In two weeks, NASCAR makes a return to tradition, something that has happened a lot over the last several years in the sport. At the end of the 2003 season, the schedule got major adjustments with some tracks getting a second date, and others either losing a race or having it moved to a new weekend. The unfortunate loss for the Darlington Raceway was it’s annual Labor Day weekend event was first moved to later in the fall, becoming part of the Chase for one season, before going to only one race beginning in 2005 that was run on Mother’s Day weekend.
But, after waiting for over a decade, the track that has always been “Too Tough To Tame” is getting back something it had for so many years. The 2015 edition of the Southern 500 will be run on the Labor Day weekend.
The excitement and praise for this change has been seen across the entire garage, and everyone in NASCAR is getting in the theme of making it a “throwback” weekend.
Goodyear is bringing tires with the old white lettering, sans the “Eagle” name on the sidewall, many sponsors are letting teams to run the classic logos from decades ago, and many teams are deciding to go a step further and are running retro paint schemes representing the early looks of some sponsors from back in the day.
Possibly the most famous sponsor-driver combination that has stood through decades of changes in the sport is one of STP and Richard Petty. The relationship began in late 1971, and at that moment changed the course of what sponsorship in NASCAR was, and could be.
At Darlington this season, current No. 43 driver Aric Almirola will once again showcase STP as the primary sponsor, and do so with another classic paint scheme.
It’s not the first time the No. 43 has wore the STP colors in a retro aspect, but in recent seasons the classic paint scheme has seen the Richard Petty Motorsports “swoosh” in front of the number. Not this time, as the paint scheme will pay respect to the look that Petty himself ran in 1978.
Running the classic STP schemes has been something that Petty has been doing since “The King” stepped out of the driver’s seat and took over as a sole owner.
Bobby Hamilton took over driving duties for the No. 43 in 1993, and in 1995 the team began running classic paint schemes for the STP sponsorship, beginning with the look of the STP Pontiac that Petty ran in the late 1980’s.
In 1996, as part of the 25th anniversary of Petty Enterprises, the No. 43 sported four different looks over the season, excluding the silver look that Hamilton ran in both the season-opening Daytona 500 and season-finale NAPA 500 in Atlanta. The paint scheme that started the year was the 1972-1974 design that included the engine size on the sides of the hood with both the Petty blue and bright red paint colors.
At both road course events, Hamilton’s car ran the full blue colors that represented the Petty look for many years, including the first season of STP sponsorship in 1971.
The summer portion of the season saw Hamilton run the 1984 paint scheme that Petty piloted to his 200th career win, and to close out the year the No. 43 would carry the look of the 1979 STP Buick, which Petty drove to victory in dramatic fashion in the Daytona 500 that season en route to his seventh championship.
Hamilton would win that season at Phoenix in the classic look.
STP would go from primary sponsor to associate sponsor midway through the 2000 season, with it’s final ride at the time by John Andretti at Sonoma, again running the 1973 paint scheme.
After returning to a primary role in 2011, STP has seen classic paint schemes run with Almirola each season, with the addition of the RPM graphics. However, with Darlington focused on being a true “retro” weekend for everyone at the track, the paint scheme will be exactly as it was back in 1978.
The retro weekend feeling will come to a dramatic peak on Sunday, September 6, at 7 p.m. ET, with coverage on NBC.