CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Richard Petty Motorsports and driver Aric Almirola will honor the 200th career win of ‘The King’ for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sept. 3 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Revealed Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Almirola’s throwback paint scheme for Darlington Raceway will mirror the STP Pontiac that Petty drove in 1984. It’s an iconic paint scheme many remember seeing Petty score his historic – and final – NASCAR victory in at Daytona International Speedway.
Now it will be Almirola’s turn to create a memory. Although Almirola probably doesn’t remember seeing the car during its time because he was less four months old when Petty celebrated with President Ronald Reagan in attendance.
“When you think of Richard Petty, one of the first moments you think of is his 200th win at Daytona International Speedway,” Almirola said in a team release. “It was like a storybook being on the Fourth of July and with President Reagan there. That race is even more special to me with my first Cup Series win coming 30 years later to the weekend in the same Victory Lane.”
But how much pressure does this paint scheme bring? Almirola laughed during the unveil it’s no different than last year when his car resembled the one Petty won his seventh championship in.
“Just pick a car and pick a timeframe and there’s always been something that ‘The King’ has done that has been extraordinary or extremely special,” Almirola said. “Anytime you get behind the wheel of that 43 car, you’re always racing against history and I appreciate that.
“I’ve been so humble and honored to have this opportunity to drive for the ‘The King.’ He’s become my family, so now when I get behind the wheel of that car it’s that much more cherished because there’s so much history there and so much nostalgia behind the paint schemes that we run.”
In addition to the paint scheme, the No. 43 team led by crew chief Drew Blickensderfer will wear throwback fire suits and uniforms throughout the weekend. Blickensderfer feels the energy in the garage on throwback weekend is much different than any other because of how into the moment everyone is. For example, drivers buy retro t-shirts or grow facial hair to match a driver from the past.
“It’s come to that time in the season where you’re halfway through the season and it’s hard going to every single weekend and you have to be really motivated to get up and do that,” Blickensderfer said. “(But) that’s a weekend where people really want to come to the racetrack. It’s hot in Darlington, it’s slick, it’s a tough racetrack, it can get you down, and it can be a place where you feel, ‘Oh, it’s just another racetrack.’ But coming on throwback weekend adds a little spice to it.”
As for Petty, he admitted back on July 4, 1984 he wasn’t much concerned about the excitement surrounding President Ronald Reagan being in attendance. Instead, Petty was focused on the race and late in the going about how he was going to beat Cale Yarborough.
But today, the 80-year-old said it’s great to see the paint scheme brought back to life.
“It brings back a bunch of good memories,” said Petty. “It’s kind of a deal where that’s been in the past and you sort of put it to rest and then all of a sudden 45, 50 years later they bring it back out and then you get to thinking about, you know, I wish that I took time to enjoy that time a little bit better than what I did.
“But everything happened so fast you didn’t have time to take it all in, I guess. We won the race down there and then went and had chicken with the President of the United States on July the Fourth. Couldn’t be better than that.”
This will be the third consecutive year Darlington has hosted throwback weekend. The celebrated time period is 1985-89.