- Did you mean:
Casey Mears' Darlington paint scheme revealed
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes " SHOP: Mears gear Casey Mears revealed his throwback No. 13 paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET Sept. 4, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Darlington Raceway on Tuesday via "NASCAR America." Mears joins the likes of Kevin Harvick , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Danica Patrick , etc., who have all unveiled throwback schemes for the Labor Day weekend event. The scheme pays tribute to the late Smokey Yunick -- a colorful and pivotal mechanic in stock car racing who served as crew chief for No. 13 drivers Curtis Thomas , Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti. In his 10-year career, Yunick earned 22 premier series wins as a crew chief and was crew chief to Herb Thomas' Cup series championships in 1951 and 1953. Mears said he's excited to be running the Smokey Yunick tribute scheme on his GEICO Chevrolet. "Out of all the history of NASCAR I'd have to say he’s probably one of the top five most innovative people in the sport," Mears said of Yunick. "We feel fortunate to be able to run a paint scheme that has so much meaning and cool history in NASCAR. Hopefully, we can go to Darlington and do a good job with that car in the Bojangles' Southern 500 and Smokey's family will be proud." Smokey's daughter Trish is already proud. "My dad loved racing at Darlington, tire problems and gnats alike," said Trish Yunick. "It's so special to us to have him remembered in this way. The Germain Racing car looks great. I look forward to seeing the black-and-gold 13 on the track again. I am thrilled that Smokey's legacy is getting a chance to be in front of the next generation of NASCAR fans and hope it encourages renewed interest in his story." Yunick was crew chief to many drivers with many different numbers -- but in line with his bold attitude, the No. 13 was the number he ran to be unconventional and a bit provocative. "Nobody used number 13, it had no sponsors, and it was gold and black," said Mario Andretti, who raced the Chevrolet for Yunick in 1966. "It was an attention-grabber. That car, with Curtis Turner driving, was on pole in 1967 when I won the Daytona 500 . ... The stories behind that car, including stories about Smokey and Curtis Turner are worth revisiting." Germain Racing team owner Bob Germain Jr. said Darlington's throwback weekend is becoming a highlight of the racing season, showcasing NASCAR's roots. "Smokey Yunick's famous number 13 Chevrolets are part of those roots," Germain added. "He raced many car numbers, but it's my understanding he enjoyed the mysterious or daring nature of the 13 number. Our fans have really spoken up on Twitter asking us, GEICO, Casey and Bootie to race this paint scheme." 10:36 ]
What if Darlington race included throwback drivers?
RELATED: Darlington throwback paint schemes Darlington's throwback theme for Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 already is a hit with racers and fans alike, bringing out the creativity in the industry with special paint schemes and providing opportunities to honor great racers who have gone before. But what if along with those throwback paint schemes, like Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Valvoline No. 88 nod to Cale Yarborough and Clint Bowyer 's No. 15 salute to recently passed Buddy Baker, we could actually bring back the NASCAR legends themselves for this one race. Who would you pick? Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman could fill the whole 43-car field with legendary race car drivers. He won seven premier series championships with Richard Petty and an eighth with Terry Labonte , competing against some of the most storied personalities in the sport. "Damn, I've seen 'em all. I don't know …" Inman said of trying to choose just one driver to place in a throwback ride. "Earnhardt Sr. was good there you know." Bowyer, too, wished Earnhardt Sr. could join the field at the 2015 Southern 500. "Obviously for me it would be Earnhardt for me because we lost him, you know. That's first and foremost. Anyone you ever lost is who you'd want to bring back." But Bowyer said bringing back the man with the most wins (47) and most poles (47) at Darlington, David Pearson, would be the ultimate measuring stick for today's Sprint Cup drivers. "Pearson … man, what a character and just a genuine badass and an aggressive and successful racer. Anytime you have someone who's successful in the sport you make a living in, you want to be able to see what he had, what he's made of and see how you stack up." Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing , fondly remembers those days with Pearson driving the No. 21 Purolator Mercury. Pearson drove for the Woods Brothers from 1972-79 and won seven times at "The Lady in Black" during that span with two runner-up finishes. "That was his place," Wood said of Pearson's dominance at the South Carolina track. "The hotter the better for David. He liked it HOT, so we'd have to run in the daytime for him." RELATED: Drivers, officials, fans pumped for throwback weekend Inman attributed some of Pearson's success at the track also called "Too Tough To Tame" to his ability to take care of his equipment. This was extra difficult, as Inman recalled, because the track promoter sometimes would put bear's grease on the track between Saturday's practice and Monday's race. Blue laws prevented NASCAR from running on Sundays in South Carolina then. "Pearson just had a knack for taking care of the car. He always had a good car too," Inman said. "At least most of the time. For Darlington we put bars under the fenders. You knew you were gonna hit the wall, so we just put bars in and just bolted them to the right side. But the guard rail wasn't smooth like it is now. And they'll wear the sides out this time with the low downforce package." Aside from the drivers who racked up at the track, including Richard Petty and Buck Baker, Inman said Parnelli Jones' performance at Darlington had lasting impact on the racing there. "Parnelli Jones came out here in maybe 1956 or 57 was the first one to really use the high bank to what it is now. I remember him just sliding up to the fence. He didn't finish, of course." Jones crashed at Darlington in both 1956 and 1957. He finished 50th in a field of 70 cars in 1956 in the No. 1 Torrance Motors Ford and 34th in the No. 11 Ford owned by Oscar Maples in 1957. In 1958, Jones did finish the Southern 500 running, coming in 18th in a field of 48 cars during his last race there. The list of great performances at Darlington is nothing short of epic. Just the list of winners sends any racing fan on a long ride down memory lane: Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Fred Lorenzen, Bobby Allison, Fonty Flock, Neil Bonnett, Benny Parsons, Harry Gant. How would they stack up against Jeff Gordon , the active driver with the most wins at Darlington (seven)? " Herb Thomas and Buck Baker were both really good," Inman added to the list. "But Herb had it as good as anyone in those old Hudson Hornets that Marshall Teague built, and I think he won in a Chevrolet, too." Now that would be an entirely different kind of throwback idea. Run at Darlington again in restored Chevrolets, Fords, Hornets, Plymouths, Pontiacs and Dodges.
Thomas Accepts Ring On Behalf Of His Father
Joel Thomas accepts his father Herb's ring upon his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Today in History: January 9
1922: Dick Kable, who made one start in NASCAR, is born on this day. Kable finished 26th in a field of 41 cars on the half-mile dirt track of Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa., in June 1954. Engine trouble ended his day after 168 laps. Herb Thomas won the race. Kable died in December 2003.
A Hall of Fame night
Herb Thomas , Leonard Wood, Rusty Wallace, Cotton Owens and Buck Baker are selected for the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Jabe Thomas passes away at 85
Thomas began racing in '50s, guided son Ronnie's NASCAR career Cerry Era "Jabe" Thomas , a former NASCAR driver and father of 1978 Rookie of the Year Ronnie Thomas , passed away Thursday, June 4. Thomas , a native of Christiansburg, Virginia, was 85. Between 1965 and 1978, Thomas made 322 starts in NASCAR's premier series, earning three top-five and 77 top-10 finishes. During a four-year stretch from 1968-71, he finished eighth or higher in the season-long points standings. His top-five results came at Greenville, Asheville and Columbia while competing in an entry fielded by himself and fellow owner Don Robertson. Thomas began his racing career in the 1950s, competing on dirt tracks in Virginia; he won the '58 track championship at Radford Speedway (known today at Motor Mile). He was 35 when he made the move to NASCAR's top division. Although he made his final start in '78, finishing 37th in the Delaware 500 at Dover International Speedway , Thomas continued to be involved in NASCAR, serving as the guiding force for his son Ronnie's racing career. The younger Thomas posted two top-10 finishes in 1978, at Nashville and Darlington, en route to the rookie title against a field that also included Roger Hamby, Blackie Wangerin, Baxter Price and Al Holbert. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Snapshot: Darlington preview
Get all the info you need for the Bojangles' Southern 500
GarageCam is ready to rumble in 'The Last Great Colosseum'
Host Matthew Dillner strolls through the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage at Bristol Motor Speedway to talk about the challenges of 'The Last Great Colosseum'.
