Race Weekend Central

The Cool-Down Lap: NASCAR Retro Paint Schemes We Need to See

In last week’s installment of The Cool-Down Lap, I opined that today’s lack of iconic paint schemes and driver/sponsor combinations are one of the underlying problems that today’s old-school fans have with NASCAR. And with so many good memories synonymous with iconic paint schemes, simply looking them up on YouTube or rolling a diecast back and forth on a desk does not conjure up old times like seeing the cars actually racing would.

So with the Legends Race having taken place at Bristol the last two years with a similar premise, why couldn’t some of today’s cars change their colors around, if not only for one weekend, like the All-Star Race?

In my vision, the primary sponsors of the entries would not even have to relinquish their coveted car space. They could simply let the color schemes of the cars change, amending their font to conform to the retro look. The downside, of course, is they would have to sacrifice their brand identity for this gimmick, but the extra exposure for said racecar could arguably balance out that negative.

What old-school schemes do I think we’re missing? Here are some ideas:

No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/McDonald’s Chevy to No. 1 Pennzoil colors: Steve Park’s yellow and black DEI No. 1 Chevy (1998-2003) was one of the more noticeable cars in NASCAR in its heyday despite limited success. Seeing Bass Pro Shops or McDonald’s reverse their colors and make room for the big, red No. 1 on the doors and roof is not far-fetched. Thinking of Jamie McMurray changing his oil is.

Alternate: No. 1 burgundy Hawaiian Tropic colors of Donnie Allison (think 1979 Daytona 500). McMurray with a fruit punch mustache is not hard to imagine.

No. 2 blue Miller Lite Dodge to No. 2 black Miller: Miller has been with Penske Racing in NASCAR for nearly 20 years, and Rusty Wallace drove a black Miller Lite No. 2 Ford with orange-yellow letters and numbering for much of that time (1991-97). This throwback scheme has been done before and could work again with Kurt Busch behind the wheel at both drivers’ favorite track: Bristol.

No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevy to No. 5 Levi Garrett: The iconic Kellogg’s No. 5 scheme is not an option, as the company just bolted from Mark Martin’s team for Carl Edwards and the No. 99. Instead, let’s go back to the ‘80s and Rick Hendrick’s first driver, Geoff Bodine. Bodine ran and won in the yellow and white Levi Garrett scheme for several years, including the 1986 Daytona 500. And with GoDaddy.com unlikely to budge from its very noticeable design, the Garrett colors could run on one of the No. 5’s HendrickCars.com or CARQUEST-sponsored races.

No. 6 UPS Ford to No. 6 Valvoline: Several possibilities here: UPS could go with a Memorial Day/July 4th USA red, white and blue scheme similar to the old Valvoline one, including a re-stylized No. 6 that is either the thin, slanted six from the early ’90s or the wispy, electric six from the late ’90s. Valvoline could also actually be the primary sponsor for David Ragan for this promotion (it’s currently running with the No. 17 of Matt Kenseth for three events). UPS, though, is not likely to decrease its branding that way.

Alternate: The No. 6 UPS Ford with one of the older Dale Jarrett paint schemes with a white background.

No. 7 Robby Gordon/BAM Racing Toyota to No. 7 Hooters: Alan Kulwicki’s tenure in NASCAR was tragically short, but his No. 7 Hooters Ford and its 1992 Winston Cup championship sticks out as one of the most recognizable entries in NASCAR lore. Even if the Hooters name were not to appear on Robby Gordon’s car, surely that often blank ride could splash some white and orange decals on it, right? And if Hooters did want to appear for a race, imagining Gordon with wings and the lovely girls is about as hard as picturing Tony Stewart eating a whole meat lover’s pizza.

No. 11 FedEx Toyota to No. 11 Holly Farms Chicken: The Budweiser and Busch Beer No. 11 Junior Johnson Chevys have been seen in many highlight reels over the years, but Joe Gibbs Racing’s no-beer-on-the-car commitment would likely put a hold on bringing back those schemes.

Holly Farms’ orange creamsicle design should work well for FedEx and Denny Hamlin should not balk at this idea if he wants to supplant four-time defending champ Jimmie Johnson from atop the Sprint Cup mountain. This scheme is the one that Cale Yarborough won his championships in – and he was the last driver to win three in a row before Johnson (1976-78).

No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge to No. 12 Miller High Life: This one may be the easiest to get done, with Verizon seemingly looking for a way out of having to sponsor the No. 12 without actually putting its name on the hood (which is preposterous… thanks, Sprint!). Since Miller is already a Penske sponsor, seeing the old gold and white scheme made famous by Bobby Allison and his 1988 Daytona 500 win seems very feasible. And Brad Keselowski knows how to live the high life; Carl Edwards showed him how at Atlanta Motor Speedway (ZING!).

No. 17 Crown Royal Ford to No. 17 Tide: As mentioned last week, the No. 17 DeWalt scheme with Kenseth is iconic enough, but the Tide Ride (no matter what team and driver the sponsor appeared with) still sticks out as one of the most memorable in history. Crown Royal could doctor the colors to orange and yellow, and the No. 17 easily could be changed to white. I can already hear DW yelling about it for an entire race. After all, he won the 1989 Daytona 500 behind the wheel of those very colors.

