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.

Drivers for Drive for Diversity combine revealed

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The 13 drivers who will participate in the Advance Auto Part Drive for Diversity Combine were revealed Thursday and range in age from 13-19.

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Program was created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track. Cup drivers Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson came through the program.

The 2020 and 2021 combines were canceled due to the impact of COVID-19.

“We are thrilled that we are in a position to return to an in-person evaluation for this year’s Advance Auto Parts Drive for Diversity Combine,” Rev Racing CEO Max Seigel said in a statement. “We are energized by the high-level of participating athletes and look forward to building the best driver class for 2023. As an organization, we have never been more positioned for success and future growth.”

The youngest drivers are Quinn Davis and Nathan Lyons, who are both 13 years old.

The group includes 17-year-old Andrés Pérez de Lara, who finished seventh in his ARCA Menards Series debut in the Sept. 15 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Also among those invited to the combine is 15-year old Katie Hettinger, who will make her ARCA Menards Series West debut Oct.. 14 at the Las Vegas Bullring. She’s also scheduled to compete in the ARCA West season finale Nov. 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

 

Name

Age Hometown
Justin Campbell 17 Griffin, Georgia
Quinn Davis 13 Sparta, Tennessee
Eloy Sebastián

López Falcón

17 Mexico City, Mexico
Katie Hettinger 15 Dryden, MI
Caleb Johnson 15 Denver, CO
Nathan Lyons 13 Concord, NC
Andrés Pérez de Lara 17 Mexico City, Mexico
Jaiden Reyna 16 Cornelius, NC
Jordon Riddick 17 Sellersburg, IN
Paige Rogers 19 New Haven, IN
Lavar Scott 19 Carney’s Point, NJ
Regina Sirvent 19 Mexico City, Mexico
Lucas Vera 15 Charlotte, NC

 

Dr. Diandra: Crashes: Causes and complications

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Two drivers have missed races this year after hard rear-end crashes. Kurt Busch has been out since an incident in qualifying at Pocono in July. Alex Bowman backed hard into a wall at Texas and will miss Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Other drivers have noted that the hits they’ve taken in the Next Gen car are among the hardest they’ve felt in a Cup car.

“When I crashed it (at Auto Club Speedway in practice), I thought the car was destroyed, and it barely backed the bumper off. It just felt like somebody hit you with a hammer,” Kevin Harvick told NBC Sports.

The three most crucial parameters in determining the severity of a crash are:

  • How much kinetic energy the car carries
  • How long the collision takes
  • The angle at which the car hits

Angle

The last of these factors requires trigonometry to explain properly. You can probably intuit, however, that a shallower hit is preferable to a head-on — or rear-on — hit.

A graphic show shallower (low-angle) hits and deeper (high-angle) hits
Click for a larger view

When the angle between the car and the wall is small, most of the driver’s momentum starts and remains in the direction parallel to the wall. The car experiences a small change in velocity.

The larger the angle, the larger the change in perpendicular speed and the more force experienced. NASCAR has noted that more crashes this season have had greater angles than in the past.

Busch and Bowman both had pretty large-angle hits, so we’ll skip the trig.

Energy — in pounds of TNT

A car’s kinetic energy depends on how much it weighs and how fast it’s going. But the relationship between kinetic energy and speed is not linear: It’s quadratic. That means going twice as fast gives you four times more kinetic energy.

The graph shows the kinetic energies of different kinds of race cars at different speeds. To give you an idea of how much energy we’re talking about, I expressed the kinetic energy in terms of equivalent pounds of TNT.

A vertical bar graph showing kinetic energies for different types of racecars and their energies

  • A Next Gen car going 180 mph has the same kinetic energy as is stored in almost three pounds of TNT.
  • Because IndyCars are about half the weight of NASCAR’s Next Gen car, an IndyCar has about half the kinetic energy of a Next Gen car when both travel at the same speed.
  • At 330 mph, Top Fuel drag racers carry the equivalent of six pounds of TNT in kinetic energy.

All of a car’s kinetic energy must be transformed to other types of energy when the car slows or stops. NASCAR states that more crashes are occurring at higher closing speeds, which means more kinetic energy.

Longer collisions > shorter collisions

That seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Who wants to be in a crash any longer than necessary?

But the longer a collision takes, the more time there is to transform kinetic energy.

A pitting car starts slowing down well below it reaches its pit box. The car’s kinetic energy is transformed into heat energy (brakes and rotors warming), light energy (glowing rotors), and even sound energy (tires squealing).

The same amount of kinetic energy must be transformed in a collision — but much faster. In addition to heat, light and sound, energy is transformed via the car spinning and parts deforming or breaking. (This video about Michael McDowell’s 2008 Texas qualifying crash goes into more detail.)

The force a collision produces depends on how long the car takes to stop. Compare the force from your seat belt when you slow down at a stop sign to what you feel if you have to suddenly slam on the brakes.

To give you an idea of how fast collisions can be, the initial wall impact in the crash that killed Dale Earnhardt Sr. lasted only eight-hundredths (0.08) of a second.

SAFER barriers use a car’s kinetic energy to move a heavy steel wall and crush pieces of energy-absorbing foam. That extracts energy from the car, plus the barrier extends the collision time.

