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The Best NASCAR Paint Schemes You Forgot About

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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One thing that sets NASCAR aside from most other sports are their paint schemes. Rather than every driver looking the same, different paint schemes help drivers stand out amongst a sea of competitors. While many can list countless examples of iconic NASCAR paint schemes, here are a few that weren’t so iconic: one-offs and special paint schemes ran only for a select race or a select number of races. Here, we at the Daily Downforce present to you Paint Schemes You Forgot About:

Jeff Gordon’s Oddities

When the name Jeff Gordon comes to mind when it comes to conversations about paint schemes, there are more than likely two (possibly three) which instantly come to mind: his rainbow warriors scheme from the ’90s and his flame scheme from the early to mid 2000s. Some newer fans might point to his AARP scheme he ran later in his career, and who can forget the infamous T-Rex scheme? But here are just a few oddities that you probably don’t remember:

First up is this No. 24 Pepsi scheme that he ran in select races in the Busch Series. Yeah, I know he’s run some Pepsi schemes in the Cup Series before, but what makes this one in particular stand out is the number font. It’s different, right? Well, that’s because in the year of 2000, long before Jeff Gordon because the second in command of Hendrick Motorsports, JG and his then-crew chief and eventual Cup Series owner, Ray Evernham, started a Busch Series team with Pepsi as its primary sponsor.

The team attempted 20 races that were split between driver-owner Gordon himself, and the late Ricky Hendrick. The team would score a total of 2 victories, one at Daytona with this very scheme. Following the 2000 season, the team would shut down and Ray Evernham would start his own team, returning OEM Dodge back to the sport.

This one’s a bit strange, isn’t it? It’s a unique design and one that’s definitely worth taking a look at. Gordon would drive this car in the 1999 season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Okay, this might be cheating a little bit because this car never actually raced. Starting in 2001, the Jeff Gordon Foundation would release diecasts to raise money for the foundation. This one is the 2002 Elmo scheme. Other children’s characters to be featured on these annual diecasts include the Cookie Monster, Big Bird, and Mighty Mouse.

Dale Jr.’s Amped Up One-Offs

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver from 2003 through his retirement year in 2017. I’m sure when most think of Dale Jr., they think of a red, white, and black No. 8 Budweiser car. Maybe some think of his original Amp Energy/National Guard schemes, or maybe the cars he drove for his most iconic wins in the Daytona 500. As a Jr. fan, here are a few schemes that Dale Jr. ran throughout his career that do not get enough attention.

I think most people remember this car’s sister scheme. In 2002, Dale Jr. ran a blue and white #3 RCR car sponsored by the Nabisco brands, Oreo and Ritz, at the Busch Series opener at Daytona. Jr. would run similar schemes down the road numbered 8 and 81 respectively.

One that often gets looked over, though, is his Nilla Wafers/Nutter Butter scheme he ran in Charlotte later that same year. That’s probably because while he won the race in Daytona, he would experience a mechanical failure and finish 29th at Charlotte despite running well most of the race.

This black Navy sponsored car is the first time Dale Jr. ever drove the number 88. It was also the first time he drove his own equipment. It was 2007, and while Dale had made a number of starts in the Busch Series for his family-owned DEI, he and the organization were going through a very ugly (and public!) breakup.

So, for the July race at Daytona, Dale decided to strap into his own equipment for the first time to see what he had. He would struggle for most of the race (kind of like Kyle Busch did when he took his truck team to the Xfinity Series), not really being a factor. He would finish in the 14th position.

With Dale Jr. jumping over to HMS for the 2008 Cup Series season, that would mean that JR Motorsports would be merged with HMS’s Xfinity Series program as JRM became a 2-car team. A young Brad Keselowski would pilot the Navy sponsored No. 88 for JRM while the #5 would see a rotation of driver including Jr. himself, Mark Martin (who would score the team their first win), and Martin Truex Jr.

Jimmie Johnson would pilot the No. 5 at the spring Charlotte race and Dale Jr. would run a third entry for the team: the No. 83 Dale Jr. Foundation/Navy car. All 3 JRM cars would be in contention for the win, but all would fall short. Jr. finished the best of the three in this car, finishing 4th.

Jimmie Johnson Drove What?

Lowe’s and Jimmie Johnson. They’re pretty much synonymous to many NASCAR fans. They just go together like bread and butter. And their schemes, while changing slightly over the years, were typically just variations of the same scheme. When they left the No. 48 after the 2017 season, it took some time getting used to Jimmie on a black and purple Ally car. But, as with Jeff Gordon’s AARP scheme, we got used to it.

This Ally scheme ran one race: the Coke 600 in 2020, Jimmie’s final fulltime season. I picked this one because it’s unique (besides the camo green, the number is white instead of Johnson’s trademark neon yellow) and it’s the only post-Lowe’s Jimmie Johnson diecast I own.

This scheme, we’ve seen before on Jimmie’s Cup and Xfinity cars. But this is from his lone Truck Series start. I was at that race. It was at Bristol and it was a wild sight to behold. Jimmie ran well and was in contention until a late-race spin took him out. He’d bring home the Randy Moss entry in the 34th position.

Jimmie ran this scheme in the all star race in 2011. The scheme itself is a bit different from his usual Lowe’s schemes but the most noteworthy thing about it is the number swap to celebrate a deal Lowe’s was running at the time. Jimmie ran the No. 5 while that number’s usual driver, teammate Mark Martin, drove a No. 25 throwback to Tim Richmond.

Another one where I’m cheating a little bit because this car never actually competed in a race. It’s a display car. But the fact that Jimmie is still competing (well…sort of) in NASCAR and he’s not in a No. 48 is hard to get used to.

Number Swap For The (Former) Candyman

No paint scheme in NASCAR has been quite as iconic as the ones Mars Candy has done for their iconic brand, M&Ms. While many driver from Ken Shrader to Elliott Sadler have sported the yellow scheme with the candy scattered across the hood, no other combination has been as iconic as their partnership with Wild Thang, Kyle Busch.

Similar to the Jimmie Johnson No. 5 deal, Kyle swapped out his No. 18 for the No. 75 to celebrate the brands 75th anniversary. He ran this scheme in the 2016 All-Star race.

This Harvick Paint Scheme Was Not #4Ever

Last but not least, let’s talk about a driver currently amidst his retirement year. More specifically, let’s go all the way back to the beginning. After running a full year in 2000 in the Busch Series, Kevin Harvick was finally ready to dip his toes into the Cup Series. The plan was for him to run an AOL sponsored No. 30 car for 5 races in the 2001 season.

Unfortunately, tragedy would strike and Harvick would end up going full-time in Dale Earnhardt’s now renumbered 29. With sponsorship from GM Goodwrench, AOL would also get one race to shine: in the Winston…or the All-Star Race. It’s not exactly the paint scheme he would have run if he could have stayed in the No. 30 but it’s close.

What do you think, DDF readers? What other not-so-iconic paint schemes did you sort of dig? Let us know!

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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