NBC’s broadcast of Southern 500 includes throwback theme from announcers to apparel

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Retro paint schemes are only part of the throwback celebration with the Southern 500’s return to Labor Day weekend for the first time since 2003.

NBC, which will broadcast Saturday’s Xfinity race and Sunday night’s Sprint Cup race from Darlington Raceway, also will add to the nostalgia.

Among the nods to years past in Sunday’s broadcast:

  • Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett will call the race at some point, taking over briefly for NBC’s crew of Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte.
  • Features during the Countdown to Green show include Squier’s essay on Darlington Raceway, Kyle Petty talking with Bill Elliott and Chase Elliott on the 30th anniversary of Bill Elliott’s Southern 500 win that also earned him the Winston Million bonus, and Jeff Burton going around the track in the NBC Sports Toyota Camry On Track Car while Petty is on track as well in the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 car from 1971.
  • Booth and studio talent will appear in 1970s-era clothing.
  • Also featured throughout the weekend will be retro highlights, graphics and music.

“To bring it back on Labor Day, I think this is perhaps one of the best moves that NASCAR had made in a decade,’’ Squier said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday about the Southern 500’s return to this date.

He isn’t the only one pleased to see the Southern 500 back on this holiday weekend.

“I think it’s hugely important for the sport,’’ Dale Jarrett said. “You can’t ever go back as they say, but we’re proving this weekend that maybe you can for a little bit.’’

Said Burton: “I think it’s so important to kind of understand where you came from to be able to really understand where you’re going. What a perfect weekend to do it. The coolest thing about this weekend is it’s a time where we can celebrate the past. I think with everything that’s going on this weekend from a current standpoint, we also have a lot to celebrate what’s going on right now. If you think about the battle to make the Chase, you think about we’ve seen a lot of teams that looked really good early in the year that don’t look so good now.’’

Said Petty: “I think a lot of times we all wax nostalgically about things that went on and things that happened, but here’s an opportunity to educate fans. When you see that 17 car of Ricky Stenhouse painted up like the old Holman-Moody 17. When you see the 16 car painted up like Tiny Lund and that kid that has just been a fan since 2000 says, ‘Who is Tiny Lund?’ Then it’s an opportunity to educate fans to the history of the sport.’’

Said Letarte: “I think the word ‘education’ is a great point. My first year in the sport was 1995. I was born in 1979. I, as a huge race fan, don’t have a firsthand experience of all this past of NASCAR. When I sit at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and hear these stories and walk through the Hall of Fame and see these pieces written on these great pioneers of our sport, that educates me. I look at this weekend as an awesome opportunity for me to go back and not re-live the past because I wasn’t there to live it the first time. It’s a great opportunity for me to maybe find a little more firsthand appreciation to what has built the sport into what it is.’’

Countdown to Green begins at 3 p.m. ET Saturday followed by the Xfinity race at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC. NASCAR America Sunday begins NBC’s broadcast of the Southern 500 at 5 p.m. ET. The race broadcast begins at 7:20 p.m. ET