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The 10 Best Throwback NASCAR Paint Schemes

6 minute read

By Devon Taylor

Key Takeaways

  • Although sponsorship money helps pay the bills in NASCAR, the colorful paint schemes are also another part of the attraction.
  • In recent years, many teams have unveiled “throwback” liveries to capitalize on the nostalgia of former NASCAR legends.
  • With almost 75 years of rich history, NASCAR drivers have plenty of inspiration for their old-school tributes.

NASCAR was officially founded in 1948. The sport has come a long way since then, going from a handful of car enthusiasts literally racing on beaches to being a multi-billion dollar industry. As the sport grew, so did the money involved. Thanks to numerous corporate sponsors, NASCAR quickly evolved into something that looked like billboards-on-wheels.

Don’t take that the wrong way, though. We’re not ragging on NASCAR’s paint schemes. On the contrary, the various paint schemes only add to the colorful excitement of stock car racing. Even better, many teams have opted for retro schemes in the past couple of decades. When it’s becomes fashionable to break out the “old school” looks, a few NASCAR teams have produced some nostalgic paint jobs. (It shouldn’t surprise any NASCAR fan to learn that Dale Earnhardt Jr. — a man with a rich family racing history — makes this list multiple times.)

Here are the best throwback, old school, classic, nostalgia-inducing paint jobs that NASCAR has ever seen.

Mark Martin – 2005

In 2005, Mark Martin was supposed to be retiring. Or at least stepping back from being a full time Cup Series driver. Neither of those things ended up happening, as Martin continued racing until 2015. Nevertheless, he launched his “Salute To You” farewell tour in 2005. It included multiple throwback paint jobs from his long career with Roush Racing.

We chose to highlight this classic red, white and blue livery that Martin wore at the 2005 All-Star race. It was as all-American as all-American paint jobs can get, with bold sponsor logos and a brilliant number six standing out on the roof and door panels. It doesn’t hurt that Martin actually claimed the checkered flag that day, either.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr – 2008

Dale Junior is a beloved NASCAR fan favorite, much like his father was before him. If there’s one thing that Junior certainly gets right, it’s his healthy respect for the history of NASCAR racing. You can see it in the way he drives, sure, but it’s also routinely on display in the form of his paint schemes. Spoiler alert: this is the first of four different Earnhardt Jr. appearances on this list.

In 2008, most of Earnhardt Jr.’s paint schemes featured Amp Energy or National Guard sponsor logos. However, at the Dodge Challenger 500 in Darlington, he unveiled this gorgeous throwback. The classic 80s Mountain Dew logo took center stage, part of their “Old School vs New School” marketing promotion. Amp Energy and Mountain Dew are both owned by Pepsi, actually, so it wasn’t a huge stretch.

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Jeff Gordon – 2009

Jeff Gordon’s racing career spanned over 800 races and 25 years. He won four Cup Series championships and drove in hundreds of different cars over the years. When it comes to throwback liveries, though, this 2009 number the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Speedway takes home the top prize.

The bright yellow base contrasts beautifully with the classic Pepsi logo on the hood. There’s nothing sleek or modern about this paint scheme, which was obviously the point. Frankly, this No. 24 Chevy looks straight out Days of Thunder, which was released way back in 1990. Unfortunately, Gordon got tangled up in an early multi-car crash that day. He finished a disappointing 37th.

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Rusty Wallace – 2005

Rusty Wallace won more than 50 races over his legendary 25 year NASCAR career. While he only won a single Cup Series championship (1989), he remained competitive to the very end. He won his final race in 2004, before announcing that 2005 would be his final season as a full-time driver. As such, he decided to go out with a bang.

At Chicagoland Speedway’s running of the USG Sheetrock 400, Wallace showed up in this amazing black and yellow throwback paint scheme. It was an obvious homage to his time as a member of Penske Racing in the early 90s. Wallace must have been feeling fast in that classis look, as he transformed a 33rd qualifying spot into a 12th place finish. Not too shabby.

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Mark Martin – 2011

Yes, it’s yet another excellent throwback paint scheme driven by Mark Martin. Although Martin’s 2011 season wasn’t exactly successful (zero wins in 36 races, finishing 22nd in the standings), he easily earned a podium finish for best nostalgic paint job.

This throwback paint scheme was a subtle tribute to Tim Richmond, who was famous for his red Folger’s Coffee Chevy. Martin’s version may have swapped in Farmer’s Insurance as the main logo, but the colors and overall look remain true.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 2010

Dale Jr. usually drives with the No. 8 or No. 88, depending on which period of his career you’re talking about. However, his father’s iconic No. 3 car is a true NASCAR icon. In 2010, Junior hit the track wearing his old man’s number in this slick throwback paint scheme.

This eye-popping blue and yellow livery not only paid tribute to his dad, but to the old school style offered by Wrangler Jeans. It was a simple and effective paint job, which was made even more memorable when Earnhardt Jr. won Subway Jalapeno 250 that day at Daytona.

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Jamie McMurray – 2003

Jamie McMurray burst into the scene as a rookie driver in 2003. While he didn’t win any races that year, he did finish in the top five on five separate occasions. He also endeared himself to long-standing NASCAR fans with this paint scheme from the EA Sports 500 at Talladega.

It was a heartwarming tribute to the late Davey Allison. The tribute was even more special considering it was the first race at Talladega since the 10th anniversary of Allison’s death, which was a couple months earlier. This paint job was a true crowd pleaser, although McMurray couldn’t muster more than a 16th place finish that day.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 2006

Yes, it’s him again. Dale Junior is obviously the master of throwback paint jobs, so here’s another entry of his from 2006. Earnhardt Jr. partnered with Budweiser, his main sponsor that season, to create this excellent tribute to his grandfather Ralph, who was a NASCAR racer in the 50s and 60s.

While there are still plenty of smaller sponsor logos all over the vehicle, the main cream and red livery was artfully blended. Unfortunately, fans would get their viewing of Junior’s No. 8 ride cut short that day. The race was called after just 129 laps due to rain. Earnhardt Jr. still managed to finish third, though.

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Brad Keselowski – 2012

We’re just glad this entry isn’t from Martin or Earnhardt Jr. again. Instead, we’re focusing on Brad Keselowski’s paint scheme from the Irwin Tools 500 in 2012. While it’s not quite as retro as some of the others in this article, it still gets the job done. The navy blue and white Miller Lite-branded Dodge Charger looked impressive going around the track — at least, it did until it Keselowski hit a wall.

Keselowski had actually qualified second with the “Blue Deuce,” which made the wreck even more disappointing. Regardless of the mishap at Bristol that day, Keselowski managed to squeak out enough points that season to claim the Sprint Cup championship.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 2006

We saved the best for last. Once again, it’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his iconic No. 8 car. This time, he showed up at the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega in 2006 with a blacked-out paint scheme that was an obvious tribute to his iconic father. Dale Sr., famously known as The Intimidator, had passed away five years earlier in a tragic crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.

Although Junior’s throwback paint job was a surefire winner, his results on the track that day were not. He lead the race for only eight laps, but suffered a spin out and a blown engine before ending up finishing in 31st.

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Devon Taylor

Managing Editor

Devon is an experienced writer and a father of three young children. He's simultaneously trying to build college funds and plan for an eventual retirement. He's been in online publishing since 2013 and has a degree from the University of Guelph. In his free time, he loves fanatically following the Blue Jays and Toronto FC, running, camping with his family, and playing video games.

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