Sure, special paint schemes are commonplace in NASCAR these days, but which ones truly are something special?
Try these five on for size.
5. KURT BUSCH, Talladega Nights – Love him or hate him, Kurt Busch has a wicked good sense of humor. So last year, when he drove for Phoenix Racing and the team had no sponsorship for the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Busch had the car trimmed out in a Ricky Bobby "Talladega Nights" special paint scheme. Busch even had a stuffed cougar in the garage.
With the car getting a ton of attention, Busch and the team made sure the car had the logo and the text donation number of the Armed Forces Federation, the charity run by Buschâs girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll. Shake and bake! This year, at the July Daytona NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Phoenix and Busch ran a "Days Of Thunder" paint scheme. Brilliant on both counts.
4 DALE EARNHARDT JR., The Dark Night Rises – Junior Nation fans will always love the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet that Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove in the June race at Michigan International Speedway last year. In that race, the car carried a special paint scheme to promote the latest Batman epic, "The Dark Knight Rises."
Earnhardt drove the sinister-looking Chevrolet to victory at MIS, ending a 143-race winless streak. For his fans – and there are an awful lot of them – that alone gives the car a special place in the Earnhardt fleet.
3. JEFF GORDON, T. Rex – One of the most famous and controversial NASCAR race cars of all-time was Jeff Gordon’s "T. Rex" No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, which he drove to victory in the 1997 Sprint All-Star race. Although the car carried "Jurassic Park" sponsorship, in reality it was named in honor of chassis designer and engineer Rex Stump, not the dinosaur flick.
Despite rumors the car was illegal, it had been signed off on by NASCAR Winston Cup Director Gary Nelson long before the race. The trick car’s suspension was optimized to be at its best on short runs and in ’97, the final segment of the Winston was only 10 laps. The car was never raced again, and in truth, would not have been nearly as effective over long green-flag runs like you have in most races.
2. BILL ELLIOTT, Thunderbat – In 1995, McDonald’s went all in to promote the movie "Batman Forever," in what the fast-food chain described as "one of the largest and most diverse international movie marketing programs ever undertaken by the company."
As part of the month-long promotion, Bill Elliott drove a black Ford Thunderbird nicknamed the "Thunderbat," which was festooned with logos from McDonald’s and "Batman Forever." The Thunderbat debuted in the 1995 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, just one week after Dale Earnhardt’s silver Chevrolet (see below) ran at the same track in The Winston.
1. DALE EARNHARDT, Silver RJR No. 3 – The genesis of special paint schemes dates back to 1995, when the late, great Dale Earnhardt did the unthinkable: He eschewed the traditional black paint scheme on his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing/GM Goodwrench Chevrolet for a silver scheme used during the running of the 1995 Winston, the race that’s today known as the Sprint All-Star Race.
The seven-time Sprint Cup champion stunned the racing world with the silver car, which was painted that color in honor of R.J. Reynolds’ 25th anniversary in NASCAR. Once fans got over the shock of seeing the No. 3 in silver, they eagerly embraced it, and it in large part launched the NASCAR diecast craze.