Race Weekend Central

Only Yesterday: The Man in … Silver?

With the Darlington Raceway throwback craze several years old now, unique paint schemes are more of an expectation than an anomaly.

Darlington may be the current livery showcase, but it wasn’t always that way.

Not so terribly long ago, nearly every NASCAR Cup Series team had a single primary sponsor on the hood for the entire year. Which meant that the car looked the same every race, occasionally for multiple consecutive seasons.

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It made sense at the time, as cars were actually painted and decals were applied on top of it rather than the cars being wrapped in vinyl. This made constant changes in design an impractical use of time and money.

Meanwhile, the All-Star Race, which debuted in 1985 as The Winston, took on an aura all of its own within a relatively short period of time. A combination of unique attributes and epic moments really helped the event become a marquee attraction. From Darrell Waltrip‘s engine expiring 100 yards after he took the checkered flag in the inaugural running to Dale Earnhardt leaving tire tracks in the infield grass while holding the lead, the All-Star Race was must-see racing.

Other things helped set the race apart, such as the ability for non-eligible drivers to earn a spot by winning an open race run prior to the main event or it being the first Cup superspeedway race to be held at night (1.5-mile tracks used to be considered superspeedways). Then there’s the inclusion of multiple segments, a precursor to today’s stages.

But in 1995, something else happened that set the All-Star Race apart in a different way.

Earnhardt had driven a black Goodwrench Chevrolet every week since the beginning of the 1988 season. When the No. 3 team rolled his car from the hauler on that May day in 1995, it stunned nearly everyone. The car was silver with orange lettering and numbers, commemorating series sponsor Winston and its 25 years of supporting NASCAR.

It’s hard to describe how earth-shattering this was at the time. Still more impressive was that somehow the team had kept it a secret beforehand, a nearly impossible feat then just as it is now.

Danny “Chocolate” Myers, who was the gas man on the Goodwrench pit crew at the time, said years later that even many team members didn’t know what the car would look like for the race.

“We were ready to go run the All-Star Race, or back then the Winston Select,” Myers said. “We got this car ready to go to the racetrack, and it wasn’t painted yet. It was in primer gray.”

“We finished the car, 100% ready to go, and right before painting, they told us to go home, so we all left,” he said. “They rolled the car into the body shop and painted it that night.”

“The first time we saw this car, we were at the racetrack. We unloaded the car, and it was silver.”

Unfortunately, the car didn’t look quite as good after the race as it did prior to it. Earnhardt crashed while battling with Waltrip with just 10 laps remaining. But the precedent had been set.

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The scheme had another unexpected effect, as diecasts of the design suddenly became the most sought-after on the market. Race fans were paying astronomical sums to get their hands on a scaled-down replica of the car that came to be known as “Quicksilver.”

The following year, Earnhardt came to the All-Star weekend with an ultra-patriotic red, white and blue livery, celebrating that summer’s Olympic Games to be held in Atlanta, Ga. Like any good idea, it wasn’t long before it began to be emulated. Soon, stunning one-time paint schemes like Jeff Gordon‘s T-Rex and Chromalusion cars would make their one and only appearance at the unique event, and Earnhardt later ran the Peter Max car as well.

By 1998, different designs were being unveiled for other races too. High-profile stops like Charlotte Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway became peppered with schemes promoting one thing or celebrating another.

The departure of single-season-long sponsorships has made different designs less noticeable, but the Throwback Weekend at Darlington has done a lot to put the spotlight back on some of the most iconic NASCAR schemes. Many of those initially ran on All-Star Weekend, the original special-paint-scheme showcase.

About the author

Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.

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Alan L

An article about paint schemes and no pictures????

Kevin in SoCal

That’s what I was going to say? Where are the pictures for those of us who started watching later?

Shayne

The scheme is to make money selling something that’s only half-correct.

janice

back then the diecast business was lucrative, as only a certain number of diecasts were made. earnhardt was a stickler for that. i have one of the quick silver diecasts. i have all his special paint scheme cars, even the peter max pepto car (as i call it). alas, they’re all stored away in a box. but those one off paint schemes were great for the fans and you felt like you had a treasure if you were able to get one of limited edition ones. they weren’t mass produced by the thousands back then.

now every week there’s different paint schemes as the sponsors change all the time.

i remember for the 600 a lot of teams would run patriotic paint schemes in honor of the fallen.

Echo

I remember too

gbvette

I was there for that 95 Winston Select under the lights. I still have my Earnhardt “One Hot Silver Night” t-shirt too (and surprisingly it still fits me).

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