days of thunder

Darlington Raceway

William Byron drops the hammer with ‘Days of Thunder’ scheme for Southern 500

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William Byron will pay tribute to Cole Trickle with his paint scheme for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 1 on NBCSN).

Yes, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet will be made up to look like the one of the cars the fictional NASCAR driver drove in the 1990 movie “Days of Thunder.”

Byron unveiled the scheme today on social media with a spoof of the scene that introduced Trickle – played by Tom Cruise – in the movie. In the place of Robert Duvall’s Harry Hogge is crew chief Chad Knaus.

Here’s the original scene in all its Tony Scott-directed glory.

The City Chevrolet sponsorship on Byron’s car is the real deal. It’s a Rick Hendrick car dealership located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Hendrick Motorsports was heavily involved in the production of “Day of Thunder,” consulting on the film and also providing the cars that were used. Randy Quaid’s character Tim Daland is based on Hendrick.

While the paint scheme getting used for the Throwback Weekend is cool by itself, it being raced at Darlington adds another level to it.

In “Days of Thunder,” Trickle earns his first career win in a race at the track “Too Tough to Tame” with this scheme.

While it’s entirely possible Byron could earn his own first career Cup win in the three races before the Southern 500, there’d be no better way to honor Trickle than by getting it under the lights at Darlington.

Byron won’t be the only driver boasting a scheme from the movie at Darlington.

Over in the Xfinity Series, Jeremy Clements‘ No. 51 Chevrolet will look like the No. 51 Exxon car that Rowdy Burns drove in the movie.

“I grew up watching Days of Thunder all the time especially headed to Buck Creek Speedway in our cube van that my Grandpa Crawford built, and it would really get me pumped up to race.” Clements said in a press release. “I love this movie so much so that’s where I got the No. 51 from and have had it ever since.”

Dale Jr. Download: Richard Childress’ fighting advice: ‘Always take off your watch’

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Richard Childress learned a valuable lesson in the 1970s when it came to getting into a brawl. Take off your watch.

“We used to go out to the bars and have a good time and everything,” Childress recalled on this week’s Dale Jr. Download (airs today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “We were up at an old bar at Daytona one night and a big fight broke out. I happened to be in it. I had a Rolex. First Rolex I ever had in my life. I lost it in that fight. Ever since that you always take your watch off.”

That creed is now synonymous with Childress thanks to a 2011 altercation with Kyle Busch.

But the buildup to that confrontation began the previous year in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“We were running for the (Cup) championship,” Childress said. “The 18 (Busch) was kind of holding Kevin (Harvick) up. Kevin wrecked him coming off of (Turn) 4.

“That night, hell, I was good friends with Kyle. We were eating at a place and him and I think his girlfriend at the time, this was before he got married, and a guy from Toyota was there. (Toyota) had won the (Truck) championship.”

Childress went over to congratulate them on the Truck championship.

“You know I’m going to wreck your car?” Busch said, according to Childress.

“What do you mean?” Childress asked.

“Kevin wrecked me today. I’m going to wreck your car,” Busch repeated.

“What you need to do is wreck his Xfinity car, don’t wreck my car,” Childress said.

Kevin Harvick wrecks in the 2011 Southern 500. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

“Nope, I got to do it in Cup,” Busch said, according to Childress.

That didn’t sit well with Childress.

“If you wreck my car I’m going to whip your ass,” he told Busch.

Six months later, Busch and Harvick were in a wreck in the closing laps at Darlington. The fallout spilled onto pit road, where Harvick reached into Busch’s car and Busch sped away, pushing Harvick’s car into the pit wall.

“So they carried us over in the (NASCAR) trailer,” Childress said. “Got on to all four of us. I think Joe (Gibbs) was in there. Kyle and me and Kevin. I just told them what I was going to do and I kept my word.”

Three race weekends later, Busch was upset by how RCR driver Joey Coulter raced him in the closing laps of the Truck Series event at Kansas Speedway. That led to Busch rubbing fenders with him on the cool down lap.

Afterward, a watchless Childress confronted Busch in the garage and put him in a headlock

During Childress’ visit to the Dale Jr. Download, he also recalled a feud from Dale Earnhardt’s heyday.

Childress doesn’t remember how the late 1980s rivalry between Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine started, but he’s sure of one thing.