The disadvantage is that a car with lower kinetic energy won’t move the barrier. Then it’s just like running into a solid wall.

That’s the same problem the Next Gen car seems to have.

Chassis stiffness: A Goldilocks problem

The Next Gen chassis is a five-piece, bolt-together car skeleton, as shown below.

A graphic showing the five parts of the Next Gen chassis.
Graphic courtesy of NASCAR. Click to enlarge.
The foam surrounding the outside of the rear bumper
The purple is energy-absorbing foam. Graphic courtesy of NASCAR. Click for a larger view.

That graphic doesn’t show another important safety feature: the energy absorbing foam that covers the outside of the bumpers. It’s purple in the next diagram.

All cars are designed so that the strongest part of the car surrounds the occupants. Race cars are no different.

The center section of the Next Gen chassis is made from stout steel tubing and sheet metal. Components become progressively weaker as you move away from the cockpit. The bumper, for example, is made of aluminum alloy rather than steel. The goal is transforming all the kinetic energy before it reaches the driver.

Because the Next Gen car issues are with rear impacts, I’ve expanded and highlighted the last two pieces of the chassis.

The rear clip and bumper, with the fuel cell and struts shaded

The bumper and the rear clip don’t break easily enough. The rear ends of Gen-6 cars were much more damaged than the Next Gen car after similar impacts.

If your initial thought is “Just weaken the struts,” you’ve got good instincts. However, there are two challenges.

I highlighted the first one in red: the fuel cell. About the only thing worse than a hard collision is a hard collision and a fire.

The other challenge is that a chassis is a holistic structure: It’s not like each piece does one thing independent of all the other pieces. Changing one element to help soften rear collisions might make other types of collisions harder.

Chassis are so complex that engineers must use finite-element-analysis computer programs to predict their behavior. These programs are analogous to (and just as complicated as) the computational fluid dynamics programs aerodynamicists use.

Progress takes time

An under-discussed complication was noted by John Patalak, managing director of safety engineering for NASCAR. He told NBC Sports’ Dustin Long in July that he was surprised by the rear-end crash stiffness.

The Next Gen car’s crash data looked similar to that from the Gen-6 car, but the data didn’t match the drivers’ experiences. Before addressing the car, his team had to understand the disparity in the two sets of data.

They performed a real-world crash test on a new configuration Wednesday. These tests are complex and expensive: You don’t do them until you’re pretty confident what you’ve changed will make a significant difference.

But even if the test goes exactly as predicted, they aren’t done.

Safety is a moving target.

And always will be.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

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NASCAR Cup Series drivers race on the road for the final time this season Sunday, as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval course ends the playoffs’ Round of 12.

The 17-turn, 2.28-mile course incorporating the CMS oval and infield will determine the eight drivers who will advance to the next round of the playoffs. Chase Elliott won last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway and is the only driver who has qualified for a spot in the Round of 8.

Entering Sunday’s race, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman are below the playoff cutline. Bowman will not qualify for the next round because he is sidelined by concussion-like symptoms.

The race (2 p.m ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Cup and Xfinity)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 81 with a 6% chance of rain.

Saturday: Mixed clouds and sun. High of 67 with a 3% chance of rain.

Sunday: Sunny. High of 68 with a 3% chance of rain.

Friday, Oct. 7

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 12 – 5 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Saturday, Oct. 8

Garage open

  • 7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 8:30 a.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Rodney Childers fined $100,000, suspended for four races

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NASCAR has suspended Rodney Childers, Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, for four races and fined him $100,000 for what the sanctioning body called modification of a part supplied by a vendor.

The team was penalized for a modification to the deck lid.

Harvick, who is out of the Cup Series playoffs, and the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 team were docked 100 points.

Harvick’s car and that of Martin Truex Jr. were taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. after last Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. There were no penalties assessed to the Truex team.

Harvick has been particularly critical of the Next Gen car in recent months, once referring to the “crappy-ass parts” provided by suppliers.

Harvick’s car erupted in flames during the Southern 500 Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway. After he climbed from the smoking car, Harvick blamed the fire on “just crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times. They haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff. We just let it keep going and keep going.

“The car started burning and as it burned the flames started coming through the dash. I ran a couple laps and then as the flame got bigger it started burning stuff up and I think right there you see all the brake fluid that was probably coming out the brakes and part of the brake line, but the fire was coming through the dash.

“What a disaster for no reason. We didn’t touch the wall. We didn’t touch a car, and here we are in the pits with a burned-up car, and we can’t finish the race during the playoffs because of crappy-ass parts.”

MORE: AJ Allmendinger to return to Cup Series in 2023

Unless the team appeals, Childers would miss races at Charlotte, Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville and would return for the season finale at Phoenix.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps told the Associated Press that officials have not targeted Harvick. “I would say that’s ridiculous,” he said. “No one has a vendetta against Kevin Harvick or Rodney or anyone at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Harvick tweeted, “Seems strange…” A Childers tweet called the penalty “Shocker…..”.

NASCAR also announced Wednesday it has suspended Young’s Motorsports crew chief Andrew Abbott indefinitely for a behavioral violation during pre-race inspection. He must undergo anger-management training to be reinstated. The team races in the Camping World Truck Series.