If Justin Carroll is able to pull off his second Throwback 276 win at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) this weekend, a Polish victory lap may be in order.
Carroll is heading back to the “Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars” to defend his title in the CARS Tour sanctioned event, which commemorates the history of stock car racing via retro paint schemes.
Last year, the up-and-coming KDDP (Kulwicki Driver Development Program) driver won the inaugural Throwback 276 race with a Dick Trickle tribute, but this Saturday Carroll’s wrap will honor the late NASCAR Cup champion Alan Kulwicki.
“This year I was picked as one of the seven finalists of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program,” Carroll told Speed51.com. “Myself and six other people were picked from hundreds of other drivers that applied- that’s a pretty big deal. So we decided, since we’re part of the program this year, why not do a throwback to Alan.”
With a legend already in mind, all Carroll had to decide was which Kulwicki paint scheme his Late Model Stock Car would resemble. The U.S. Army sponsored No. 7 from 1991— Kulwicki’s infamous ‘one-race wonder’ design that followed his departure with Zerex— fit the bill in more ways than one.
“When we were trying to think about what to pick, we started looking at some race finishes,” Carroll said at his car’s unveiling. “At the Hickory race earlier in the year we finished eighth, and in this throwback [paint scheme], Alan finished eighth. It was a one race deal, this is a one race deal. It kind of all clicked together.”
Not dissimilar to Kulwicki, Carroll’s limited-budget, family-owned race team has seen success in the Charlotte region over the last couple of years amongst the larger-scale operations dominating in the heart of NASCAR country.
Hickory has seen the No. 57 machine in victory lane three times this season, giving Carroll some self-assurance coming into Saturday’s race.
“I have a lot of confidence going into the weekend,” Carroll said. “If we can get the same feel in the car that we had earlier when we won those three races, I truly feel like we can get back in victory lane.”
Though KDDP drivers are judged by a combination of off-track performances such as social media outreach and community service projects, Carroll can’t ignore the sentiment behind winning in a Kulwicki-inspired car while competing for the Kulwicki Cup.
“It would be absolutely huge if we could make it back-to-back and defend our title there,” Carroll said. “It ended up being a huge deal to win the inaugural Throwback race and was by far the biggest win I’ve ever gotten in my racing career. And to win with Alan’s scheme on the car, it would mean so much more.”
Feature racing at Hickory Motor Speedway is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. Speed51.com will have Trackside Now coverage of the event for fans who want in-depth updates.
-Melissa Strahley, Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo Credit: Justin Carroll