By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
For the third year in a row, NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway was a resounding success. Some could argue that the Throwback Weekend idea saved Darlington Raceway from a fate similar to North Wilkesboro and Rockingham Speedway.
The Throwback Weekend is just one of three ‘theme’ weekends NASCAR has. On Memorial Day Weekend, NASCAR pays tribute to members of the military with the 600 Miles of Remembrance in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Coke 600. July 4th weekend, NASCAR pays tribute to the history of the United States with the NASCAR Salutes campaign.
In each of these weekends, teams roll out paint schemes dedicated to the theme, such as the patriotic schemes driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., or the ‘Flying 11’ Throwback that Denny Hamlin took to victory lane this past weekend.
After seeing the success of each of these weekends, I thought about whether NASCAR could benefit from another ‘theme’ weekend. What other ‘themes’ could NASCAR utilize to their advantage?
As a college student, one ‘theme’ that immediately comes to mind to me is a college-themed weekend. Teams could run paint schemes that use the colors of the college or university that the driver, crew chief, team owner, etc., attended. It could be a way in which NASCAR brings its brand to a demographic that it has been trying hard to gain.
I know that this would require a major undertaking that would likely get the NCAA involved. I will not pretend that I know the inner workings of sponsorship agreements or college athletic partnerships.
Several colleges are already involved in auto racing, Liberty University sponsors William Byron, Coastal Carolina University sponsors Brandon Brown. West Virginia has been on the car for ARCA Racing Series driver Travis Braden and UNC Charlotte with Matt Tifft. Several colleges have also been on the cars of Alex Bowman, who subbed for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Jeff Gordon through Hendrick Motorsports’ partnership with sponsor Axalta.
Another question may be what weekend could this ‘college-theme’ be run? Well, looking at the schedule, the first third and final third season do not have any ‘themes.’ Although, I am not suggesting that this theme be run at Daytona or Homestead. However, this idea for a theme could be run during the weekend of Spring Break, which typically takes place around mid-late March. In 2018, those race weekends would be Auto Club Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. In the fall, the weekend of Fall Break could also be used, which will take place around the weekends of the Charlotte Motor Speedway or Dover International Speedway Playoff races.
What Darlington’s Throwback Weekend offers is a time for race teams remember the past to have fun, which a possible college-themed weekend could also offer through college rivalries and shared experiences. These are simply the opinions expressed by the writer.