DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. â In a one-of-a-kind NASCAR tradition, the venerable Darlington Racewayâs NASCAR Throwback Weekend allows the sportâs best of today to honor the greats of yesterday.
With the nod to great history, the Bojanglesâ Southern 500 (Sept. 1, 6 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) continues to be a must-see event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar for fans and a highly-anticipated race for the competitors â both in the garage with special paint schemes and on the South Carolina race track with only two regular-season races remaining before the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs field is set.
Fans have a chance to vote for what they consider the best car at recreating the sportâs historic vibe. Voting continues until Aug. 30 on NASCAR.com and, judging by the effort teams have put into this unique weekend, deciding for whom to back is no easy task.
Among the compelling nods to the past, defending Darlington race winner Brad Keselowski will be steering a black No. 2 Team Penske Ford with a paint scheme that pays tribute to the carâs former driver, NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.
The famous No. 2 is from Wallaceâs 1996 season â a five-win campaign â one of 11 multi-win seasons in Wallaceâs celebrated Cup championship career. Keselowski drove a tribute to Wallaceâs 1990 car â the No. 27 owned by Raymond Beadle â to his first Southern 500 win a year ago.
The previous 2017 season, in Darlingtonâs throwback race, Keselowski drove a paint scheme honoring one of Wallaceâs âfavoritesâ â a car the Hall of Famer nicknamed âMidnight.â That car was so special to Wallace that he included it in his NASCAR Hall of Fame exhibit in 2012. Wallace drove it â as both a Pontiac and Ford â in his two winningest seasons â a 10-victory effort in 1993 and an eight-win mark in 1994.
Two-time Darlington winner Denny Hamlin will also be honoring a NASCAR Hall of Famer. His No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will look like three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltripâs former race car. For six years, Waltrip drove a No. 11 race car, and while Hamlin concedes Waltrip was often the rival of his favorite driver growing up â Bill Elliott â Hamlin was eager to pay respects to Waltrip this way.
âI grew up a huge Bill Elliott fan and he was one of the toughest competitors, Darrell Waltrip was,ââ Hamlin said at his carâs unveiling in June. âOne of my best friends at the time, we grew up watching racing and his favorite driver was Darrell Waltrip. So we would always be sparring back and forth each week whether it be at school or wherever, talking about his driver versus my driver.
âIâve grown to really like Darrell and everything he represents, and to give 40 years of his life, not only to racing, but he transformed the sport in so many different ways, thatâs just an honor to be able to know him and see him off into the sunset.ââ
Waltrip retired from the NASCAR on FOX booth earlier this year.
One of the cars receiving a huge amount of worthy attention and social media buzz in recent weeks is Bubba Wallaceâs No. 43 Petty Motorsports Ford, which will carry the livery of the late Adam Petty at Darlington.
Instead of the famed Petty Blue normally outfitted on the No. 43, the car will be orange, green, purple and yellow â the paint scheme of Adam Pettyâs race-winning car from the 1998 ARCA Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Petty, son of Kyle and grandson of Richard, was killed in May 2000 at the age of 19 in a practice session accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway just as his promising young career was taking off.
âItâs truly an honor and top throwback that Iâve been a part of and knowing the history behind the Petty family and Adamâs vision and seeing it come to life at Victory Junction,ââ Wallace said at the unveiling ceremony earlier this month. âI think this really speaks for Adam and what his vision was. I was too young to know him and I feel like we would have had a great time to grow together to bring this organization back to where it needs to be.ââ
Three of the four Stewart-Haas Racing Fords will race with the paint schemes of team owner Tony Stewart from when he won his three Cup championships (2002, 2005 and 2011). Aric Almirolaâs No. 10 Ford will carry the livery from Stewartâs 2002 season when the soon-to-be-inducted NASCAR Hall of Fame selection won three races and his maiden Cup championship.
SHR driver Daniel Suarez will steer the No. 41 Ford in Stewartâs 2005 championship livery. Stewart won five races and earned 25 top-10 finishes in 36 races that year, a personal best top-10 mark for the champ.
And lastly, veteran Clint Bowyerâs No. 14 Ford will resemble Stewartâs 2011 championship-winning car. It was one of the most dramatic title runs in NASCAR history, with Stewart â who had been winless in the regular season â hoisting five trophies in the 10-race playoffs, including the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale winnerâs hardware. The three-time champion would retire from full-time Cup racing five seasons later.
âItâs really cool to see all three of these cars together,ââ Stewart said when the team unveiled the looks earlier this month. âIâve got all three of these championship cars, but not together, so to see these race at Darlington will be really cool and bring back a lot of memories. It just makes me smile.ââ
RELATED: Comparing throwbacks from 2015 on
For other competitors, the opportunity to emulate a paint scheme is truly personal. Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, for example, will honor their own racing fathers â NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott on Chaseâs No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and legendary sprint car driver and NASCAR competitor Dave Blaney on Ryanâs No. 12 Penske Racing Ford. Both driversâ cars will carry the paint schemes from their fathersâ former rides.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones will also invoke a more personal throwback. His No. 20 Toyota will carry a paint scheme similar to the car he drove in his rookie Late Model season.
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will also be fielding a sentimental throwback â his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will carry the same colors and design as one of the off-road trucks he raced before landing his opportunity in NASCARâs big leagues. Johnson ran the truck â nicknamed âButchâ â in several Baja 1000 Trophy Truck class races in 1995, earning the SCORE Rookie of the Year honors as a 20-year-old driver in that division.
In addition to these throwback looks, here are some other highlights to anticipate from Sunday nightâs grid:
Not only will fans have a chance to take in some NASCAR history this weekend, but the competitors themselves seem so genuinely connected to the paint schemes they will race, and theyâre also eager to check out their competitorsâ once-a-season looks as well.
The opening Monster Energy Series practice is at 2:05 p.m. ET on Friday, with qualifying set for 2 p.m. ET on Saturday (NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).