Retro Rundown: Paint schemes for the Southern 500

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Whether you’re visiting Darlington Raceway for the Sept. 6 Southern 500 or watching from home on NBC, you might experience confusion or a sense of Déjà vu spanning more than 40 years of NASCAR history.

With the Southern 500’s return to its traditional spot on Labor Day weekend for the first time since 2003, many Sprint Cup teams are using the opportunity to commemorate the history of their team or sponsors with retro paint schemes.

Here’s a look at the paint jobs that will populate the field next Sunday at the track “Too Tough to Tame,” which held its first race in 1950:

Brad Keselowski – The 2012 Sprint Cup champion’s No. 2 Ford will look like a Miller High Life car Bobby Allison once drove. Allison won at Darlington five times, including a sweep of the 1975 races with Team Penske.

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Austin Dillon  The No. 3 belonging to the Richard Childress Racing driver pays tribute to the early days of RCR when Childress, Dillon’s grandfather, was behind the wheel.

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Kevin Harvick – The defending Darlington race winner. The paint scheme for Harvick’s No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet was announced back in May. Harvick’s car “mimics the first can Budweiser produced.”

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Kasey Kahne – The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet will channel Rick Hendrick’s first race car, the All-Star Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo, driven by Geoff Bodine in the 1984 Southern 500 at Darlington. Hendrick was ready to close up shop after Darlington, but crew chief Harry Hyde convinced him to continue on. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Trevor Bayne – Party like it’s 1998! Bayne will be driving the paint scheme used by Mark Martin in the Sprint Cup in 1998, when he won seven races and finished second in the points to Jeff Gordon.

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Alex Bowman
– Alex will be driving a very sharp black and yellow Chevrolet SS for Tommy Baldwin Racing. The scheme will honor Baldwin’s father, “Tiger” Tom Baldwin, who spent 40 years racing in a Modified. He earned six Modified wins and victories in other circuits, as well.

 

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Sam Hornish Jr.
– The paint job for the No. 9 Ford at Richard Petty Motorsports is a tribute not to the Sprint Cup Series but to the 1990s when the Xfinity Series was known as the Busch Grand National Series. The scheme looks like the one driven by Mark Martin for many of his 49 series wins.

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Danica Patrick – The No. 10 Go Daddy Chevrolet is meant as a tribute to Darlington, affectionately known as “The Lady in Black.”

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Denny Hamlin – The No. 11 Toyota pays tribute to when Cale Yarborough drove the No. 11 in the 1970s. Yarborough won five times at Darlington.

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Tony Stewart – The three-time Sprint Cup champion has never won at Darlington, but if he does this year, it will be with the original Bass Pro Shop logo from the late 70s adorning the hood of his No. 14 Chevrolet.

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Clint Bowyer – The No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota was hand-painted to honor the late Buddy Baker, who drove a No. 15 car sponsored by RC Cola in 1974 for Bud Moore.

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Greg Biffle – Biffle’s No. 16 Ford will be sponsored by Ortho. The red in the scheme is based off the color of Ortho’s original delivery cars.

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing pays tribute to when David Pearson wheeled the 17 for the Wood Brothers, winning six of his 10 Darlington races for the team. The Cargill sponsored car was unveiled at Darlington Raceway.

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Ryan Blaney – The Wood Brothers decided to turn their No. 21 Ford into a mosaic depicting the team’s 65-year history. The scheme includes about 2,000 pictures dating back to 1950.

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Joey Logano – His Team Penske Ford will honor the Shell-sponsored Porsche Mario Andretti drove in the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1988. Andretti drove with son Michael Andretti and nephew John Andretti. They started third and finished sixth.

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Jeb Burton – The son of Ward Burton will race the paint scheme his father used when he won the 2001 Southern 500.

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Chase Elliott – Racing his last Sprint Cup event of 2015 before going full time in 2016, Elliott’s No. 25 Chevrolet is a more subtle throwback. The angled red stripe toward the rear-end is a tribute to the paint scheme used by his father, Bill Elliott, when he won the Southern 500 and the “Winston Million” in 1985.

