Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 102: The 5 Best & 5 Worst 2024 NASCAR Throwback Schemes

Crank up the ‘ol time travel machine and go back in time with me as we revisit some of the best paint schemes to grace the track.

Oh, wait, we don’t have to, let’s just go to Darlington Raceway this weekend.

Incredibly, one of NASCAR’s newest traditions is already upon its 10th rendition as Darlington hosts throwback weekend once again.

With a grassroots theme on the table this year, several teams opted to go with looks that either its drivers or their icons raced to kickstart their careers, while others went with classics from NASCAR’s past.

This year’s lineup contains some throwbacks that may have an argument for being in the elite tier, while others missed the mark. With that, let’s take a look at the best and worst throwbacks of 2024.

Here’s your best-in-show.

5. Shane van Gisbergen’s No. 97 Chevrolet (Xfinity)

The Kiwi recognizes the Aussie.

Shane van Gisbergen‘s throwback is truly gnarly, as Kaulig Racing throws it back to Marcos Ambrose‘s 2012 Watkins Glen Interntional victory. This scheme is an absolute beauty, and it is perfectly executed. The font is the same, the color pallet matches, and they even added Ambrose’s name on one side of the name rails.

This is the throwback we didn’t know we needed.

4. Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford (Cup)

Let me be honest, I could have easily put any of the Hendrick Motorsports throwbacks in the top five, and one will come soon. But leaving out Brad Keselowski‘s Castrol throwback made me grind my teeth too much.

In a hand-picked scheme by Keselowski, the car pays tribute to the Castrol TOM’s Supra, one of the most identifiable schemes in the Super GT Series in Japan. The curves perfectly emulate that of the Castrol Supra, and the colors come together to make this an absolutely clean scheme.

Castrol delivers again, as this one will be a classic for the ages.

3. Jack Wood’s No. 91 Chevrolet (Trucks)

As my high school history/PE teacher always says, this scheme goes “back to the Dark Ages, eons and eons ago, before anyone had any fun.”

Any time a team goes back to some of the earliest days of NASCAR and nails the scheme, it becomes an instant hit. Such is the case for Jack Wood and McAnally Racing in a throwback to Tim Flock‘s 1952 Hudson Hornet.

Not only was this an amazing choice given the number, but the baby blue and flying font of the No. 91 speaks volumes. To top it off, literally, they used the white roof that was also on Flock’s ride. They also used the Hornet Rocket on the fender, giving this scheme bonus points.

This ride is iconic not just because of Flock’s success in it (he won eight races and the title in 1952), but also because of Jocko Flocko, Flock’s Rhesus monkey co-pilot.

2. Brennan Poole’s No. 44 Chevrolet (Xfinity)

OK, this scheme has been done before, but in this case the number actually matches.

Brennan Poole will channel his inner Kyle Petty at Darlington in a throwback to Petty’s 1997 Hot Wheels Pontiac. If this doesn’t stir up your Matchbox racing days as a kid (or collecting days as an adult), then you may need a pulse check. From using the correct number font to matching the Hot Wheels logos with CW & Sons, this scheme is sure to be a fan favorite.

This makes me want to hop on a Hot Wheels bicycle and tear around the block.

1. Kyle Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet (Cup)

There is only one right answer here.

We finally got it! Kyle Larson will sport the same look that became synonymous with Terry Labonte‘s Kellogg’s Corn Flakes car that he piloted to the 1996 Cup title. The scheme was piloted by Labonte from 1995-1999.

Larson’s 2015 Mello Yello throwback with Chip Ganassi Racing is a popular pick as the best throwback ever, yet this one may have outdone it. In spite of the number being moved forward, HMS eliminated most of the noticeable disparity between it and the original look. With Hendrickcars.com getting in on the fun by changing their font to match that of Kellogg’s, this scheme does not disappoint.

Fans, we can finally breathe … until there’s a push for Tony the Tiger next.

Honorable Mentions

NASCAR Cup Series: William Byron‘s throwback to Jeff Gordon‘s Firestorm look from 2009, Chase Elliott‘s tribute to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 2014 scheme, Alex Bowman‘s throwback to Jimmie Johnson’s car from 2002-2005, Kaz Grala‘s tribute to Parnelli Jones.

NASCAR Xfinity Series: Blaine Perkins honoring Cale Yarborough‘s last ride in NASCAR, Leland Honeyman‘s throwback to Kyle Petty‘s No. 42 Mello Yello car.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series: Taylor Gray sporting the tiger stripes in a throwback to Mark Green‘s Hensley Racing’s car, Stewart Friesen‘s tribute to Johnson’s 2010 Coca-Cola 600 scheme.

That brings us to a look at the bad side.

5. Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 19 Toyota (Cup)

While HMS made an argument to have all four of its cars among the best, Joe Gibbs Racing is on the opposite end of the spectrum, with only two drivers running throwbacks.

Martin Truex Jr.’s throwback re-visits Auto Owners Insurance’s first win in NASCAR, which came with Truex in the 2016 Southern 500. It brings back the “Moody Blue” colors, and actually looks pretty decent. However, it just doesn’t give off throwback vibes and looks like a normal scheme.

In the team’s defense, Truex has not been known to run many cars that count as throwbacks, so this wasn’t necessarily a poor attempt.

4. Corey LaJoie’s No. 7 Chevrolet (Cup)

Corey LaJoie will pay homage to his first career ARCA Menards Series East victory in 2012.

Now, I do appreciate the intent of this. Grassroots is the theme of throwback weekend this year, and this is one of LaJoie’s earliest schemes that got him rolling in NASCAR. However, the colors do not match that of the original on the stripe, number or sponsor, which throws it off a bit.

3. Daniel Hemric’s No. 31 Chevrolet (Cup)

As far as the Cup side goes, Kaulig Racing has never been one to go full throttle on the throwbacks. Once again, that is the case this year.

There are very few occurrences when a throwback done in celebration of a sponsor’s anniversary actually looks like a throwback. Such is the case here. Black’s Tire Service is coming aboard Hemric’s No. 31 to celebrate its 95th anniversary. According to the team’s press release, it sports throwback colors and logos.

Now, let me say that this is one beautiful scheme. Labeling it as a throwback? That doesn’t help in a year where there are a lot of good tributes.

2. Matt Crafton’s No. 88 Ford (Trucks)

Here’s another sponsor-related “throwback,” and honestly, there’s a question of whether we are being teased.

ThorSport Racing will honor a partnership with Menards that has lasted over 20 years with a scheme that … is the exact same look that they currently run.

1. Christopher Bell’s No. 20 Toyota (Cup)

A theme was clearly established across these schemes with sponsor-related schemes missing the mark on this list. But what happens when you not only avoid any throwback design but also avoid using a sponsor’s old logo?

That equals the unfortunate “honor” of having the worst throwback on the list, which goes to Christopher Bell’s DeWalt scheme this year. The scheme reflects on the 100th anniversary of DeWalt.

Between all of the Matt Kenseth DeWalt schemes, or even Ambrose for that matter, there were so many other routes they could have taken. And even if they wanted to have a sponsor-related scheme, there were plenty of vintage logo options they could have used. So JGR and DeWalt, as AEW and former WWE star Chris Jericho used to say, “You just made the list.”

Which schemes do you think are best-in-show or missed the mark? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

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