Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: Darlington’s Movie-Themed Throwback Schemes

Another year, another couple of movie-themed (or movie-adjacent) throwback schemes hitting the track!

I’m always a sucker for throwback weekend. Even if we’re getting the Skoal Bandit for what feels like the 15th time, or a previous champion is throwing back to his own race-winning fauxback this time around (sorry, Martin Truex Jr.), it’s fun to see what obscure schemes make it onto the track.

For this week, I figured we could dive into the baker’s dozen of movie-inspired paint schemes that have hit the track for the special weekend. Always love when this event rolls around — I’ve got an old Wood Brothers Racing locked and loaded for when my coworkers and I head to a local concert series this week. I also trekked down to Darlington Raceway back in 2022 to cover throwback weekend and it was a blast. It’s one of my favorite things NASCAR does every year.

That all said, there have been some solid entries unveiled this year — Kyle Larson‘s Terry Labonte homage, Sheldon Creed and John Hunter Nemechek‘s retro Toyota schemes, Cole Custer‘s orange Yellow (see what I did there?) imitation and Layne Riggs‘ familial tribute are some of my favorites this go-around.

See also
Here Are the 2024 Throwback Paint Schemes

But two stand out. More on those towards the end.

Movie-inspired throwbacks began in 2017, when Cody Ware ran a No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing influenced by — what else — Cole Trickle’s Mello Yello scheme. The hood and side sponsorships had “Pray for Texas” emblazoned on them in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastating landfall in the Lone Star State.

RWR continued cornering the movie throwback market by tacking on another Days of Thunder scheme, this time emulating Russ Wheeler’s No. 18 Hardee’s car from the movie on BJ McLeod‘s Chevrolet. To date, it’s still one of the best in this subgenre of schemes, even if Tyler Ankrum just upstaged it this year.

A year later, 2019 really kickstarted the movement, as William Byron ran the long-awaited City Chevrolet scheme Cole Trickle’s car famously sports in the movie. It’s my personal favorite scheme from the film and one I never get tired of seeing, and even better that they got City back on the car.

This wasn’t the first time this had been replicated, as Kurt Busch did — and nearly won in it — at Daytona International Speedway in 2013.

Also in 2019, McLeod became the first two-time runner of a movie throwback when he adopted a Stroker Ace-esque livery in the No. 51. RWR still leads the field at this point in film homages, even if that movie really, really hasn’t aged well.

Did we get four of the five schemes made famous by Days of Thunder in the first three years of throwback weekend? Hell yeah, we did. And yet we still haven’t had a pink-and-white Cole Trickle SuperFlo scheme.

Jeremy Clements sported the best to this point: the right colors, right scheme, right number and close to the right sponsor. RepairableVehicles’ simple font allowed it to emulate the No. 51 Exxon car close enough. The only gripe I have is that the numbers aren’t leaning forward.

The first non-racing-media scheme is also the first non-movie inspiration, in Kyle Weatherman‘s Andy Griffith Show-themed car for 2020. David Ragan apparently owns one of the original cop cars used in the show, and it was kind of neat to see that translated onto an Xfinity Series scheme. Didn’t look perfect, but close enough (and a classic show, at that).

As someone who still hasn’t seen Six Pack (I know, I know), Ty Majeski‘s is actually one I forgot about until combing through our archived articles running down each year’s throwback slates.

From Google Image searches, though, looks like they did a solid job!

Getting away from racing movies again, but staying on the film side this time, Joe Graf Jr. ran this neat Back to the Future-inspired paint job in 2021.

That same year, Ankrum piloted this Ricky Bobby and Talladega Nights-influenced car. Sorry, Joe, but Tyler wins in a landslide. Sponsor LiUNA! even recreated the blue, red and yellow bubbles from the Wonder Bread logo.

2022 ended up only having one. Brennan Poole and G2G Racing adopted the Cole Trickle City Chevrolet scheme, though the colors were inverted and the yellow swapped out in favor of purple. Not sure why, necessarily — look at Blaine Perkins’ throwback behind him, it looks great! — but at least they did the number font correctly.

I say again: someone do the SuperFlo scheme.

Last year, the only example was with Matt Mills, who did a sort of hybrid movies-and-TV throwback with a Love Bug tribute to Herbie’s role in media. A) this is better than either car Scott Riggs or Dale Jarrett ran to promote the movie back in 2005, and B) this is one of the best on this list, period. Five stars (and a bonus star for the retro Matt Mills logo in the upper right-hand corner).

Drumroll, please…

This year, we get TWO! At least, we get two at minimum — there’s still a few to be unveiled. Ryan Ellis pilots an Xfinity scheme once again reminiscent of Cole Trickle’s City Chevrolet car. The number font is pretty close, so it gets points there, and it looks GOOD. Again, best scheme from the movie.

I love that LiUNA! is open to having fun with these. First they were on board with Ankrum for a Ricky Bobby homage, and now he sticks the landing with this Russ Wheeler scheme. I feel like the design could’ve been slightly tweaked to better center the No. 18 in the blue slants, but otherwise it’s the correct number and looks phenomenal.

So, if you’re keeping score, Darlington movie throwbacks stack up like this:

  • 7 Days of Thunder throwback schemes
  • 1 Talladega Nights throwback
  • 1 Stroker Ace throwback
  • 1 Six Pack throwback
  • 1 Herbie throwback
  • 2 non-racing-movie throwbacks
  • McLeod and Ankrum tied for most ran for a single driver (two each)
  • RWR tops the list of teams with most overall (three)

This is added onto the three Days of Thunder (Kurt Busch, James Davison and Davison again), three Talladega Nights (Kurt again, and then Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece last year) and two Stroker Ace (Corey LaJoie and Justin Haley) that have shown up over the last 11 years.

In terms of faithfulness, I’d say Clements, Ankrum’s Talladega Nights and Ware get the nods for most like the original — particularly Clements and Ankrum, since the green on Ware’s car wasn’t as vibrant as it should’ve been.

Here’s how I rank them, sans the two non-racing-movie entries. Reply with your own or point out any I missed specific to Darlington.

  1. Ankrum 2021
  2. Byron 2019
  3. Clements 2019
  4. Ankrum 2024
  5. Mills 2023
  6. Ellis 2024
  7. McLeod 2018
  8. Ware 2017
  9. Majeski 2020
  10. McLeod 2019
  11. Poole 2022

I, for one, can’t wait to see the No. 18 truck and No. 43 Xfinity machine hit the track this weekend … but someone, please, do a throwback to this car.

Follow @adamncheek

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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No T Rex car?

Deacon Blues

Really enjoyed this, Adam, thanks! I agree with your rankings!

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