With Darlington Raceway hosting another throwback themed Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend this season, teams and drivers have been working feverishly on their throwback schemes for this year’s race.
After coming to Darlington with a Neil Bonnett throwback last season, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his Nationwide team had bigger plans for their 2016 unveil and they did not disappoint. For the 2016 Southern 500, Earnhardt will be piloting a No. 88 Chevrolet with Buddy Baker’s “Gray Ghost” livery that Baker took to victory lane in the 1980 Daytona 500.
“As a significant NASCAR sponsor for almost 20 years, it was very hard for Nationwide not to be the primary sponsor last year in Darlington and sit on the sidelines for the inaugural throwback weekend,” said Jim McCoy, director of sports marketing for Nationwide. “When it came time for the 2016 race draft, we made Darlington a priority because of what Chip [Darlington Raceway General Manager Chip Wile] and the team have built around this race, but more importantly because of our shared passion with Dale for the history of this great sport.
“We tapped into Dale’s passion when designing this year’s throwback car. The 2016 No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS throwback design honors Buddy Baker’s No. 28 Gray Ghost paint scheme.”
Over the years, Earnhardt has been known as one of the drivers who is really in tune with the history of the sport and has always had a fascination with the paint schemes that have shown up on his race cars throughout his career, so Darlington’s throwback theme fit right into his wheelhouse.
“The track is the perfect place to unveil our throwback weekend paint scheme. This place has so much history and has served our sport so well,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I appreciate Nationwide’s enthusiasm to be involved and their appreciation for the history of the sport as well. It certainly shines through with this paint scheme. It’s my favorite paint scheme.”
“We’re so appreciative of Dale, Nationwide and Hendrick Motorsports for their support of our throwback race weekend,” Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile said. “Dale’s Gray Ghost paint scheme is a wonderful reminder of our sport’s storied history. To honor a NASCAR legend like Buddy Baker in this way is what our Tradition Continues throwback weekend is all about.”
The Labor Day classic is not the first time that Earnhardt will have driven his No. 88 Chevrolet with the “Gray Ghost” paint scheme adorned on it. Earnhardt also drove the scheme in the All-Star Race back in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, which resulted in an eighth place finish for the “Gray Ghost” scheme that run in conjunction with the National Guard and their relationship with Mississippi rockers 3 Doors Down.
In 21 starts at Darlington, Earnhardt has yet to score an elusive Southern 500 win, but has four top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, 176 laps led, and an average finish of 14.0.
Credit: Harrelson Photography for Darlington Raceway