The top three series in NASCAR return to Darlington Raceway on May 6-8 for Throwback Weekend, the annual celebration of racing history. The weekend will feature a jam-packed schedule full of parades, parties, and heated battles on the track, and the officials are more than ready.
Kerry Tharp, the track president, spoke to Heavy ahead of the festive weekend in South Carolina. He set the stage for some of the special panels and celebrated the return of massive crowds. Tharp knows the importance of getting the fans involved in Throwback Weekend, and he is ready for them to fully embrace the special weekend after two years of limited capacity.
“Well, it’s a real blessing. You know, it’s been two and a half, almost three years since we had an event that wasn’t impacted by the pandemic,” Tharp said. “So being able to bring back our fans, being able to bring back the Hall of Famers, being able to bring back legends is a really, really cool deal for us to be able to do something like that.
“And so I think it’s great for the fans to be able to experience this. I think it’s great for the opportunities that we have to put on a great event. We look forward to all the activities that we have coming up this weekend and really this week.”
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Throwback Weekend Brings Out NASCAR Legends
There are several high-profile races on the Cup Series schedule that draw in big crowds and special guests. The trip to Darlington Raceway stands out on its own due to the ties to NASCAR history.
There is no shortage of Hall of Famers that head to South Carolina for Throwback Weekend. Former drivers such as Richard Petty and Bill Elliott regularly take part by jumping into the booth, waving the green flag, or taking their former cars out on the track for parade laps. Others show up to just take in the sights and sounds.
“I think a true example of the throwback spirit is Mark Martin, who obviously is a Hall of Fame member,” Tharp said. “I contacted him several months ago about coming and he said, ‘you know, I’d love to come. I love that weekend, but I live in Montana now and I’m just not able to break away.’ And then about 10 days ago, he called and said, ‘you know, Kerry, I see where there’s three teams running my throwback paint scheme, and I have to come back.’
“And so you know that meant a lot to us for him to do that and come back. And so we thought that was really, really cool. That just kind of exemplifies what the throwback is — it’s a reunion. It’s bringing people back and letting them share some of their memories and stories and accomplishments.”
The Schemes Will Create Conversations
The parade, the classic car show, the panel featuring NASCAR mothers, and the dance party are only some of the ways that fans will be able to celebrate during the trip to Darlington Raceway. They will also watch as some iconic schemes complete laps around the track.
There are numerous throwback schemes that will draw attention during the three national series races. The Trackhouse Racing cars will pay homage to Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. while the Petty GMS Motorsports drivers will honor Lee and Richard Petty. Matt DiBenedetto will use the Truck Series race to bring back Sterling Marlin’s Silver Bullet scheme.
The fans can vote on several different schemes ahead of the tripleheader weekend. The teams that receive the most votes will secure bragging rights while their drivers try to reach Victory Lane.
“The one that sticks out of my mind is the Jeff Gordon throwback that William Byron’s running,” Tharp said. “I mean, it looks almost exactly like that car that Jeff Gordon made famous back in the day. But all of them have special significance and that’s why we opened up the throwback.
“We decided not to have a specific era anymore. We wanted to open it up and let the teams do whatever worked out the best for them. I think having all three national series participate is a good thing too because it gives the Truck teams, the Xfinity teams, and certainly the Cup teams the opportunity to do a throwback scheme honoring something or someone who’s meant a lot.”
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