Retro Rundown 2016: Paint schemes announced for Southern 500

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It’s almost here. By almost, we mean two months.

That’s how long we have to wait for this year’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. It’s also how long we have to wait to see the second batch of retro paint schemes dedicated to honoring the sport’s history after last season’s successful venture into nostalgia.

What makes it even better this time around is that the entire field will likely be in on the fun. Last season, Joe Gibbs Racing stood out as one of the few teams not to participate. But Tuesday, Kyle Busch was the first JGR driver to unveil his Southern 500 paint scheme.

That brought the total throwback paint schemes revealed so far to 12.

Here’s a rundown of the retro paint schemes announced to date. Which is your favorite?

Brad Keselowski – The No. 2 Ford will feature the design of the original Miller Lite can that was produced before 1974.

Keselowski

Austin Dillon – Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet will bare the paint scheme driven by Ricky Rudd in 1983 when he earned Richard Childress Racing’s first Sprint Cup win at Riverside International Raceway.

Austin Dillon

Kevin Harvick – The No. 4 Chevrolet will look just like the Busch-sponsored car driven by Cale Yarborough during the 1979-1980 Sprint Cup seasons. Yarborough earned 10 of his 83 careers win during that span.

Harvick

 

Trevor BayneNo matter what anyone tells you, the 1990s were awesome and so were Mark Martin‘s paint schemes. For the second year in a row, Bayne’s No. 6 Ford will have a ’90s flavor to it. After bringing back memories of Martin’s career-best season in 1998 last year, Bayne’s car will have the paint scheme Martin used in the 1996 and 1997 seasons.

Trevor Bayne

Regan Smith – The “Underbird” will fly again. Sort of. Smith’s No.7 Chevrolet, instead of a Ford Thunderbird, will have the paint scheme, sans Hooters sponsorship, that was driven by the late Alan Kulwicki. The paint scheme was on track for 59 Sprint Cup races, including his 1992 championship campaign.

Regan Smith

 

Danica Patrick – Patrick’s sponsor, Nature’s Bakery, hasn’t been around very long. So there’s not a 20-year-old paint scheme for Stewart-Haas Racing to blow the dust off of. But Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet still has a late 70s/early 80s vibe to it.

Danica

Casey Mears – The No. 13 Geico Chevrolet will pay tribute to the career and legacy of Smokey Yunick. The paint scheme and number were used by drivers Mario Andretti and Curtis Turner in 1966 and 1967 when they raced for Yunick. Turner sat on the pole for the 1967 Daytona 500 with this paint scheme.

Casey Mears

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Darrell Waltrip won a lot of races in his Sprint Cup career, including five at Darlington. But the first of his 84 wins came in the No. 17 in 1975 at Nashville Speedway. The paint scheme Waltrip carried in that race will be resurrected by Stenhouse, 41 years later.

Stenhouse

Kyle Busch – Just days after Matt Kenseth won at Dover International Speedway to give Joe Gibbs Racing its 135th Sprint Cup win (tying it for third all time with Roush Fenway Racing) the team showed off Busch’s paint scheme. The No. 18 will look like it did when it was driven by Dale Jarrett in 1993, the year he won JGR’s first Cup race in the Daytona 500.

Kyle Busch

Carl Edwards – The No. 19 Arris Toyota will have the paint scheme that was used by Tony Stewart when he drove the No. 20 Home Depot car for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Carl Edwards

Joey Logano – The No. 22 Ford will pay tribute to the first paint scheme used on a car sponsored by Shell. The look was used by Bobby Labonte on his No. 44 Pontiac in the Xfinity Series in 1998. Labonte drove the car to a win at Darlington that season.

Joey Logano

David Ragan – The No. 23 Toyota for BK Racing will be sponsored by Dr. Pepper and feature the soft drinks classic “I’m a Pepper” slogan.

David Ragan

Chase Elliott – The No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet will have a paint scheme inspired by the look of NAPA’s old delivery trucks from the 1960s. NAPA’s original colors were yellow and black before transitioning to yellow and blue.

Chase Elliott

Ryan Newman – Just like teammate Austin Dillon, Newman’s paint scheme will evoke RCR’s first win in 1983 with Ricky Rudd.

Ryan Newman

 

Kurt Busch – Last year, Busch’s No. 41 car used the paint scheme that was first used in the Sprint Cup Series by Gene Haas in 2002. This season, Busch’s car will honor the VF-1, the first CNC machine built by Haas Automation in 1988.

Kurt Busch 3

Aric Almirola – The No. 43 Ford will carry the colors used by Richard Petty when he won his sixth Daytona 500 in 1979.

Aric Almirola

AJ Allmendinger –  It’s a bit of a deep cut, but Allmendinger’s car is still a love letter to NASCAR history. The No. 47 will look just like it did in during the 1977 Sprint Cup Season when it was driven by 1975 Rookie of the Year Bruce Hill. The Kansas native never won a Sprint Cup race, but he earned one of his three career top-five finishes at Darlington Raceway in 1975.

Allmendinger

Matt DiBenedetto – The No. 83 Toyota for BK Racing will be sponsored by Orange Crush and will have the soft drink’s 1970s design.

DiBenedetto

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Earnhardt will drive his favorite paint scheme in the history of the sport. His No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet will look like the “Gray Ghost,” the car driven by Buddy Baker in 1979 and 1980.