Cain: My dinner with Jeff Gordon in 1992
RELATED: Gordon's teammates plan tribute " Final 24 paint scheme My first meeting with Jeff Gordon came in Atlanta in 1992, two nights before what would be a sport-changing maiden NASCAR Winston Cup Series start for the then 20-year-old. I remember he was dressed casually in jeans and yes, sported "that" mustache. I met him as part of a larger group of friends in a bustling Atlanta hotel lobby. He was without a single "handler" and since he knew a couple people in our group, wondered if he could tag along with us. The plan was to do a group dinner then later stop by a sports bar to watch the big fight between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe. The young Gordon looked as much like a fan as a driver. You'd never know he competed in NASCAR's Grand National division. Even less apparent was that he would be making his first big Cup start that weekend, except for the occasional, "Hey Jeff," which he acknowledged in a downplayed manner. I still have a large button with a photo of Jeff and a friend of mine after we jokingly convinced the staff at Benihana's that night it was Gordon's birthday. It wasn't, but we got free dessert and the funny button. I had reported on a lot of IMSA sports car racing leading into this assignment for the Tampa Tribune , but this was my first big Cup race, too. Our primary racing beat writer, Herb Branham, was focusing his weekend coverage on "the big story" -- Richard Petty's last start. I was to handle the more routine race story topped by the championship. Looking back at it, I discovered that I never even mentioned Gordon in that story. He crashed and finished 31st. To be perfectly honest, my background was primarily stick-and-ball and I had no idea who Gordon was, especially compared to NASCAR's bigger names like Petty, Davey Allison, Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki, who won the title that weekend. Just to have a chance at this first big-time racing opportunity, I had to make myself valuable all around to the newspaper. So I offered to stop in Atlanta earlier in the week for a lengthy and candid interview with the Tampa Bay Lightning's big news, a woman goalie, Manon Rheaume. Manon was great. But NASCAR was better and 22 years later, I'm still here. I remember congratulating Gordon the day after our dinner on his "best of second round qualifying," but honestly had no idea of the fabulous racing legend this modest, fun, personable young man would become. He eventually lost the mustache, but never the mojo. RELATED: Photos of Gordon through the years Gordon is the first major NASCAR champion that I have covered from the very beginning to the very end, which comes with his retirement this weekend after the 2015 season finale in Homestead, Florida -- where he stands an impressive 1-in-4 chance to win a fifth title. And while Gordon has accomplished so much, transformed the sport and truly deserves the opportunity to possibly leave as a champion, it will feel very odd to me -- and to so many -- to say goodbye now. Gordon was the first NASCAR driver I had any lengthy conversation with or wrote any substantial stories about. Considering that now, after his four championships and 93 victories, it is something I will treasure as a reporter. And truly it started with what a down-to-earth person I have always considered Gordon to be. I'm fortunate to say I was there for so many of Gordon's firsts -- the Brickyards, the Daytona 500 s, the championships ... and the fabulous head-to-heads with Dale Earnhardt. RELATED: Gordon's top 24 NASCAR moments I still have the February 1995 edition of "Beckett Racing Monthly" magazine with Gordon's first cover photo and my story on him featured inside. I honestly hadn't read it in more than 10-15 years. The headline is "Flash Gordon" and talks about the amazing statistics he had already posted only two full seasons into what is now surely a Hall of Fame career. He was already truly one of the most popular drivers on the circuit -- later that very year winning his first Cup title -- and I remember his public relations team wanting me to send a letter in advance with a list of potential questions. I didn't. And Gordon was still spectacular. As impressive as his success on track had already been -- the 1993 Rookie of the Year, a win in his first Gatorade Twin 125, and then in the Coca-Cola 600 and the inaugural 1994 Brickyard 400 -- Gordon was genuinely humbled and amazed at the fan reaction in my story. "When I get a second to sit down, which isn't very often, I think back to when I got a chance to meet Charles Barkley or Chris Webber,'' Gordon said in the article. "That was a big thrill for me and they weren't rude, they were really nice. That made a big impact on me and I try to put myself in that same position. If I have an extra second, I always try to give it to the fans, especially the kids.'' And he always has. This weekend in particular, Gordon will be honored, acknowledged, remembered and cheered for more than two decades of transforming this sport on track and off it. As he said in that 1994 article, "I'm just a race car driver looking to make a living.'' And so he has. So, well done.