“It was one of those deals where whatever he gave that guy, Bodine, he deserved,” Childress said. “It was one of them deals we didn’t want to be run over and they started it. In my opinion, he started it. Once it started, we wasn’t going to be the ones to give up. Mr. France helped us give up.”

“Mr. France” was Bill France, Jr., the president of NASCAR at the time who played a hand in diffusing the rivalry that inspired Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns’ feud in the 1990 film, Days of Thunder.

“A lot of the story part was true,” Childress recalled. “But it didn’t all go down like that. I remember Bill France bringing us in there and telling us, ‘I want to see you guys running and if you have to run on each side of the race track, you’re not going to get together again.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to destroy our sport.'”

There is one detail about the film, which Childress has only seen once, that he took issue with.

“They had some fat guy doing me as the owner (actor Randy Quaid) and I didn’t like that,” Childress said.

Michael Rooker, AKA Rowdy Burns, named pace car driver for Richmond Cup race

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Rowdy Burns is back!

The driver who terrorized Cole Trickle in a stock car, a rental car and a wheel chair is coming to a track near you.

Specifically Richmond Raceway on April 21 for the Toyota Owners 400.

That’s when actor Michael Rooker, who portrayed Burns in the 1990 film Days of Thunder, will serve as the honorary pace car driver for the Cup race at Richmond.

Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) is a native of Jasper, Alabama, located roughly 95 miles west of Talladega.

“I am grateful for the chance to get behind the wheel to lead NASCAR’s best to the green flag at America’s Premier Short Track,” Rooker said in a press release. “As someone who was raised in NASCAR country, I’ve always appreciated fans asking about my portrayal of Rowdy Burns in ‘Days of Thunder’. As I return to Richmond Raceway, I can unequivocally state that I agree with Robert Duvall’s character Harry Hogge in the film that said, ‘rubbin, son, is racin’.”

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NASCAR fits Indy 500 veteran James Davison ‘like a glove’

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All roads lead back to Days of Thunder.

Whether you’re Kyle and Kurt Busch in Las Vegas, Nevada, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. in North Carolina, the 1990 Tom Cruise film had an immeasurable impact on many of today’s NASCAR drivers.

Not even James Davison, growing up in Melbourne, Australia, could escape its reach.

The movie which proclaimed that “rubbin, son, is racin’,” was the first exposure to NASCAR for the 30-year-old driver.

James Davison during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 12, 2017 (Getty Images).

“It was obviously incredible inspiring,” Davison told NBC Sports. “When you think this Cole Trickle character was,an IndyCar driver, came from the Indy ranks over to NASCAR, it’s obviously exactly what I’m doing. … It would be pretty amazing to achieve winning in NASCAR when as a kid it was just a movie. Like a dream that’s never going to happen really in my life. I’d never been to America before and NASCAR’s so huge and the drivers are so famous and all that stuff. Now here I find myself racing NASCAR.”

Davison, who has made three starts in the Indianapolis 500 since 2014, will pilot Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota this weekend when the Xfinity Series travels to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

It will be his third NASCAR start in two years after making his debut last season at Road America in the No. 90 owned by Mario Gosselin.

Unlike Cole Trickle, who got to test the best fictional equipment NASCAR had to offer before getting to race, Davison parachuted into Road America and had a crash course in stock cars with the underfunded team before making his debut.

“I was told straight up we were going to qualify somewhere between 10th and 20th, that’s what the car had,” Davison said. “We were going to be 50 horsepower down. We were going to be lacking compared to all the big, top teams. … These small teams’ budgets are like 20 percent of the big teams. I then had to swallow my pride and do the best I could with what I had.”

On a track he’s won at in Star Mazda and the Pirelli World Challenge, Davison qualified 18th and finished 19th. Three months later, during NASCAR’s race weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he had initial talks with JGR about a potential ride this season.

Now, after finishing fourth at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago, Davison says “NASCAR very much fits me like a glove.”

Davison is a veteran of five IndyCar starts since 2013. One of those was the high-profile substitution of the injured Sebastien Bourdais in last May’s Indy 500.

Though he crashed out of the race on Lap 183, Davison was able to lead two laps. The personal achievement was not lost on Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles, who sent Davison a note about it the next month.