No. 18 M&Ms Toyota to No. 18 classic Interstate Batteries: Kyle Busch and JGR already run Interstate Batteries and its familiar green scheme in several races every year, but seeing the older, plainer scheme would be a treat. It would not only galvanize memories of Bobby Labonte’s championship in 2000 (if the retro scheme was all-green) but also Jarrett’s underdog Daytona 500 win in 1993 (if the doors were painted black).

No. 21 Motorcraft Ford to old No. 21 Motorcraft/Purolator Ford: The Wood Brothers already changed their No. 21 back to the original font they had on their car for so many years and even ran the red hood with white doors paint scheme a bunch with Ricky Rudd a few years ago. But to make things really interesting, the Wood Brothers should run driver Bill Elliott’s very famous Coors paint job from the ‘80s. This would look better on the No. 9, but Budweiser and Kasey Kahne may have a problem with the logos. Just a guess.

No. 24 DuPont Chevy to No. 24 DuPont Rainbow Warriors: Hendrick Motorsports has gone to Jeff Gordon’s throwback scheme before, but the black No. 24 DuPont appearance he has now couldn’t be further from the original that debuted in Nov. 1992. Who knows, maybe the old rainbow-colored hood can bring Gordon back some of his winning mojo from the 1990s.

No. 26 Latitude 43 Motorsports Ford to No. 26 Pop Secret: Neither Latitude 43 nor Johnny Benson’s tenure in the No. 26 Pop Secret Roush Racing Ford are considered successful or iconic, but that yellow and blue Pop Secret car of Benson’s stuck out when it was on TV in the mid-1990s. Even without Pop secret’s name, Latitude 43 has nothing to lose and likely can only gain some exposure by painting up David Stremme’s (or whoever may drive it later this year) car with this easy-to-notice scheme.

No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevy to No. 29 Cartoon Network: Though the car languished in the back of the field more often than not, the Cartoon Network No. 29 of the former Diamond Bechtel Racing team is one of the most unique in NASCAR history, as it often was splashed with Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters.

Getting Shell to agree to change its scheme should be a cinch. The design could include “Shell” and “Pennzoil” in the black boxes and some sort of “cartoonized” Shell emblem (or even better, an angry Harvick face) on the hood. And the No. 29 would need to be stylized in cartoon fashion, just like the Cartoon Network car had back in the ‘90s.

No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy to No. 31 Lowe’s colors: You may have heard that Lowe’s bolted from Richard Childress Racing after the 2001 season in favor of a young, unknown kid named Johnson… where they remain today. Caterpillar could make this retro race interesting, though, by switching its background color on the paint scheme to dark blue, with yellow, white and red trim – a la Mike Skinner’s colors in the No. 31 RCR Chevy in the late ‘90s through 2001.

The way you could tell that Jeff Burton and not Skinner was driving, of course, would be because Burton would actually not wreck the car.

No. 33 Cheerios Chevy to No. 33 Goodwrench: Yes, Dale Earnhardt may have driven the No. 3 and, yes, GM is likely not financially ready to bring the Goodwrench brand back to a racecar, but wouldn’t this be neat? Clint Bowyer does not exactly embody the Intimidator’s image, but many miss that paint scheme.

If Goodwrench cannot get on the quarterpanels, we could see a black Cheerios deal, a Bass Pro Shops look (a la Austin Dillon, Richard Childress’s grandson, in the Truck Series), a Team Realtree scheme or just a black paint job with the RCR emblem emblazoned upon it.

No. 42 Target Chevy to No. 42 Mello Yello: The Mello Yello drink may not be as popular as it once was, but Kyle Petty’s tenure in the No. 42 car for Felix Sabates made for one of the more potent driver-sponsor duos of the early ‘90s. Juan Pablo Montoya and Target could easily adjust to the black background and green, red and yellow accents. An alternate Target scheme or maybe a cross-promotion with similarly-colored Guitar Hero – which had a presence on the Earnhardt Ganassi cars last season – would make this retro look possible.

No. 99 Aflac Ford to No. 99 Exide Batteries: Jeff Burton’s original scheme when he moved over to Roush in the 1990s would be a wonderful throwback – and another feasible crossover could occur here. Aflac has not been shy about trying to sell inventory it has purchased as part of its lucrative sponsorship package on the No. 99 Ford with Edwards, given the state of the economy.

So if Exide were willing to buy one of their races, this deal would be a cinch. If not, Aflac and Exide’s colors are not too far apart, so the “Duck Car” could easily turn into the “Battery-Mobile.” Burton’s best NASCAR days were in these colors, so maybe they could spark Edwards out of his one year-plus winless streak.

These are but a few of the many possibilities that could arise if teams decided to go retro. Feel free to post your own paint scheme ideas in the comments section below!

Listen to Doug weekly on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury Speedshop racing show with host Captain Herb Emory each Saturday, from 12-1 p.m., on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and on wsbradio.com. Doug also hosts the “Chase Elliott Podcast” and the “Bill Elliott Racing Podcast” on ChaseElliott.com and BillElliott.com.

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About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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