One of the finest times of the season is when the competitors of the Cup series get together to have some fun with their paint schemes and throw it back to the golden age of NASCAR. These paint schemes can come from different eras and types of drivers, but either way, there are always some amazing one-off paint schemes that diecast collectors get to salivate over. 

While most of these end up looking great, because obviously nobody pays homage to terrible looking cars. There are some that miss the point of the whole event, and don’t quite grasp the concept of a throwback, which we will get to rather quickly.

While not every team will participate in throwback schemes due to sponsors not allowing, we will look at all the cars who will race with special schemes and rank them. This is my own personal opinion, and I look at the design itself along with how it was applied to modern day stock cars. The history behind the scheme will be taken into consideration as well.

An honorable mention will be Michael Annett’s #1-car in the Xfinity series for JR Motorsports, because I’m only ranking Cup cars. This Gatorade car is the best looking ride of the whole weekend, and if it was in Cup would be my top rated. Honestly, there are a handful of cars in Xfinity that look better than the Cup entries.

#30: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Craven Tribute

Ricky Stenhouse Jr’s May Darlington scheme. Image from JTG Daugherty Racing.

One of the most iconic paint schemes from the 2000’s era and somehow they found a way to ruin it. This is a design that could be replicated multiple times in the history of throwback weekend, and Tide still being a recurring sponsor in the sport helps that. This is an example of what happens when you try to be too original.

#29: Ryan Preece – Trent Owens Tribute

Ryan Preece’s Darlington scheme will be a throwback to the truck crew chief Trent Owens drove in 2002. Image from JTG Daugherty Racing.

This is where picking bad source material goes wrong. Trent Ownes’ Dickies truck that this was inspired by wasn’t horrible looking, but it wasn’t a fondly remembered design. What makes this worse is JTGD once again attempted to be original with it and change the flames off of Owens’ truck to drippy cheese to match the sponsor of Velveeta. It’s not a horrible effort, but unsatisfying to look at.

#28: Cole Custer – Mother’s Day Tribute

Cole Custer’s Darlington scheme will honor Margaret Haas, mother of team owner Gene Haas. Image from Stewart-Haas Racing.

I really wouldn’t classify this as a throwback, but everywhere I look it is included as part of the throwback weekend pageantry, so I guess I will do it too. This is pretty much just the lackluster Haas Automation scheme with a bunch of roses on it. It looks really busy, and while I appreciate the message, it’s just not my cup of tea.

#27: Martin Truex Jr. – Furniture Row Throwback

Martin Truex, Jr. will run a matte black Auto-Owners scheme at Darlington in May. Image from Joe Gibbs Racing.

Not a big fan of throwing it back to yourself unless it’s your retirement season. This all black scheme looks decent, but it’s super uninspiring. The blue accents throw it off for me as a faithful throwback as well. 

#26: Kyle Busch – M&M’s Throwback

Kyle Busch’s Darlington throwback scheme celebrates M&M’s 80s anniversary. Image from Joe Gibbs Racing.

So, it’s pretty much just Kyle Busch’s regular car with a better number font and an old school red M&M character on the side. Obviously the M&M cars always look good, but there are so many old school schemes they could’ve gone with like Ken Schrader’s M&M’s scheme.

#25: Joey Logano – Mario Andretti Throwback

Joey Logano will honor Mario Andretti’s first F1 victory from 1971 with his Darlington throwback paint scheme. Image from Joey Logano

The use of random white shapes all over the car just doesn’t do it for me. I like throwing it back to Andretti, but the source material just wasn’t there for this to look good.

#24: Tyler Reddick – Marty Robbins Throwback

Tyler Reddick’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor Marty Robbins. Image from Richard Childress Racing.

I usually like pink on a car, but these colors just don’t look good together. I know that was kind what this scheme was famous for, being ugly. Knowing the backstory just doesn’t help it for me. Having a hood sponsor as Joe Nichols’ picture also really throws the whole thing off.

#23: Quinn Houff – John Andretti Throwback

Quin Houff will run John Andretti’s RCA paint scheme from the late 1990s at Darlington. (Image from StarCom Racing)

The paint scheme itself doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t look like a throwback. The car looks like a scheme that StarCom Racing would run on Sunday under any normal circumstances. 