Dale Jr

 

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Indianapolis

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kyle Larson. Only one winner in Brickyard 400 (Jeff Gordon, 27th in 2001) has started in a lower position — but if anyone can rebound after qualifying 25th on a track that’s difficult for passing, it’s the Chip Ganassi Racing driver this season.

Dustin Long

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Even before Daytona earlier this month I had this vision of Earnhardt scoring his win to make the playoffs at this track. We’ll see if I can see the future.

Daniel McFadin

Jamie McMurray reminds everyone what he’s capable of by earning his second victory in the Brickyard 400.

Jerry Bonkowski

Sentimentally, I’d like to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. win this one. But from a realistic standpoint, I’m going with Kevin Harvick to earn his second career Brickyard win.

With Matt Kenseth available, Hendrick Motorsports already was set on Alex Bowman long ago

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INDIANAPOLIS – Hendrick Motorsports announced Alex Bowman as the driver of its No. 88 Chevrolet last week, but the choice effectively was made long ago.

“We had Alex in the back of mind for whatever opportunity we had,” team owner Rick Hendrick said during a news conference Sunday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “It wasn’t much of a decision at all. Alex was the guy.”

Hendrick confirmed Bowman signed a multiyear contract last October that runs through 2019 and hardly considered any other options – including impending free agent — Matt Kenseth to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“We were very, very careful not to guarantee (Bowman) anything other than if opportunities arose, he would have a shot,” Hendrick said. “I can’t make all the decisions. The sponsors have to be involved. But in my mind, Alex was going to get the next (ride).”

When Kenseth revealed two weeks ago that he wouldn’t be returning to Joe Gibbs Racing, Earnhardt was confident his friend would find a ride for 2018.

But with Hendrick having solidified its lineup for next season with Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Bowman and perhaps Kasey Kahne (Hendrick plans to run four Chevrolets next year but left open the possibility that William Byron could drive the No. 5 – “we’re not ready to cross that bridge yet.”), the options for Kenseth remaining in Cup seem limited.

“I love Matt Kenseth,” Hendrick said. “I love him. He is a tremendous talent. He and I have actually talked about this in the past. Sometimes things just don’t line up at the right time.”

Everything has seemed to line up well for Bowman, who drove the No. 88 in 10 races last year while Earnhardt recovered from a concussion. He also has tested for the team in its driving simulator and wheelforce transducer car (which gathers critical setup data).

“A lot of guys have the talent, they just need that one critical break, if they stay committed and keep pushing, eventually that opportunity might come along,” Earnhardt said. “(Bowman) gets that opportunity because of his commitment to his career and the gamble on himself he made a long time ago.

“He works hard and has been a key investment for Chevrolet, incredibly helpful for the company and race team. It’s very tedious work. He’s been a team player knowing if he put forth this effort, he possibly could get this opportunity.”

Hendrick said he knew little about Bowman before Earnhardt personally vouched for him. Bowman validated the recommendation by winning the pole at Phoenix International Raceway last November and leading 194 laps.

“The word for Alex is he deserved it,” Hendrick said. “He deserves a shot. He stepped into the most pressure point. I don’t think there’d be a situation on pit road of having the pressure of sitting in Dale Earnhardt’s car and to perform like he did and then the contributions he’s made to our company to help our guys.”

Rick Hendrick: ‘The plan is to run 4 cars’ next year

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INDIANAPOLIS – Car owner Rick Hendrick says “the plan” is to run four Cup cars next year even as questions have been raised about the company cutting back to three cars.

Questions have been raised with because the need of sponsorship for the No. 5 team next season. Both Great Clips and Farmer’s Bank Insurance are not returning after this season. Those companies are scheduled to sponsor the car in 22 races this year.

Hendrick said Sunday that “the plan is to run four cars” next year.

The comment was well-received. Jim Campbell, who oversees Chevrolet’s motorsports program, liked a tweet that had Hendrick’s comment about remaining four cars.

Hendrick also was asked Sunday about the status of the No. 5 car driven by Kasey Kahne but said only “that’s for another day” during a press conference with Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Nationwide’s Jim McCoy.

Kahne has a contract through next season yet questions have been raised if he’ll be back. If not, an option could be for William Byron, who won Saturday’s Xfintiy race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to move from JR Motorsports into that spot. The 19-year-old Byron, a rookie in the Xfinity Series, has won three of the last five races.

Asked about Byron moving into a Cup car next year, Hendrick said: “We’re not ready to cross that bridge yet.”

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Jimmie Johnson to start in the rear after gear change

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INDIANAPOLIS – Jimmie Johnson‘s bid for a record-tying fifth Brickyard 400 will have to begin at the back of the 40-car field.

Johnson qualified fourth Saturday but stated on Twitter that he’ll have to go to the rear of the field because they had to change the rear gear.

Although track position is pivotal at Indianapolis Motor Speedway because passing is difficult, optimists can view Johnson’s woes as a good sign. He has scored two of his three wins this season – Texas and Dover – after starting in the rear.

Also starting at the rear today is Cole Whitt (rear gear change) and Joey Gase (engine change). Whitt qualified 34th. Gase qualified 38th.

Today’s race is on NBC. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green.

 

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