“It hasn’t really sunk in because you’re so caught up in the moment,” Davison said. “To think there’s 10s of millions of people watching and you’re one of 33 in the race and then you’re fortunate enough to find yourself leading it, regardless of how hard you work or how deserving you are and all that stuff, you are privileged.”

But without a major sponsor to back his open-wheel racing aspirations, Davison has “resigned” himself to only driving in the Indy 500 when it comes to IndyCar. Davison now sees stock car racing as the best chance for him to establish himself.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Davison says. “It’s where I want to be.”

Davison got his first taste of what NASCAR could provide him not at Road America last year, but in 2012, in a late-model race in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“That was for sure a culture shock,” Davison said. “I’ve been living in America for 12-and-half years and that was something else. The terminology they use and their accent is very hard to understand on the radio, but a great experience.”

The race came when Davison was living in Charlotte for two months with Nelson Piquet Jr. and “first looking at NASCAR,” but when he had “no profile or sponsorship support” behind him.

“I had no career breaks forthcoming and I literally would drive anything,” Davison said.

Davison would eventually meet the right people. After making two IndyCar starts in 2013, he was the last entry into the 2014 Indy 500, racing for KV Racing Technology.

Now everything that resulted from that race has led to Davison getting his second NASCAR start of the year with the best team in the Xfinity Series. The Australian has spent just over 10 days with JGR over the last month preparing for the races at Mid-Ohio and Road America.

In that time, he’s bonded with his team by exchanging Days of Thunder quotes and getting laughs with his best impression of a southern accent. He’s also had multiple visits to a simulator for a virtual visit to Road America.

“It’s just doing what I need to do to make sure all the prep is done as well as possible and I fit in the car and building some chemistry up with the team,” Davison said.

Confident in his abilities, Davison said he has avoided seeking much advice from other drivers.

“I haven’t leaned on anyone,” Davison said. “I’m very much just (studying) myself, watching onboard videos and chatting with my engineer. I’ve become friendly with some of the other guys, like Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier. Had a good chat with (Sam) Hornish (Jr.). It’s very much every man for them self. … I’ve driven in NASCAR at Road America last year, so I knew what to expect for the most part.”

If he were to visit victory lane on Sunday, there’s little doubt it would be the biggest career achievement for the man who first experienced the thrills of NASCAR through Cole Trickle.

Adding to the occasion: Davison’s No. 20 Toyota will have Trickle’s Mello Yello paint scheme from the climactic Daytona race in Days of Thunder.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. shares story on ‘Days of Thunder’ role his father apparently wouldn’t play

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Portrayed as the “Man in Black” and viewed by many NASCAR fans as the bad guy, there was one role Dale Earnhardt Sr. apparently didn’t want to play.

Rowdy Burns in “Days of Thunder.’’

As Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the story Friday at Daytona International Speedway, he admitted he wasn’t sure it was true.

Earnhardt Jr. reflected upon the movie, which debuted in June 1990, and put NASCAR on a national stage in a way it hadn’t before. Sure, there had been “Stroker Ace’’ in 1983 – Dale Earnhardt Sr. appeared in that movie as himself – but nothing like “Days of Thunder,’’ which featured Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall.

Earnhardt Jr. recalled when members of the “Days of Thunder’’ film crew came to meet with his father.

“Now this is all heresy because nobody was in the room,’’ Earnhardt Jr. said as a preamble to his story, “but dad and I guess the director/producer and (Tom) Cruise. But Tom Cruise comes over to the deerhead shop, (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) hadn’t been built yet. We’re excited. We’re going to meet Tom Cruise. We were giddy. Me and (sister) Kelley.

“(Cruise) comes in and he’s about a foot shorter than I thought he would be. They go into dad’s office and they come out 30 minutes later, and so I guess they’re picking dad’s brain, but the rumor was that they offered dad the role of Rowdy Burns. I don’t know if that was really true or not, but that was kind of the rumor, but dad turned it down because he didn’t want to play the bad guy. Just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true or not.’’

Earnhardt Jr. was asked if he ever talked to his dad about that story.

“I was so young,’’ Earnhardt Jr. said. “You hear the rumor later and I never really did get the chance to figure out if it was true or not. Hard to believe if it was true.

“I thought the movie was fun, great. I was a big Robert Duvall fan because I loved the miniseries “Lonesome Dove” when it came out and he’s just great in anything. I liked him being in it and thought he did an awesome job. I thought it was a fun movie.’’

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