Dale Jr. feels right at home at ISC Archives
Student of the sport visits Daytona facility, calls video archive the 'Holy Grail' It's the room in back, hidden behind the large steel door where humidity and temperature are constantly monitored. Walk down the hallway, past the trophies and timing equipment, beyond the library and the filing cabinets overflowing with photographs. Just beyond the autographed pace car and the workbench that held who knows how many toolboxes through the years. Step inside and be greeted by history. From floor to ceiling, on the left and right, footage of races and television shows, reel after reel after reel containing a video timeline of sorts of NASCAR is stored here. For a history buff such as Dale Earnhardt Jr ., the room is as significant as the 2.5-mile track located barely a mile away. "There's a lot of neat stuff in here," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said while visiting the ISC Archives and Research Center, located near Daytona International Speedway, earlier this month. "I think the photos are important; the film is overwhelming to me because I love to watch old races and sort of get an idea of what it was like back then and that's really the best way to do it. It's awesome to see this stuff being taken care of. "As a collector of old races and old film, that's sort of the Holy Grail back there." Points races, special events (Busch Clash, Budweiser Duel, Sprint All-Star Race) and even movies can be found here. It's what might or might not be here, though, that interests Earnhardt Jr. His father, seven-time NASCAR premier series champion Dale Earnhardt, scored his first win at Bristol Motor Speedway in 1979. NASCAR races weren't carried live on network television at the time and only select events, such as the Daytona 500 , received abbreviated coverage. The '79 Daytona was the first to be carried live from start to finish by CBS. "That (Bristol) race wasn't televised, wasn't broadcast. So there isn't even a partial digital copy being traded among those … groups out there that are in those inner circles. That's who I deal with … they are trading races that were broadcast. Someone had the opportunity to record them off television. A lot of this stuff here is just raw footage that the public doesn't have access to. So now I know where to go." Earnhardt said he has seen footage of his father's '79 BMS win "in highlights … so I know it exists." Outside of that particular race, he said "any footage that’s unobtainable from '79, '80," interests him. "Dad's first two years. Besides that, I'm a big '70s guy I guess. Any of the races from the '70s, because a lot of stuff in the '80s was broadcast … you can obtain it through trades and whatnot working with guys that are in those collector groups. So a lot of things in the '70s is unique because it’s one of a kind." The photo library turned up, among other things, pictures of driver Jimmy Means, a childhood hero. Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Means, Jimmy's son, often spent race days together in the garage. Herb Branham, senior manager for the Archives & Research Center, presented Earnhardt Jr. with another special memento – a framed set of photos of Earnhardt's grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt. "That's going up on the wall," Earnhardt said proudly. A final stop before heading back to the track put Earnhardt behind the desk of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. One of the latest additions to the archives, the room is a re-creation of the office used by France during much of his tenure as the head of the sanctioning body. The desk, furniture and fixtures came from France's original office. "This is one place I never thought I'd be, in Big Bill’s office sitting at his desk in his chair," Earnhardt said. "What a special place. "Not only is this where you can find a lot of history, but somebody's here taking care of it. I appreciate NASCAR, everything they do to hold onto that history and keep it in good shape." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule