Ernie Irvan

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Sonoma could be great opportunity for Cup drivers without wins

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Who is ready for another first-time winner this season in the Cup Series?

A poll taken of the Cup garage would probably bring back everyone but the six drivers who have hogged Victory Lane through the first 15 races of the season.

Divided among just three teams – Joe Gibbs Racing (nine wins), Team Penske (five) and Hendrick Motorsports (one) – variety among teams has not been in the cards so far.

Enter Sonoma Raceway.

NASCAR makes its first trip to a road course this season with the California circuit, which has been reconfigured for its 50th anniversary with the re-introduction of “The Carousel.”

Sonoma may be a prime opportunity for a winless driver to break through to Victory Lane, according to history.

In 12 of the last 16 seasons, dating back to 2002, the driver who visited victory lane in Sonoma was doing so for the first time that year.

Before 2002, it was done only four times in the track’s first 13 years of holding Cup races, with all four occurring before 1998, when the Cup Series stopped running on the “Carousel.”

Drivers in the field this year who will try to repeat history are Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer.

Harvick holds the distinction of being the most recent driver to get his first win of the season at Sonoma. He pulled it off in 2017.

Should he repeat the feat, it would be his first win since November’s Texas playoff race (17 races) and be Stewart-Haas Racing’s first of the year. He’d also join Ricky Rudd (1989, 2002) as the only drivers to achieve that twice.

Drivers who earned first win of the year at Sonoma

Event Date    Race Winner
6/25/2017    Kevin Harvick
6/26/2016    Tony Stewart (only win that year)
6/28/2015    Kyle Busch
6/23/2013    Martin Truex Jr. (only win)
6/24/2012    Clint Bowyer
6/26/2011    Kurt Busch
6/21/2009    Kasey Kahne
6/24/2007    Juan Pablo Montoya (only win)
6/25/2006    Jeff Gordon
6/26/2005    Tony Stewart
6/22/2003    Robby Gordon
6/23/2002    Ricky Rudd (only win)
5/4/1997    Mark Martin
5/16/1993    Geoff Bodine (only win)
6/7/1992    Ernie Irvan
6/11/1989    Ricky Rudd (only win)

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s greatest Bristol wins

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Bristol Motor Speedway has been on the NASCAR schedule since 1961 and for the first 18 years, no one managed to record their first NASCAR Cup win there. Until Dale Earnhardt Sr. came along.

On April 1, Earnhardt started ninth and drove through the field to take the lead for the first time on lap 139. He would lead the pack twice more, including the final 27 laps en route to victory.

Before his career was over, Earnhardt would win nine times on this bullring and forever etch his name in the track’s history.

“Bristol is a driver’s track,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “If I had to pick where dad would win his first race, it would be a short track.”

“I was there,” Kyle Petty said. “And I remember this, because this was a big moment. … I had started racing when Ricky Rudd came along, when your dad came along, when these younger drivers came along … This was a new breed of driver.”

Earnhardt’s ninth and final win came in 1999 and it’s one that will forever be part of Bristol’s highlight reel.

Terry Labonte took the lead from Earnhardt on the white flag lap, but was not able to get away from the No. 3. Coming off Turn 2, Earnhardt bumped Labonte and spun him out, saying later that he didn’t intend to wreck him, but only “rattle his cage.”

“That was a weird deal, because dad never got booed,” Earnhardt said. “But that night, he got booed. He got out of the car and the fans were really split down the middle. They were either cheering or booing. There was nobody sitting there silent. … And I could tell, in his eyes, that it made him a little uncomfortable. He wasn’t quite comfortable with being booed and what he did to Terry.”

Labonte joins Earnhardt on the Dale Jr. Download today on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m. ET to discuss the 1999 race.

Rusty Wallace (1986), Ernie Irvan (1990), Elliott Sadler (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002) would join Earnhardt in getting their first Cup win at Bristol.

For more, watch the video above.

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Kyle Busch pays tribute to Ernie Irvan with throwback scheme

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Kyle Busch revealed Wednesday on Twitter the paint scheme he will have on his car for the Sept. 2 Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Busch will pay tribute to Ernie Irvan and the original Skittles rainbow paint scheme Irvan drove in the 1990s. Irvan made his Cup debut in 1987 and raced through 1999. He suffered a brain injury in a crash at Michigan in 1994. He returned in 1995 and ran the full season in 1996. His career ended in 1999 after a crash at Michigan left him with a mild head injury. He announced his retirement two weeks later.

Irvan finished with 15 Cup victories, including the 1991 Daytona 500.

Ernie Irvan’s son to run K&N East race with throwback scheme his dad drove

Photo: Martin-McClure Racing
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Jared Irvan, the 19-year-old son of former Cup driver Ernie Irvan, will drive a throwback K&N East Pro Series car that honors his father July 8 at Thompson Speedway for Martin-McClure Racing, the team announced Tuesday.

