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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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