No words, no sentences, literally no expressions that I can put down to describe how much this weekend, and this track, mean to me. Everyone that knows me has always asked me what is my favorite track of the entire season. Those of you that follow my writing over the last several years also know I don’t hide it when it comes to favoritism.
Darlington has no comparison to any other speedway on the schedule. The average track is a mile and a half, but this place is a mile and a third. It is physical on the driver more than any track, especially when spending an entire evening at the wheel on a track that is so demanding on equipment.
What other track is shaped like an egg? This oval was going to be just a cookie-cutter oval, like New Hampshire or Dover, but that minnow pond made what was to be something we all have seen into something that everyone can remember.
I recall back in 2004 when the schedule changed and this track lost it’s normal weekend that things felt different. It then got moved to Mother’s Day weekend, and it still didn’t feel right. But, when the original race name came back, it started to get back to normal, even if the race was earlier in the year.
However, when one thinks NASCAR on Labor Day weekend, one thinks Darlington.
When this place got that date back, everyone got excited. At that moment, the idea of honoring history while writing new chapters, began with the idea of throwing it back and doing classic schemes on the modern cars. And that idea certainly has taken on an entirely fun and exciting draw because nearly every team, every year since it was changed, has gotten in on the throwback theme.
Eventually it’s going to be harder to find paint jobs to do because many have been done, and finding something fresh will become increasingly difficult.
There’s definitely a lot of schemes that have been done already, but some that would certainly be welcome to do later down the line. The fact that teams are going beyond the “pull the cover off” reveal and doing videos, to even outright movies, of the schemes they plan on running shows that even though the actual race is all business, leading up to it will always be fun.
The biggest problem, as I said, are schemes will eventually begin to run low and ideas will be more difficult. So, what are some schemes this writer would love to see revived on Throwback Weekend? Here’s the scheme, and the driver, it would go with.
Although DuPont is no longer a name we see in NASCAR, everyone remembers the DuPont Chevy of Jeff Gordon. When William Byron took over that car last year, his main look had the classic flames of his final season, although with Axalta. His first throwback was, appropriately, the scheme the No. 24 will always be known for, as the Rainbow Warriors returned in 2018.
For me, if Byron is going to do something unique, why not do a scheme that is so unique, it changes as the lights come on, and go by. The Chromalusion car from 1998 was one of the most slick looks I have ever seen. Although the paint was expensive, it made a statement.
The Chromalusion car fell one lap short of victory in the 1998 Winston. It would be nice to see that scheme on track one more time, just to hear the reaction of the guys in the booth going, “Byron is in the gold…no the purple…no the brown car.”
So, the scheme may not work totally the same unless another Batman movie came out, but in 1995 when Bill Elliott’s No. 94 Thunderbird went from the classic red of McDonald’s to black and green, a Dark Knight certainly came out. The original Batman-themed car to go along with the Batman Forever movie certainly was bold. Although the first time the car ended up in the wall, Elliott made sure the second time he ran it on track it stayed the distance.
After seeing a few other McDonald’s throwbacks from 2016-2018, there is not one happening this year.
That sponsorship belongs to Kyle Larson, and of all the McDonald’s looks that would be nice to see under the lights, that black and green with the golden arches certainly could stand out. It wouldn’t even need to include the Batman logo as it had on the hood, just put the McDonald’s emblem with blue on the outside and it’d be perfect.
Ok, stick with me here on this one. Kevin Harvick’s sponsorship with Busch is a challenge when it comes to throwbacks because, well, the first one he did is the one we remember the most. It was the 1979 Daytona 500 look for Cale Yarborough that returned in 2016. But, after that, it’s hard to find. His look in 2017 had the same design with a modern logo, and last year was based on the track cans Busch did in the 1990’s.
This year, he doesn’t have one, so where exactly do you go from there?
It then came to me one day after we sadly lost Jessi Combs in an accident trying to set a land speed record. Immediately, although grieving the loss, it got me in the mindset of the original speed demon, Art Arfons. His classic “green monster” racer always was fast on the salt flats in Utah, and he is forever remembered for it. But, those jet engines he used in those cars also propelled him to his other career, tractor pulling. His modified tractor from the 1980’s, also named the Green Monster, had sponsorship from Busch for many years up until he retired and sold the tractor.
Think about it, a green Ford Mustang, a white number, green chrome rims, fire shooting up the sides, and a classic Busch logo on the hood? To me, that’d be appropriate to bring to the “Lady in Black.”
I’m ready to settle in and see what car tries to control the track “Too Tough to Tame.” I absolutely love this place, and honestly cannot wait to go back to it.