Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: NASCAR Throwing It Back, 1990s Style

NASCAR feels like the 1990s again!

Well, kind of.

I’m a 1990s kid (born in 1996, sorry for making you feel old) but grew up in the 2000s. I started watching NASCAR in the early 2000s and with its popularity growing, so did I. Twill driver jackets, T-shirts, hats, the whole nine yards: that era was when NASCAR apparel really took off.

As the sport went mainstream, so did its apparel. Athletes, entertainers and public figures weren’t only attending races from time to time; they were repping the “brand” on their own time.

I remember in high school wearing NASCAR apparel almost every single day. Then, one day, I saw someone wearing a twill jacket. And then another person. And another…

Did they have any idea who the driver they were wearing was? Hell no. But it was cool. NASCAR was cool.

I don’t want this article to come off as the stereotypical 22-year-old kid telling you NASCAR needs to become cool again. For me, well, it already is, and if you don’t think it is, it doesn’t have to be.

It’s never going to get back to where it was in the early-to-mid 2000s with packed grandstands, high viewership, sponsors flocking in with boatloads of cash. But that doesn’t mean those influencers (there I go with my millennial jargon, I’m sorry) can’t get back in on the action…

Last summer, MC Hammer showed up at Sonoma Raceway and clearly liked what he saw.

A month later, out of the blue, he was repping (of all people) Matt DiBenedetto!

The randomness of MC Hammer, DiBurrito and NASCAR are about as crazy as it gets. But wait, I’ll top it for you.

Yeah, that’s Hailey Baldwin, Justin Bieber’s fiance, sporting a freakin’ Sterling Marlin Coors Light jacket! Like, what?! I can’t even begin to describe how random this phenomenon is.

But don’t you see? It’s a pattern. Maybe, to the mainstream, NASCAR is cool again? Who knows.

Ryan Blaney (when he’s not in his white shirt and black pants for Team Penske) can probably be seen wearing a throwback something. Shirt, hat, facial hair, whatever it is, Blaney probably has it.

“The sport was built on good racers,” Blaney said in a 2017 interview with Frontstretch. “The throwback style has made me want to be more of a throwback […] I did a lot before I even got to the Wood Brothers. But once I got with them, I stepped it up a notch. I like having the mullet look, old hats and T-shirts and trying to be the way it used to be. Personally, that’s my favorite time in the sport in the 1970s and 1980s when it used to be a lot different.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s joined the trend, too. Heck, he even wore a vintage T-shirt in the NBC broadcast booth!

Vintage items are also becoming a thing on eBay. Go ahead, search “vintage NASCAR apparel” and enjoy the next two hours of your life surfing, finding these gems you never knew existed. I mean, honestly, who wants a bottle of Mane ‘N Tail shampoo with Derrike Cope’s face on it.

Oops, I mean who wouldn’t want a bottle of Mane ‘N Tail shampoo with Derrike Cope’s face on it!

Of course, Darlington Raceway’s annual Throwback Weekend has been celebrating different eras of NASCAR’s colorful, historic and storied past. As a fan who began watching in the 2000s, I absolutely love seeing old paint schemes and hearing old stories about what made them famous.

The personalities that went along with them, the way the cars raced, the way the times were. It all takes me back to a place I literally never was. And that’s great.

In today’s 2019 world, it’s all about the breaking news, hot take, what’s trendy explained as fast as possible. But every now and then, it’s nice to slow down for a second and appreciate the past for what it’s worth.

Like I mentioned, you’d be surprised at how much stuff there really is out there.

“The hunt of finding the cool throwback shirt or hat to me is unbelievable,” Blaney said. “That’s the most fun to me. You can get to know people, find these cool things, and ask how much they want for it, whether or not they’re going to sell it or not, that’s some of the most fun to me.”

Whether that’s reminiscing while watching an old race or sporting an old T-shirt or hat, I think that’s pretty damn cool.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

What is a mc hammer ! And who in NASCAR cares.

Bill B

MC Hammer is still a thing? Can’t touch that.

Just a note on coolness. From what I’ve seen through the years something that makes it to the mainstream is never cool. It’s only cool up to the point where everyone is wearing one. Once it reaches the mainstream it turns from “cool” to “fad” and those who are cool quickly move onto something else. Eventually the whole thing collapses like a house of cards.

With that in mind you never can say that NASCAR won’t reach that “early 2000’s” mainstream level again. It could, but when it does it will implode again. I think you can see this recurring peak and valley dynamic in the world of wresting (to which, incidentally, NASCAR is often compared). I have seen it rise and fall in popularity several times over the years…. this is based solely on what I see bubble up into the mainstream (think Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin) because I’ve never been a fan.

David Edwards

Very rarely do I see anybody sporting any kind of nascar apparel, maybe a cap every once in a while, even those are becoming scarcer.

bud sudz

I attended the ROVAL race last year after an 8-year hiatus from going to races (I used to go to 7-8 a year for 20 years). The tailgating was still there. What was missing was the decoration of the cars. The flags, stickers and license plates of yesteryear were absentee on today’s cars. So were the impromptu messages scribbled on car windows. Totally different times today.

Bill B

Hmmm, sounds like the difference between casual fans and die-hard fans. Add to that there are way less fans at the track now and there you have it. Seeing a fully adorned NASCAR fan is like seeing a unicorn (well, maybe not that rare).

Share via