NASCAR’s Eighties Flashback

This weekend, NASCAR will have two “throwback” races at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, one for the “AAA” Xfinity series and one for the “major league” Monster Energy series. Darlington and NASCAR started with this throwback theme in 2015, and this year 35 of the 40 cars in the top-tier series will have retro color schemes centered around 1985-1989. In my opinion, two of the best of these liveries are Brad Keselowski’s tribute to Rusty Wallace’s #2 Miller Genuine Draft car and Aric Almirola’s version of Richard Petty’s 1984 #43 STP car—the one he won his 200th race in.

An example Darlington throwback paint scheme, linked from Motor Racing Network.
The #43 throwback paint scheme, also linked from Motor Racing Network.

To be fair, Brad, Aric, and their teams have some advantages over some of the other tribute schemes—they have the matching car number, and the original sponsor is a) still in business and b) willing to sponsor the new car. Because of this, some of the other schemes are more of a reach—but it’s still nice to see the effort.

It’s not just how the cars look, either. NBCSN will use some old school graphics, and with any luck, there will be some commercials from the period (I’ve seen Coca Cola and Mellow Yellow in past years). Some of the pit crews are wearing uniforms styled like those from decades ago. Even the Monster Energy girls are getting into it with some eighties hairstyles.

For me, this is appointment viewing—to be honest, likely the last time of the NASCAR racing year that this is true. What do others think?

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Homologation Racing at Le Mans in the Eighties

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is going on today and tomorrow. It’s interesting, but I don’t have strong impressions of eighties Le Mans racing. The 1950s have the terrible Mercedes-Benz crash, the 1960s have Ferrari versus Ford, the 1970s have the Porsches, and the 1990s have the flying Mercedes-Benz prototypes. So, I did a little research on the cars racing that at least resembled cars you could purchase.

In 1980, the IMSA class winner was a Porsche 935, with another 935 in second, and a Ferrari 512BB in third. Further down the finishing list were many more Porsches and Ferraris, along with a few BMW M1s and a single Mazda RX-7.

In 1981, the IMSA class winner was a Ferrari 512BB, with a Porsche 935 in second, and another 512BB in third. More Ferraris and Porsches were also featured, along with a few BMW M1s, a single Mazda RX-7, and Chevrolet Camaro driven by Cale Yarborough that only completed 13 laps before the brakes failed.

In 1982, the IMSA class winner was once again a Porsche 935, with another 935 in second, and a Ferrari 512BB in third. Further down the list were more Porsches (both 935s and 924s), more Ferraris, two Chevrolet Camaros, two BMW M1s, and two Mazda RX-7s.

The classes changed in 1983, and the results were that Porsche 930s filled all three podium spots in the then new Group B class. Further down the list were more Porsche 930s along with a single 928S and a single BMW M1. The Ferraris, Camaros, and Mazdas were all gone (Mazda had moved to the prototype class).

Two separate street car-based classes raced in 1984. A BMW M1 won the Group B class inaugurated in 1983, with a Porsche 930 and Porsche 928S filling the other two podium spots. However, IMSA/GTO was back; a Porsche 911 won, with Porsche 930s in second and third place. Other cars in the field included a BMW M1, a Ferrari 512BB, and another Porsche 930.

Le Mans moved back to a single and small Group B class in 1985. A BMW M1 won again, with another M1 in second, and a Porsche 911 SC in third. One more M1 was further down the finishing order.

Things were even thinner in 1986. A single car participated in the GTX class: a Porsche 961. It was the same story in Group B—a BMW M1 won.

By 1987, Group B no longer existed. Once again, a single car participated in the GTX class: a Porsche 961. There would not be any street-based cars in 1988 or 1989—they would not return until 1993.