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JJ Yeley – Will drive a unique scheme designed by famed NASCAR and motorsport artist Sam Bass. The car will benefit Beds for Kids, a Charlotte-based charity that empowers families with children by delivering beds and other furniture for those in need.

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Paul Menard
– The 2011 Brickyard 400 winner personally helped out in the design of his No. 27 Chevrolet, which is based on the marketing for the Menard’s home improvement stores in the early 1970s.

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Ryan Newman – The RCR driver’s No. 31 Chevrolet will be an homage to what Caterpillar’s heavy equipment looked liked in the 1970s. Newman has never won at Darlington.

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Josh Wise
– Twelve years after Ricky Craven came out on top in the closest finish in modern NASCAR history at Darlington in the No. 32, Wise and Go Green Racing our bringing back the paint scheme Craven used in the 2003 race. The sponsors are different, but the bright “Tide” orange is easy on the eyes.

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Mike Bliss – What would a retro throwback to Darlington be without an homage to Harry Gant’s old green and white paint scheme from back in the day. Bliss will be driving the No. 33 for Hillman Racing.

 

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Landon Cassill – The paint scheme for Cassill’s No. 40 Snap Fitness Chevrolet is a tribute to the “God Bless American” scheme used by Sterling Marlin in the Sept. 31, 2001 Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway. That was the second race following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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Kurt Busch – Stewart-Haas Racing didn’t always exist in its current form. Before Tony Stewart joined the team, it was known as Haas CNC Racing, which first competed in the Sprint Cup season in three races in 2002. Busch’s paint scheme is the original one driven by Jack Sprague.

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Kyle Larson – The No. 42 Chevrolet gets two tributes in one with this Mello Yello paint scheme. It’s the look used by fictional driver Cole Trickle in the 1990 film “Days of Thunder” and it would then be used by Kyle Petty from 1991 to 1994 when he drove the No. 42 for SABCO Racing, which was owned by Ganassi co-owner Felix Sabates.

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Aric Almirola
 – In 1972, STP premiered as the main sponsor of Richard Petty. He would go on to win eight times that year leading to a championship. With STP, Petty would earn 60 of his 200-career wins. Almirola sports the paint scheme from that 1972 campaign.

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Michael Annett
– The No. 46 will carry the color scheme and logo of Annett’s sponsor from the 1970s.

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Jimmie Johnson – The three-time Darlington winner will sport the Lowe’s Home Improvement logo used in the 1940s and 50s. Lowe’s was founded in 1946, four years before Darlington hosted its first race.

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Justin Allgaier – Making his second career Sprint Cup start at Darlington, Allgaier’s No. 51 Chevrolet will honor the career of legendary race car driver and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, who raced the No. 51 in several of his 128 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts.

 

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David Ragan
– The two-time Sprint Cup winner is using the retro weekend to honor the Cup career of his father, Ken Ragan. The elder Ragan raced in 50 Sprint Cup races from 1983-90 driving mostly for his brother Marvin. His career included five starts at Darlington Raceway. This paint job was raced by Ken Ragan in 1987.

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Martin Truex Jr. – The New Jersey native’s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet will have a special teal paint scheme for this weekend’s race to raise awareness for National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Truex has nine career starts at Darlington, with his best performances being fifth in 2012 and sixth in 2009.

 

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.
– The 12-time most popular driver will have a new, one-time sponsor for the Southern 500. Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet will bear the name and colors of Valvoline motor oil. Valvoline sponsored drivers like Cale Yarborough, Neil Bonnett and Buddy Baker in the early 1980s, but is probably more well known among fans for its time with Mark Martin at Roush Racing throughout the 1990s.

 

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Also participating in the retro fun is Goodyear. The tire company has branded the tires for the Southern 500 race weekend with an older white logo, which can be seen on Twitter at @GoodyearRacing.

NASCAR America MotorMouths: Is Kyle Busch the Tiger Woods of NASCAR?