#22: B.J. McLeod – Joe Weatherly Throwback

Live Fast Motorsports will run a Darlington throwback scheme to honor Joe Weatherly’s last win at Darlington in 1963. Image from Live Fast Motorsports.

Really have nothing negative to say about this one. It’s a generic old school look that I enjoy seeing. It’s not flashy or unique, but it keeps the spirit of the event.

#21: Justin Haley – Robert Pressley Throwback

Justin Haley’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor Robert Pressley. Image from Spire Motorsports.

The colors of blue, yellow, and red go well together on a race car. This is another Mother’s Day tribute, but it at least mixes a throwback scheme with it. 

#20: Bubba Wallace – Wendell Scott Throwback

Bubba Wallace’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor Wendell Scott. Image tweeted by Root Insurance.

I love the tribute, but the car itself is lackluster. I think the boldness of the orange of sponsor Root Insurance throws off the tribute itself and I wish they would’ve made the sponsor decals white. Still a solid look though.

#19: James Davison – Dick Johnson Throwback

James Davison’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor Dick Johnson’s scheme from 1989-1990. Image from James Davision.

Really classic looking car that really embodies what this weekend is about. While theirs is nothing that stands out about this car. I think the entire look is very pleasing to look at.

#18: Josh Bilicki – Lennie Pond Throwback

Josh Bilicki’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor Lennie Pond and his Burger King car. Image from Josh Bilicki Racing.

I really applaud Josh Bilicki’s sponsor Insurance King for embracing this event, because I really thought this car was sponsored by Burger King at first. The colors on the car blend really well together even though they don’t look like they would. It’s a classic looking simple design that I love.

#17: Ryan Newman – 1976 Kohler Generators Throwback

Ryan Newman’s Darlington scheme is throwback to the Kohler Generators’ 1976 SCCA National Championship Scheme. Image from Roush Fenway Racing.

While this car is a throwback, it doesn’t look like it. Taking the source material and applying it to a modern-day stock car looks great. The yellow accent fits well, and the entire car is a great design. 

#16: Denny Hamlin – Julius Johnson Throwback

Denny Hamlin’s Darlington throwback scheme will honors Julius “Slick” Johnson, a South Carolina native that competed in the Cup series during the 1980s. Image from Joe Gibbs Racing.

I like that this car is your classic throwback look without it being too plain. The bright red and how seamless SportsClips fits into it really blends well.

#15: Cody Ware – Darrell Waltrip Throwback

Cody Ware’s Darlington scheme is a throwback to Darrell Waltrip’s 1990 Superflow Chevy. Image from Rick Ware Racing.

This is one of Jaws’ more underrated paint schemes and I think this car does it justice. Changing the design to the Nurtec colors works and is solid sponsor integration that doesn’t take away from the tribute.

#14: Ryan Blaney – Late Model Throwback

Ryan Blaney’s Darlington throwback scheme will promote Advance Auto Parts’ “Advance My Track Challenge”. The scheme replicates his 2010 PASS Series late model race car. Image from Advance Auto Parts.

Again, I’m not a big fan of throwing it back to yourself, but if you’re going to do it, make it late models or pre-NASCAR. This is a really clean look for a car, it’s not flashy but everything blends really well together. Advance Auto Parts in white really aids the design overall.

#13: Anthony Alfredo – Alan Kulwicki Throwback

Anthony Alfredo’s Darlington throwback will honor Alan Kulwicki’s 1985 Hardee’s car. Image from Front Row Motorsports.

The old Hardee’s design is one of my favorites from back in the day and it looks great in the modern era. The number font and entire car is just clean. The orange really stands out against the white car and pops.

#12: Chase Briscoe – A.J. Foyt Throwback

Chase Briscoe will run an AJ Foyt 1986 paint scheme at Darlington. Image from Stewart-Haas Racing

This scheme is similar to B.J. McLeod’s, but this one has better accents and doesn’t look so plain. It helps that it’s the legendary #14-car and that they are adapting the font and High Point is going with an all-white logo to help.

#11: Daniel Suarez – Camping World Throwback

Daniel Suarez’s Darlington throwback scheme honors Camping World’s 55th anniversary. Image from Trackhouse Racing.

