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

 

Chase Elliott leads drivers with career-best days at Sonoma

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Chase Elliott said his third Cup start at Sonoma Raceway, which ended with a career-best fourth-place finish at the road course, was a “lot more fun” than his first two trips.

Elliott, who also started a career-best third, earned his second top 10 and first top-five finish at the track.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver was one of four who placed in the top 10 for career-best finishes in Sunday’s race at the road course. The others were Erik Jones, Aric Almirola and Alex Bowman.

“I made a lot of gains, personally, I think, for me at this track,” Elliott told Fox Sports 1. “It’s been one of my worst.”

Elliott started and finished eighth in the race last year. He placed 21st his rookie season.

On Sunday, he positioned his No. 9 Chevrolet to finish Stage 1 in fourth and Stage 2 in second.

He was running second late in the final stage until Kevin Harvick and his fresher set of tires passed him with nine laps to go. Elliott was later passed by Clint Bowyer.

“To come here and have pace on Friday and qualify good on Saturday, and to have pace today, it was just a lot more fun,” Elliott said. “We had a fast Chevrolet all three days. And that’s nice to show up and get rhythm. We kind of had to pick our battles today. We elected to get some stage points and that set us back a little for that last stage, but I don’t think we had the pace that the leaders had.”

Elliott’s result was his fourth top five this season and his first in six races.

In his second Sonoma start, Jones started 20th and finished seventh, a significant improvement over his 25th-place finish from his rookie year.

The result came after his No. 20 Toyota suffered minor damage from contact with Michael McDowell at the beginning of Stage 1.

“It was a great day for us, really,” Jones told FS1. “I felt like it’s a little like a win for us. We were aiming for a top 15 today and to get a top 10 is just a bonus.

The result is Jones’ second top 10 in the last nine races.

Behind Jones was Almirola, who earned his first top-10 finish in seven Sonoma starts. His previous best result was 14th in 2015.

“We are just plugging away,” Almirola said. “As solid as they come. We are a top-10 car and this just goes to show me and all of our guys that we are a top-10 car everywhere. I have just run top 10 at my two career worst race tracks, Pocono (seventh) and Sonoma. If we can do that, that is incredible.”

Almirola, who helped put all four Stewart-Haas Racing cars in the top 10 for the second time this year, has earned career-best results at five tracks this season: Sonoma, Pocono, Phoenix (seventh), Las Vegas (10th) and Michigan (11th).

“It speaks true volumes about how great this race team is and how great our race cars are because they carry me at those two places where I know I struggle,” Almirola said. “I have tried really hard to become a better road course racer and I put a lot of effort into this weekend running the K&N (West) car to help me for today and it certainly did.”

Almirola placed second in Saturday’s K&N West race.

Another driver who pulled double duty this weekend was Bowman.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver placed ninth for his first Sonoma top 10 in three starts. He previous results were 29th and 31st.

“(Crew chief) Greg (Ives) made a good call on the box to I guess one (pit) stop that (in the final stage),” Bowman said. “It looked like some people two stopped it, but I don’t know, I still don’t feel like I do a very good job at these places, but I feel like I learned some today.  Definitely made some mistakes and there is plenty I can improve on to keep getting better and learning. That is all we can really ask for.” 

Daniel Suarez misses Sonoma top 10 after contact with Jimmie Johnson on last lap

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Daniel Suarez was on the verge of his first top-10 finish at Sonoma Raceway until he was spun by Jimmie Johnson on the last lap of Sunday’s race.

Suarez was running in 10th when slight contact from Johnson as they navigated Turn 4 sent his No. 19 Toyota around.

After recovering, Suarez managed to place 15th, one spot better than his 2017 result. Johnson went on to finish 11th.

“We started wheel hopping after 10 laps into a run,” Suarez told Fox Sports 1. “We just missed something with the brakes. … After finally we figured it out, I felt like maybe we had a top-10 car. We just got dumped on the last lap.”

Suarez said that Johnson apologized to him about the contact.

“I was loose, so it didn’t take a lot for someone to spin me out,” Suarez said. “He didn’t hit me hard, he just put his bumper there a little bit. It was enough to spin me out because I guess I was loose already. We came from a little rough few weeks and a top 10 was going to be nice for us.”

Suarez has not finished better than 15th in the five races since he placed third at Dover.

What Drivers Said after Sonoma race

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Martin Truex Jr. — Winner: “Last year, I felt like we had the best car, and we didn’t win and then this year I wasn’t sure we could beat (Kevin Harvick). We were real equal. He was better early in the race. I felt like we caught up to him a little, but he was going to be hard to beat either way. To get off strategy was the perfect call and then you just hope it works out for you, so sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield.”

