All three of NASCAR‘s top series will head to Darlington this week for a special Throwback Weekend. Several drivers will honor legends from NASCAR history, including Ross Chastain. He will head onto the track showing off a paint scheme honoring a car owned by Junior Johnson, a NASCAR legend who passed away in 2019.
The driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro and Chip Ganassi Racing partnered to make this paint scheme possible and revealed it on Monday morning. The all-red car, a recreation of Johnson’s 1993 Ford, features the iconic arches on the hood, yellow numbers on the doors and roof, and white lettering reading “McDonald’s” on the rear fenders.
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) May 3, 2021
Hut Stricklin and Jimmy Spencer both drove the No. 27 McDonald’s Ford for Johnson, with the latter finding success. Spencer won two races in the classic car, taking the checkered flags at Daytona and Talladega in 1994. Stricklin made 30 starts for Johnson’s team in 1993, posting a season-best finish of fourth in the Daytona 500.
Johnson was a giant in NASCAR, both as an owner and a driver
One of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame members in 2010, Johnson found considerable success in motorsports during his life. He started 313 races over 14 years, driving to Victory Lane 50 times, more than Tony Stewart and Bill Elliott. Johnson also posted 121 top-five finishes. When he retired from racing in 1966, he did so as the winningest driver to never win a championship.
However, Johnson was not simply someone that excelled on the race track. He actually started his racing career in the family business — moonshining. According to NASCAR, he sharpened his skills as a driver while transporting the untaxed liquor. The authorities never caught Johnson on the road. They had to stake out the family still in order to capture and convict him of the crime. Though President Ronald Reagan pardoned him on Dec. 26, 1986.
Johnson found even more success as an owner in NASCAR. He worked with several high-profile drivers, including Elliott, Spencer, Sterling Martin, Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip, and Cale Yarborough among others. His group of drivers combined for 132 wins, as well as six Cup Series championships. Waltrip won three (1976–1978) and Waltrip added three more (1981–82, 1985).
Another driver used Throwback Weekend to honor Johnson in 2020
Late in the 2020 season, the NASCAR Cup Series headed to Darlington for the first race of the playoffs — the Southern 500. This event headlined Throwback Weekend and featured several special paint schemes. Austin Dillon, in particular, headed to the starting grid in a white and red car honoring Johnson.
Really pumped to be honoring an absolute legend in our sport, Junior Johnson! Can’t wait to run this @AmericanEthanol paint scheme at the @TooToughToTame throwback weekend!🔥🔥 #NASCARThrowback #TheTrackTooToughTooTame #HonorThePast pic.twitter.com/p5h6uwy6od
— Austin Dillon (@austindillon3) August 18, 2020
The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro featured an all-white background with bright red letters and text on the hood, fenders, doors, and roof. Racing stripes covered the center of the hood and matched Johnson’s classic paint scheme. There were slight differences, such as the placement of the Chevrolet text, but the scheme was a fitting tribute.
Dillon turned in one of his best performances of the season while driving the Johnson throwback scheme. He pushed for the win on the final lap, taking the top lane while Kevin Harvick remained near the bottom of the track. Dillon’s failed to pass his fellow driver, but he finished second overall and racked up 38 points. Joey Logano, Erik Jones, and William Byron rounded out the top five.
Will Chastain find similar success when drives his Johnson throwback scheme? The NASCAR fans will find out on Sunday when the Goodyear 400 takes place. The race will air on FS1 at 3:30 p.m. ET, with Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon, and Clint Bowyer in the booth.