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On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths, a caller — “Texas Tommy” from Corpus Christi, Texas — offered a question that got analysts Kyle Petty and Steve Letarte thinking and talking.

Given how Tiger Woods won The Masters this past Sunday in dramatic fashion, and also given how much success Woods has had in his career, “Texas Tommy” wanted to know whether Petty and Letarte agreed if Kyle Busch — with all the success he’s had — is the Tiger Woods of NASCAR?

He’s about the best driver NASCAR has and (most) dedicated of races he’s put in in the Cup, Truck and Xfinity Series,” “Texas Tommy” said. “He’s about the best driver that I can come up with next to Jimmie Johnson. He’s shown promise in every series and he has no stop in him.”

Tiger Woods, after winning The Masters this past Sunday. Is Kyle Busch the Tiger Woods of NASCAR?

Petty both agreed and disagreed.

That’s a valid point if we look at wins and what he does on the racetrack,” Petty said of Busch. “Yes, (Busch) has those numbers. Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters and 15th major, all that. You look at all that and what Kyle Busch has done at a relatively young age, Tiger Woods did the same thing at a young age.

The problem is, and the difference is, Tiger Woods has the entire sport of golf on his shoulders. It grows, it falls, it goes to the left, to the right. Everything Tiger does, every fan that follows golf is watching, whether you like Tiger Woods or not.

Kyle Busch doesn’t have that. He isn’t that way, he doesn’t have that connection to the fans, for whatever reason. People love to boo him, but if they boo him, they’re not going to follow him. I don’t know if we have that Tiger Woods personality or person (in NASCAR). I think Kyle (Busch) moves the needle for me. What he does on the racetrack, what he does in the garage area or on the radio, he moves the needle. Jeff Gordon moved the needle, then Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. moved the needle, and then there’s been nobody since.”

Letarte, former crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., agreed with Petty, yet also added he believes Chase Elliott has the potential to become NASCAR’s version of Tiger Woods – but with a caveat.

“Tiger Woods doesn’t move the golf needle, he moves the needle outside of golf,” Letarte said. “That’s really what we’re talking about. Let’s be clear. There are very few people in any sport that transcend their sport. Tiger Woods is one of them.

“Jeff Gordon was on Saturday Night Live, he was outside of NASCAR. In the current world of NASCAR, Clint Bowyer has a great personality, but doesn’t have Tiger Woods numbers on the race track. Kyle Busch, I’m not going to say he has Tiger Woods numbers, but he’s one of a few that have great numbers but lacks the relatability, the needle, outside the sport. You can’t generate it, something has to cross.

You have to have someone like perhaps Chase Elliott, someone who has the opportunity and the image and the ability.”

And then came the caveat from Letarte:

“But then Chase Elliott has to deliver the numbers that we’ve never seen before, because that’s what Tiger Woods did. You’ve got to start talking 10-win seasons and championships. … There is no recipe. It just happens.”

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All-Star Race features longer final stage, technical changes

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The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race will feature a longer final stage for $1 million and some technical changes that could be implemented in the Gen 7 car.

NASCAR announced the technical guidelines and race format Wednesday night.

The two technical changes for the May 18 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be:

# A single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan that is expected to offer improvements in ride height sensitivity for drivers. This is expected to provide a more stable aero platform and create more consistent performance in traffic.

# The car will be configured with a radiator duct that exits through the hood as opposed to the current design, which exits into the engine component. This feature is expected to create improved aerodynamic parity and reduce engine temperatures.

“Throughout its history, the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has provided a platform to try new and innovative ideas, some of which we have incorporated on a full-time basis,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “Last year’s all-star rules package resulted in one of the most exciting all-star races in history. With a similar package, and added elements that we could see in the next generation race car, we expect another must-watch event.”

The format for the race is similar to last year with the exception of the final stage. That stage will be 15 laps — five laps longer than last year’s race. That will make the race 85 laps total.

The first stage will be 30 laps and the next two stages will be 20 laps each. Green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage.

