BY AARON BURNS, @AaronClayBurns
Remember the first time you saw your favorite paint scheme? There was this feeling of “Wow!”
NASCAR found a way to replicate that feeling. This weekend’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway marks the seventh year of NASCAR’s official throwback weekend, honoring legendary cars, people and sponsors.
I covered the first throwback race -- the 2015 Southern 500 -- and smiled from ear to ear when I saw a familiar sight in the garage: a No. 42 Mello Yello car, painted to match Kyle Petty’s machine from the 1990s.
The best throwbacks have the same sponsor as the original. It’s not even my opinion. It’s a fact.
Racing fans have a passion for history which is matched only by baseball fans, and even that’s a stretch. With respect to Erik Jones’ No. 43 STP Chevrolet, a nod to John Andretti’s 1999 ride -- and the best throwback of 2021 -- you need a list of the best throwbacks to this point.
I’m a list guy. So, without further ado, here are three of my favorite throwback paint schemes not including this year’s:
Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Miller Genuine Draft Ford, 2017: “Midnight” was the nickname of Rusty Wallace’s most successful black-and-gold car from the 1990s. Keselowski enjoys racing history as much or more than his fellow active drivers, and this car was a pure symbol of badassery. Too bad it finished 15th. It won the beauty contest.
Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 STP Chevrolet, 2018: This one was a surprise. Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty unveiled a Petty blue-colored STP car, sans its famous DayGlo red, before the race. Wallace practiced and qualified the car and unexpectedly, on race day, Wallace’s ride was enhanced with enough DayGlo red to perfectly match the scheme pioneered by “The King” in 1972. Wallace’s car, in addition to its striking design, harkened back to when Petty and STP boss Andy Granatelli clashed over the No. 43’s color scheme. Granatelli wanted red. Petty wanted blue. We’re all better off for their ability to compromise.
"You can probably make a short movie out of what happened between the beginning of 1972 up to the Daytona 500 around this sponsorship," Wallace said when the car was unveiled. "It's amazing to think that 'The King' would potentially walk away from such a big sponsorship over the color, but looking at how things worked out, it's now the sport's most iconic scheme."
It’s one of the best throwbacks, too -- matched only by a certain Mello Yello masterpiece.