Every racing series needs at least one signature race, an event that stands out among the rest of their regular events. In recent years, many questioned whether or not the CARS Tour had that signature event. While the sanctioning body hosted many great events for Late Model Stock Cars and Super Late Models, they seemed to lack an event that stood out among the rest. But that’s no longer the case.
It was evident this past weekend at Hickory Motor Speedway that the Throwback 276 has become that marquee race for the CARS Tour. Those at the track, as well as those watching from afar, could sense a special buzz surrounding the event last Saturday at the “Birthplace of NASCAR Stars.”
The racing community often talks about “The Good Ole Days.” And while very few race fans can pinpoint exactly when those days took place, they still talk about them all the time. They talk about how tracks used to have full grandstands, full fields, the best drivers and the most beautiful cars. In the next sentence, they claim that the racing of today simply can’t compare to that of yesterday’s.
Members of the younger generation of racers and race fans hear their elders speak about those days all of the time as they pine for a return of whatever has apparently been lost.
Often times those who are reminiscing sound like they’re complaining, saying that the sport of today will never be as good as it once was. Kids these days might even say that the generations who came before them are “throwing shade” at the racing and racers of today.
Reminiscing on the past while also enjoying the present can be fun, if done the right way, and the Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway is definitely the right way.
The second edition of the CARS Tour doubleheader, held this past weekend at a track rich in history, saw jam-packed grandstands, large fields full of extremely talented drivers, and more than 30 cars bearing liveries from as long ago as the 1950s to as recent as 2011, all paying tribute to drivers that came before them.
Some paid tribute to friends, others paid tribute to legendary drivers. Ty Gibbs, grandson of NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs, ran Bobby Labonte’s 1995 Interstate Batteries scheme. Deac McCaskill paid tribute to Mark Martin by running Martin’s No. 60 Winn-Dixie scheme, a scheme with which Martin dominated the Busch Grand National Series in the early 1990s. Others paid tribute to Martin as well with his legendary ASA Late Model scheme making a return to the track, as well as the infamous Viagra scheme of the early 2000s. Even Cole Trickle’s No. 51 Mello-Yello machine from Days of Thunder made it off of the silver screen and onto the race track 28 years after the Tom Cruise-film was released. Schemes run by Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt, Freddy Fryar and more all lived once again. Even Cole Trickle’s No. 51 Mello-Yello machine from Days of Thunder made it off of the silver screen and onto the race track 28 years after the Tom Cruise-film was released.
All were beautiful, and all resonated with the fans in the stands.
And the cars weren’t the only things throwing it back. Fans in the stands came out wearing their favorite vintage shirts, media members put together full ensembles reminiscent of those who paved the path for journalists of today, and even the series officials got in on the fun as well.
The lead-up to the first version of the Throwback 276 was filled with wonder. How many teams would participate? Would the fans show up? Would it be received well?
A good amount of teams took part last year. The fans came out in droves and it was definitely received well.
As a result, everybody was filled with anticipation for 365 days until the next time this would happen. Everyone wanted it to be bigger, and this year’s edition did not disappoint. More teams participated, even more fans filled the stands, and legendary names in racing even came out to take in the spectacle.
And while the event is meant as a nod to the days gone by, what happened on the track had plenty of significance as well.
Brandon Setzer, racing at his home track in front of his legions of fans, drove into victory lane, completing his own story of redemption in the Super Late Model race. And Josh Berry, the current king of Hickory, went to victory lane in the Late Model Stock feature. The victory was Berry’s 25th at the track in the last five years, a dominant run that also includes a track championship and three CARS Tour wins.
The ironic part about all of this is that this event is meant to celebrate history. But eventually, the history of this signature race will be celebrated too. Because the “Good Ole Days” of racing aren’t gone. They never left.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Associate Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com