Each stage must end under green. Overtime procedures will be in place for each stage. If the race is restarted with two laps or less in the final stage, there will be unlimited attempts at a green, white, checkered finish.

As was the case last year, there is no mandatory pit strategy.

The Monster Energy Open, which also will be held May 18, will be three stages. The first two stages will be 20 laps. The final stage will be 10 laps. That is the same as last year.

Each stage winner in the Monster Energy Open advances to the All-Star Race.

Those eligible for the All-Star Race are winners from last season and this season, previous all-star winners who are competing full-time in the series, Cup champions who are running full-time in the series, the three stage winners from the Monster Energy Open and the winner of the fan vote, which is underway at nascar.com/fanvote.

Drivers who are eligible to compete are:

Aric Almirola

Ryan Blaney

Clint Bowyer

Kurt Busch

Kyle Busch

Austin Dillon

Chase Elliott

Denny Hamlin

Kevin Harvick

Jimmie Johnson

Erik Jones

Brad Keselowski

Joey Logano

Ryan Newman

Martin Truex Jr.

Kevin Harvick won last year’s All-Star Race. Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and AJ Allmendinger advanced to last year’s All-Star Race by winning a stage in the Open. Chase Elliott was the fan vote winner.

Also, the format for All-Star qualifying will remain the same. Qualifying will include a pit stop.

Weekend passes for the All-Star Race are $79 per person and include admission to the May 17 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Charlotte, All-Star qualifying, the Monster Energy Open on May 18 and the All-Star Race after that. Kids 13 and under get in free on May 17 and for $10 with an adult purchase on May 18. For more ticket information, call 1-800-455-FANS or visit CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com.

 

Two-day Xfinity Series tire test concludes at Iowa Speedway

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While the Xfinity Series — as well as the Trucks and Cup teams — are off this weekend for Easter, five Xfinity teams were still in action Tuesday and Wednesday for a Goodyear tire test at Iowa Speedway.

The test on the 7/8-mile oval was in preparation for the speedway’s race weekend on June 15-16.

Teams that took part in the test were the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (driver: Cole Custer), the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (Tyler Reddick), the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet (Justin Haley), the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (Christopher Bell) and the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet (John Hunter Nemechek).

Custer, Bell and Nemechek are all past winners at Iowa. Custer, who won there in the K&N East Series, is looking forward to returning to the track in hopes of securing another win there.

We were able to do a lot of different things and I think we found a little bit, for sure,” Custer said. “Our team has always struggled a little bit on short tracks so to get to come and test at one is a huge deal for us and I think it will help us a ton when we come for the race. We still have to get it a little better to be with that 20 car (Christopher Bell), but we’re right in the ballpark and just need a few more adjustments.

Everybody has worked so hard to get us where we are right now. Every single track we go to, we can compete for wins. I love the surface here, it’s so bumpy and so wore out it makes for good racing. It’s one of the best tracks we go to.”

Rain threatened to disrupt Wednesday’s action, but held off until the session was completed.

“It’s a good thing we came and did this tire test because we would have rolled into this race a good bit off the pace of the guys we need to compete with for the championship this year,” Reddick said. “We know we have to work on something and hopefully with all this data we were able to acquire, we’ll have a good sense of direction in the next coming weeks.

We found out we have some work to do compared to Cole (Custer) and Chris (Bell), especially. They were just able to be a lot more consistent and fire off faster and end the run faster, almost faster than we could start ours. That’s not very good for us but gives us something to chase after and work for.”

The next Xfinity Series race is the Dash 4 Cash event at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, April 27. Custer, Reddick, Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier will compete for the $100,000 bonus to the highest-finishing driver in that race.

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NASCAR America MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET with special guest Ryan Newman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America MotorMouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with Krista Voda, Steve Letarte, Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

Cup driver Ryan Newman will be a call-in guest.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Also, immediately afterward, tune in to the NASCAR America Debrief show on the NBC Sports’ YouTube channel at 6 p.m. ET with Ryan, Letarte and Petty.