12. Rusty Wallace
1994 Miller Genuine Draft (Chicago, 2005)
In 2005, Rusty Wallace decided it would be his final season in Cup competition and launched the “Rusty’s Last Call” tour. He received accolades and gifts at each track, including a rocking chair. He ran a throwback scheme of his 1994 car at Chicago. Between 1993-95 with these colors, Wallace won 20 races, finishing second, third and fifith in the standings. In the Chicago race, Wallace started 33rd and finished 12th, helping him get into the Chase in his final season.
11. Terry Labonte
1984 No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Championship Colors (Charlotte, 2006)
For his final season at Hendrick Motorsports, Terry Labonte ran No. 44 and the Piedmont Airlines colors he drove to the 1984 Winston Cup championship. Labonte won a second title with HMS in 1996, and his final race in the 2003 Southern 500 at Darlington — one throwback to another.
10. Darrell Waltrip
1955 Tim Flock No. 300 (Darlington, 1998)
In 1998, NASCAR was celebrating its 50th anniversary and was busy promoting its 50 Greatest Drivers. Meanwhile, one of those 50, Tim Flock, was battling lung and liver cancer. Darrell Waltrip paid homage to Flock, running the No. 300 Flock ran for Carl Kiekhaefer in his second championship season of 1955, naming his car the “Tim Flock Special.” Sadly, Flock passed away before the car hit the track that year. Flock was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, a fitting tribute to a two-time champion with the highest winning percentage of all time.
9. Stacy Compton
1986 Levi-Garrett Tribute (Talladega, 2001)
Not sure what was more surprising with this one — chewing tobacco still sponsoring cars or that The Intimidator didn’t see it and run it into the fence. Levi-Garrett was one of Hendrick Motorsports first full-time sponsors and was on the car that Geoff Bodine took to Victory Lane in the 1986 Daytona 500. How is this for a “twist” of coincidence: Compton’s crew chief on the No. 92 in 2001? Chad Knaus.
8. Jeff Gordon
1983 Darrell Waltrip Pepsi Challenger (Talladega, 2009)
One of my earliest NASCAR memories was watching the 1983 Daytona 500 and seeing Darrell Waltrip’s Monte Carlo SS get airborne coming off of Turn 4, hurtling through the air, bottoms-up towards the giant dirt embankment by pit road. My other thought was, “it’s not a Challenger, that’s a Monte Carlo …” Hey, I was six and I was a Coke guy, give me a break. Jeff Gordon rolled out this throwback at Talladega for the 2008 spring race. Much like DW at Daytona, it got pretty scuffed up in a late-race wreck.
7. Brian Vickers
1981 Darrell Waltrip Mountain Dew Scheme (Nationwide Series, Darlington, 2006)
Mountain Dew has long sponsored the Southern 500 at Darlington, and in 2006 they sponsored Brian Vickers at the Spring Darlington Busch Series race. This same scheme has been used a couple of other times, including most recently on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Cup car. So why did I pick this one? Because it happened first and this car looks better. Besides, Junior Nation…
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Budweiser Black Dale Earnhardt Sr. Tribute (Talladega, 2006)
You know the fans were about ready to tear the grandstands down when this thing hit the track at Talladega in 2006. The race was run on a Monday due to rain, and unfortunately the No. 8 was caught up in an early wreck. Regardless, it’s still one of the coolest tribute paint schemes of all time, and pretty obvious as to whom it was honoring. As much as it doesn’t seem right without a black No. 3 still out there, not seeing a Budweiser No. 8 (particularly at Talladega) is just as off-putting.
5. David Ragan
1965 Ned Jarrett Tribute (Indianapolis, 2011)
Ned Jarrett was inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, and to honor that achievement Roush Fenway Racing and Ford fielded this tribute to Gentleman Ned at the 2011 Brickyard 400. David Ragan put the car on the pole, complete with Jarrett’s instantly recognizable white wheels, reminiscent of his 1965 championship-winning Ford Fairlane.
4. Bill Elliott
1985 Daytona 500 Coors Colors (Bud Shootout, 2005)
This one just has badass written all over it. Twenty years earlier, Awesome Bill from Dawsonville made mincemeat out of the field in the 1985 Daytona 500 in an Ernie Elliott prepared 9/10 scale Thunderbird. Bill was running part-time for Evernham Motorsports at the time, so he had to make do with No. 39 as opposed to the familiar 9. Personally, I would have told Kasey Kahne to take one for the team on this one and give up the 9, but I don’t own a race team. Then again, neither does Ray Evernham. Or Dodge.
3. Mark Martin
1990 Folgers No. 6 Throwback (Indianapolis, 2005)
In 2005, Rusty Wallace enjoyed the aforementioned “Rusty’s Last Call” tour while Mark Martin began his “Salute To You” tour. Contrary to continued media misinformation, Martin never said he was retiring, and eight years later he continues to prove it. One of the throwback schemes run that season was this one, waking up with Viagra in your cup, honoring the 1990 Folgers Thunderbird that was jobbed out of the 1990 Winston Cup championship.
2. AJ Allmendinger
1973 Richard Petty STP Dodge Charger (Kansas 2011)
During the course of the past few years there has been nothing worse than seeing the No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports running around on the track in odd colors for whatever sponsor was able to be placed on the car. The No. 43 should always be Petty Blue, and if it’s clad in STP red, then all the better. As title sponsor of the Kansas race, STP got back in the game on the 43, and all was right with the world for just a little while.
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
1986 Dale Earnhardt Sr. Wrangler Chevrolet (Nationwide Series, Daytona, 2011)
After years of fans clamoring to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. run the No. 3 — and Junior wanting to lay it to rest once and for all —JR Motorsports and Richard Childress teamed up to roll this out to the delight of millions for the July Nationwide Series event in Daytona. Junior dominated the race and closed the door on his involvement with the No. 3 for the last time. He declared upon climbing out of the car in Victory Lane that would be the last time he would run the number, as it was his father’s car, not his.
by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter:@VitoPugliese