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Is NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend Losing Some Luster?

The early years of NASCAR's throwback weekend had some iconic looks.

When NASCAR first announced that Darlington would get the traditional Southern 500 weekend back to Darlington, the excitement and the happiness was beyond what anyone was anticipating.  The acceptance of the sport going back to a historic track on it’s normal weekend brought about a lot of coverage.

Teams themselves decided to make it a weekend to honor the sport’s past, with nearly the entire field deciding to run classic paint schemes, old logos, and drivers even getting into character.

The first weekend was such a success, NASCAR kept the weekend going for several more years.  Classic cars took on schemes from the early years of the sport.  Famous numbers took on paint jobs that fans resonated with, like the No. 43 wearing the 1972, 1979, and 1984 schemes in consecutive years.  The No. 1 at the time honored Bill Elliott and Donnie Allison with historic looks.  Teams looked back into their archives and threw it back to their own infamous times, with looks like the “Rainbow Warrior”, “Quick Silver”, or the “Grey Ghost.”

As the years went by, finding a paint scheme that was different from years prior, but teams and NASCAR found ways to keep it fresh.  Giving teams a theme to go with, or an era, helped.

After 2020, when NASCAR had to adjust the schedule because of the pandemic, NASCAR gave Darlington two race dates because of the success they had with multiple events at the track during that chaotic campaign.  But, drivers also wanted another change, and NASCAR’s throwback weekend went from Labor Day, to Mother’s Day.

The thing is, since that change, has the throwback weekend began losing some of it’s charm?

With so little time from the beginning of the year to the new weekend, it’s possible, but why?

It could be that the weekend chosen is so early, and it does not exactly have the best track record.  NASCAR on Mother’s Day weekend was first done in 1986 for the running of the Winston, which was done in Atlanta and not Charlotte as the prior year.  Over the years, NASCAR has usually had a weekend off for both Easter and Mother’s Day.  In 2020, that was changed in a big way when NASCAR returned to Darlington after a near two-month hiatus due to pandemic restrictions.  But, even that weekend was rather odd.  Drivers sitting in their haulers for the entire day until being called to the cars, spotters spread out over the entire track, even media members that were allowed had to be in different locations.

So, does that mean the Mother’s Day weekend is bad luck for NASCAR?

Not necessarily, because the return to racing on the weekend gave the entire country hope, and gave other sports a jolt to be able to say, “We can compete, we just have to make it work.”  It allowed the NBA to have it’s bubble and have a complete playoff run in one central location.  It allowed Supercross to hold it’s remaining races at one stadium, and eventually allowed baseball to hold a shortened, fan-less season over the summer and fall.

When Darlington lost the Labor Day weekend event in the mid-2000’s, they kept their 500-mile race, but it was moved to Mother’s Day weekend.  It still had the luster, and it was still the “Lady in Black,” but it wasn’t until 2009 when the actual iconic namesake of the track returned, the Southern 500.

It still was not the true vibe the Southern 500 was known for, but in 2015, being able to have that race, on Labor Day weekend, everything that came with it, just fit.

Going into the “Way Back Machine” that weekend was something everyone looked forward to.  Even the teams got involved adding in classic crew uniforms, and NBC decided to add to that by using the classic peacock logo.  Some segments also had the added vintage look, with some grainy-looking film as if it was coming out of an old projector film.

It just had the right feel, the right mesh of classic, new, and respect.

Having the throwback weekend earlier in the year, even though requested by the drivers, means less time to decide on a scheme, less time to prepare, and maybe that is what is hurting.  We have not seen as many classic looks in recent years, and even in some series we’ve seen some repeat looks that have been done at the higher levels.

This season is the tenth year of NASCAR doing an official throwback weekend, but also the fourth of it being done for the 400-mile event instead of the 500-mile event in September.

Is there not as much motivation now with the retro weekend happening earlier in the season?  It’s uncertain, but NASCAR needs what could be the most popular weekend to continue to succeed.

Otherwise, honoring the past will become just a distant memory.

About Dustin Parks

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