only other scheme that comes close is what Steve Park ran for his Sprint Cup debut in 1997, but it doesn’t feel quite the same.
#88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Mountain Dew Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. While I should honor the bravery and courage of our soldiers, I’m opting to ignore the National Guard and go with Mountain Dew for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. This is also not original because it was done before, but whatever, I like the scheme that Darrell Waltrip campaigned to back to back titles in 1981 and 1982.
#99 Carl Edwards Kellogg’s Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. You hear Kellogg’s and NASCAR and you can’t help but think Texas Terry Labonte and his iconic (yeah I’m using that here) paint scheme he ran from 1994-1997. I love that paint scheme, I thought it was so cool the use of green and red strips to break up the yellow and white on the sides. It might have been because ANYTHING would have been better than what he drove in 1993, but I really enjoyed this paint scheme.