Painted Racecars, and a 20-year old in the Pressure Cooker

Dale Wilkerson                                                       February 2011

It wasn’t the legendary Purolator Mercury, but that #21 Motorcraft Ford of Trevor Bayne and the famous Wood Brothers sure looked good at Daytona.
First, I miss the old paint jobs that race cars carried back in the day. The old cars didn’t have a scheme to the paint; they had a look that made each car look special.
The Petty Family came up with their own color after mixing a few different shades of blue to create Petty Blue. Smokey Yunick always sent those black and gold cars to the track that still look good when you see one of them in a museum today. Buddy Baker’s Olds 442 that Dale Earnhardt Jr. duplicated last year, James Hylton’s Pop Cola Mercury and his Nitro-9 Chevrolet just to name a few of the sharp rides from the seventies.

Look back to the eighties even; the Wrangler paint scheme first used by Bud Moore then Richard Childress for Dale Earnhardt’s Wrangler Jeans rides, Davey Allison’s Havoline Ford, Tim Richmond’s Folgers Chevrolet, Darrel Waltrip’s Pepsi Buick and Bill Elliott’s Coors Ford.

The guys in the paint shops took pride in their work, perhaps none as much as the Woods Brothers. Throughout the seventies, David Pearson and the Wood Brothers ran a partial schedule, and when they unloaded that sharply painted Mercury, the other teams knew that car was even faster than it looked when Pearson strapped in and pulled onto the speedway.

Pearson was always a smart, calculating driver and during the Daytona 500 Trevor Bayne displayed some of those traits. Bayne would roll out of the gas when he found himself in a three-wide situation early on or toward mid-race. He seemed to maintain the ability to team up with just about any other car and charge back to the front.
I couldn’t help but notice how Bayne kept the car out of danger the first two thirds of the race, but during the last 25 laps, he didn’t mind stacking them three wide. But for that last restart, put yourself in his shoes. Just 20 years old, in just his second Sprint Cup Start, with three former champions (Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Bobby Labonte) ready to pounce on him. I believe we would all call that the NASCAR version of the pressure cooker. So how did he get through that last restart?
“Trevor was a little tore up getting ready for that last re-start but Donnie (Wingo) calmed him down, told him to hung the bottom on the restart and to stay calm,” said Len Wood on Droppin’ the Hammer last Saturday.
Donnie Wingo echoed what David Pearson told Bayne a few days before the 500. Advise that helped Pearson to his 105 Sprint Cup wins and advise that this young driver will lean on for years to come.
As for Len Wood and the rest of the Wood Brothers team, it was a very busy week. Not only did they have to get things ready for Phoenix, but all the obligations that go along with winning the Daytona 500 had to be fulfilled as well.
“There was a lot more to do than I remember from 1976!’ said Len Wood speaking of the last of the Wood’s previous four wins in the Daytona 500. “We had to get the Daytona car ready to go in the Daytona Experience display at the speedway which included draining the fluids, oil, fuel, etc. In the meantime, we had to get the truck headed out to Phoenix, and we have interviewed with more sports and news outlets than I can remember.” Wood added.

Bayne did not enjoy his time on track at Phoenix as blown tires and contact with another car resulted in three crashes during Sprint Cup and Nationwide practice and races. Perhaps Bayne will find the new pavement at Phoenix, which will be repaved before the next race, as inviting as he did the fresh pavement at Daytona.
Several cars have used some of the old paint schemes recently. Whether it was Marcos Ambrose using the STP colors, AJ Almendinger with Kyle Petty’s Valvoline colors from his first ARCA victory in 1979, or Morgan Shepard running the same colors he raced to the NASCAR Late Model Championships, I hope more teams follow the Woods Brother’s by bringing back some of the old school paint jobs that have adorned some of the greatest racecars to ever take the track, because when it comes to paint jobs on racecars, there is no school like the old school.