Suarez’s team decided to come up with an original design that has an old school feel to it and it works. The car itself makes enough changes to be unique and the bold colors standout well.

#10: Kyle Larson – Larson’s First car Throwback

Kyle Larson’s Darlington scheme is a throwback based on his first race car. Image from Hendrick Motorsports.

The colors on this car are really cool, and the design fits what an old school car would look like. This is genuinely just a cool looking race car. I am still waiting on some old school #5 throwbacks though. This being Kyle Larson’s first race car is cool, but a Terry Labonte Corn Flakes car is long overdue.

#9: Michael McDowell – Bill Elliott Throwback

Michael McDowell’s Darlington throwback will honor Bill Elliott’s 1985 Daytona 500 winning Coor’s car. Image from Front Row Motorsports.

Honestly, I’m surprised I do not like this car more. I think that the car overall looks good, but something about the number and sponsor throws it off. This is a great looking car though and the sponsor and team did a great job at adapting, but I think this car should’ve been saved for Chase Elliott at some point.

#8: Alex Bowman – Greg Ives Throwback

Alex Bowman’s Darlington car will honor his crew chief, Greg Ives, with a throwback to one of Ives’ late model schemes. Image from Hendrick Motorsports.

I think this had the potential to be a Petty Blue level of iconic colors had Greg Ives racing career worked out differently. The color works so well with Ally’s colors and it made a race car that is very unique and appealing.

#7: Austin Dillon – Fireball Roberts Throwback

Austin Dillon’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor Fireball Roberts. Image from Richard Childress Racing.

The old school Bass Pro Shops logo is just cool. Seeing a sponsor that has stayed loyal to the sport for so long get a chance to really show some flare is great. RCR remains willing to change the font of the famous 3 for this weekend and it always looks great. This car is beautiful and from head to toe fits this weekend.

#6: Ross Chastain – Hut Stricklin Throwback

Ross Chastain’s Darlington throwback will honor Hut Stricklin’s 1993 McDonalds scheme. Image from Chip Ganassi Racing.

A lot of people think this design is too plain, but honestly, I like how simple it is. The number font really sells it to me as one of the better schemes this week. McDonald’s has a lot of throwback potential, and they’ve given us great schemes in the past, but I appreciate this one.

#5: Erik Jones – John Andretti Throwback

Erik Jones’s Darlington throwback scheme honors John Andretti and his 1999 Martinsville race-winning STP car. Image from Richard Petty Motorsports.

It’s not hard for Richard Petty Motorsports to find inspiration for throwback weekend. This iconic scheme that Andretti won at Martinsville is one of the most recognizable #43 schemes not ran by the King himself. 

#4: Chase Elliott – Alan Kulwicki Throwback

Chase Elliott’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor Alan Kulwicki. Image from Hendrick Motorsports.

This is such an obvious look, but it still hits just right. All of the great merch and photoshoots they’ve done for this scheme also bring a lot to the table. This scheme was beautiful back in the day and it loses nothing to time on the new cars.

#3: Aric Almirola – Mark Martin Throwback

Aric Almirola will run a Mark Martin inspired throwback at Darlington. (Image from Stewart-Haas Racing)

I’m a sucker for flames on a race car and while this car borders on too busy, it never gets there. The flames with the Smithfield sponsorship works so well and they get Winn Dixie to come back in a smaller capacity. This car just looks cool and works so well.

#2: William Byron – Neil Bonnett

William Byron’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor the Valvoline scheme that Neil Bonnett drove. Image from Hendrick Motorsports.

I’m so pleased that they finally decided to not do a Jeff Gordon throwback. This is such a cool looking car and they finally take advantage of having Valvoline on the hood by highlighting the great potential with all the amazing schemes they’ve had in their NASCAR history.

#1: Corey LaJoie – Alan Kulwicki Throwback

Corey LaJoie’s Darlington throwback scheme will honor Alan Kulwicki and his Zerex car. Image from Spire Motorsports.

Just like with Chase Elliott’s Hooters car, this beautiful car looks great in the modern age. Everything is on point from the sponsor to the number. This is the perfect throwback scheme because it checks all the boxes and truly brings an iconic look back to life in the modern day.

Thank you to my Patreon members!:

-VIcki

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