KEVIN HARVICK — Finished 2nd: “I don’t really know what is going on up on the pit box and who is doing what. I just do what I am told. Those guys do a great job. You make some right ones, you make some bad ones and sometimes you guess right and sometimes you guess wrong. Who knows what is right or wrong. I thought that was a good call at the end to put tires on in case the caution came out. We got right back up to where we were running and put ourselves in position to have a chance in case the caution came out.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 3rd: “I am happy to be in this equipment and have this opportunity, but I am also frustrated because we were one of the three that were the class of the field and had a legitimate shot at racing for a win. They just took a little different strategy than we did and that is what it took. You had to separate yourself some way. It was a lot of fun out there. I had my struggles just like they did. It seemed like (Kevin Harvick) had a little better turn than I did, and (Martin Truex Jr.) was better. On long runs, I was coming to him, especially that real long run we had. Then we started pitting, and I didn’t know what to expect. All in all, it was a solid day, and I am proud of the guys for going out there and getting the job done. We just came up a little short.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 4th: “It was a lot more fun, this trip out here, than it was the last two times. I made a lot of gains, personally, I think, for me at this track. It’s been one of my worst. To come here and have pace on Friday and qualify good on Saturday, and to have pace today, it was just a lot more fun. We had a fast Chevrolet all three days. And that’s nice to show up and get rhythm. We kind of had to pick our battles today. We elected to get some stage points, and that set us back a little for that last stage, but I don’t think we had the pace that the leaders had. So, it was a good finish for me, and we’re looking forward to the next road race.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 5th: “I thought we had enough to beat (Chase Elliott), maybe. That’s where our strategy put us there. Overall a good day for us. We struggled being able to find speed here, and I don’t know, it’s just a little bit each lap. There’s a few areas on the track where I kind of lack at, but it’s hard to make up that ground and then beat somebody that is so good here like (Martin Truex Jr.) and (Clint Bowyer). I feel like those guys all have that and we’re just the best of everybody else.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “I went 12 rounds, and there should be no-decision today. I feel like we gave it everything we could. We didn’t have superior lap times in the beginning and then we figured we would just do a two-stopper at the end. That is what won it last year but I was on a three-stopper last year and a two-stopper this year. I feel like we did everything we could to just find the right rhythm and you never know when yellows will come out, but we were in position. We were a top-five car and couldn’t quite hold off my little brother at the end. We battled.”

Erik Jones — Finished 7th: “It was a great day for us, really. I felt like it’s a little like a win for us. We were aiming for a top-15 today and to get a top-10 is just a bonus. We struggled a bit on the first run. Once we got an adjustment under it, and I started to get settled in and comfortable with racing through traffic, we just kind of started plugging along and picking up spots. Our strategy worked out for us.”

Aric Almirola Finished 8th: “We are just plugging away. As solid as they come. We are a top-10 car, and this just goes to show me and all of our guys that we are a top-10 car everywhere. I have just run top 10 at my two career-worst racetracks, Pocono and Sonoma. If we can do that, that is incredible. It speaks true volumes about how great this race team is and how great our race cars are because they carry me at those two places where I know I struggle.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 9th: “Yeah, Greg (Ives, crew chief) made a good call on the box to I guess one-stop that. It looked like some people two -topped it, but I don’t know, I still don’t feel like I do a very good job at these places, but I feel like I learned some today.  Definitely made some mistakes and there is plenty I can improve on to keep getting better and learning. That is all we can really ask for.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 12th: “Yeah, it was a good finish there at the end. I’m proud of this team for the work put in this weekend. I didn’t get as much out of qualifying as I needed to, and it put us a little bit behind there at the start, but through some excellent strategy and a good car, we gained a lot of points today.  It was a good day.  I enjoy road racing, something to break it up a little bit, and I’m ready for the next one.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 18th: Even though we didn’t run up front all race, this race comes to down to attrition and pit strategy. Brian (Pattie, crew hief) made an excellent call resulting in my best finish here.”

William Byron — Finished 25th: “I felt like the biggest thing was just trying to learn the racetrack. The first run was really tough and after that I felt like our pace got a little bit better and improved. If I could have started the weekend where I finished the race, I feel like I have a much better idea what I needed. Now we will go back and write some notes to see how we can improve for the next road course race.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 33rd: “Today wasn’t the ending that we wanted, but I’m not going to let a mechanical issue bring this team’s morale down. There were bright spots this weekend that are worth focusing on. This is only my second time ever racing here, and I continued to learn more about how to get through this course.

Jamie McMurray — Finished 37th: “Something with the oil pump pulley mechanism broke. I really don’t know. They were going to try to fix it, but when that breaks, the engine shuts off on its own like in an oil protection mode, and we started the engine a couple of times, we kind of tricked the engine to not think it was in that mode. And so, I think they were a little worried now that maybe it ran too long and  … we are not going back out.  They are going to work on it for a while, so our day is done.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 38th: “I haven’t missed a shift on a road course in 10 years. It was just me. I was trying to be so patient and so smooth. It was unexpected. It’s on me. I let everybody down here. The car was good. I don’t know if it was a race-winning car. We needed a little work on the long run, but it’s just all on me. I don’t know what else to say. I just let everybody down.”

With fewest Cup winners through 16 races since 1978, who’s in playoffs on points?

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With 10 races remaining in the regular season and 10 spots still up for grabs, the points battle remains fierce in NASCAR’s premier series — and most of non-winners held serve Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

There was only minor shuffling among those without a victory who still are vying for a playoff spot. Ryan Blaney (11th) fell two spots in the rankings, while Kyle Larson (ninth) and Aric Almirola (10th) each gained a spot.

But all still hold provisional playoff spots along with Brad Keselowski (fourth), Kurt Busch (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Jimmie Johnson (12th), Chase Elliott (13th), Erik Jones (14th) and Alex Bowman (15th). Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (16th) is 17 points behind Bowman for the final provisional playoff spot.

Sonoma marked Martin Truex Jr.‘s third victory this season. Other winners who have clinched playoff berths in the 16-driver field for the 10-race playoff that begins Sept. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon.

The last time there were so few winners through 16 races was 40 years ago. In the first 16 races of the 1978 season, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Benny Parsons, David Pearson and Darrell Waltrip had accounted for all of the wins.

Kyle Busch, who finished fifth at Sonoma, remains the leader in the 2018 points standings by 72 points over Kevin Harvick (second Sunday to Truex). Winning the regular-season championship results in 15 playoff points, vs. 10 for the runner-up.

Click here for the Cup Series points standings after Sonoma.