The K&N East Pro Series is returning to the Connecticut track for the first time since 2009 to run the NASCAR Busch North Throwback 100.

Jared Irvan will be making his second career series start. His previous start came in 2015. Ernie Irvan drove for Morgan-McClure Racing from 1990-93, winning seven races, including the 1991 Daytona 500.

Jared Irvan’s car will be a bright yellow No. 4, mirroring the Kodak car Ernie Irvan drove for Morgan-McClure Racing.

“This is an exciting day,” Ernie Irvan said at the Martin-McClure Racing shop, which is in the former home of Morgan-McClure Racing in Abingdon, Virginia. “It’s kind of like being at a family reunion, knowing the history of Morgan-McClure Racing.”

Said Jared Irvan: “It’s really cool to be able to drive a car that has this much history behind it. I’m just happy to be here and be able to drive it. Hopefully will be able to put it in victory lane.”

 

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McFadin: Retro paint schemes we want in the Southern 500

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Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

The second throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway has come and gone. Unlike 2015, the Southern 500 actually ended with retro paint scheme in victory lane. Martin Truex Jr. won with a tribute to his sponsor’s 100th anniversary, while Kevin Harvick and his throwback to Cale Yarborough in the early 1980s finished second.

But just like the day after Christmas, we’re not entirely sure what do with ourselves now.

I’ll make do by sharing what retro paint schemes I hope to see at the track “Too Tough to Tame” when Labor Day rolls around again in future seasons.

31 Aug 1997: Jeff Burton performs during the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones /Allsport

Jeff Burton‘s Exide schemeMark Martin has had four paint schemes honoring him during the last two Darlington weekends. It’s time Martin’s teammate of nine seasons, Burton, got an acknowledgement. There’s no better way to do that than for Roush Fenway Racing to resurrect the No. 99 in 2017 and bring out this paint scheme for the Southern 500, which Burton won in 1999. Burton first drove the purple and black car in his first season with Roush in 1997. I’m a little attached to this scheme. Burton won his first Sprint Cup race in the 1997 Interstate Batteries 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, which was the first NASCAR race I attended. Burton won three times in 1997 and would take Exide to victory lane 14 times.

 

1 Jun 1997: Ted Musgrave performs during the Miller 500 at the Dover Downs International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones /Allsport

Ted Musgrave’s Family Channel scheme – It took until researching for this article for me to realize Musgrave also drove for Roush (1994-98). For his first three seasons with Roush, Musgrave’s No. 16 Ford was draped in the colorful tones associated with the Family Channel. Musgrave never won in the Sprint Cup Series in 305 starts, but success isn’t a qualifier for the throwback paint schemes at Darlington. Last weekend, Landon Cassill‘s No. 38 car honored J.D. McDuffie, who holds the record for most Sprint Cup starts (653) without a win.

 

13 Feb 1998: Ernie Irvan in action during the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway at Daytona Beach, Florida. Mandatory Credit: David Taylor /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: David Taylor /Allsport

The “other” Rainbow car –  Kyle Busch was not the first driver to “Taste the Rainbow.” Nelson Bowers fielded this car with Derrike Cope in 1997 and Ernie Irvan in 1998 (Rickey Craven drove in the final three races). Cope’s best performance in the Skittles car was fifth in the season finale at Atlanta. Irvan’s best result was finishing sixth five times, including in the Southern 500. I still own a diecast from Cope’s season in the car.

 

 

 

 

16 Feb 1997: Ricky Craven performs during the NASCAR Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Ricky Craven drives in the 1997 Daytona 500. (Getty Images)

Bud…Weis….er – Sure, Anheuser-Busch switched the beer they market in NASCAR from Budweiser to Busch this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t go back for one race. Variations on this scheme were driven by Ricky Craven, Ken Schrader, Bill Elliott and probably a few others drivers. Elliott won six times in the Bud car while driving for Junior Johnson, including the 1994 Southern 500. That was Johnson’s last Sprint Cup victory as a team owner. Three years later, Craven earned four top fives with Budweiser while driving for Hendrick Motorsports, including a top-three sweep in the Daytona 500.

 

 

DAYTONA BEACH, FL — February 14, 1988: Bobby Allison on his way to winning the Daytona 500 NASCAR Cup race at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by ISC Images &; Archives)
Bobby Allison on his way to winning the Daytona 500. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives)

Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life – Bobby Allison won the Daytona 500 three times, the final one coming in 1998 with his son, Davey Allison finishing right behind him. The win would be Bobby Allison’s 84th and final Sprint Cup victory. This gold and white scheme would stand out in a field, and if NASCAR ever got it into their heads to bring back a body style, the 1988 Buick would not be a bad place to start. It just looks plain mean.

 

 

Which paint schemes from yesteryear do you hope to see in the future?