Nick Sanchez will honor racing legend Mario Andretti in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Darlington Raceway on May 12, Rev Racing announced Friday.
With primary sponsorship from Gainbridge, Sanchez’s No. 2 Chevrolet will bear the powder blue, gold and red that Andretti wheeled to Victory Lane in the 1967 Daytona 500, the only NASCAR triumph of his glorious and monumental career.
An integral part of racing history, Andretti will be on site in Darlington to see his cherished Holman-Moody paint scheme don Sanchez’s Silverado while helping celebrate NASCAR’s 75th anniversary.
“You don’t really get pressure as a race car driver a lot,” Sanchez told NASCAR.com. “But driving his paint scheme that he won the ’67 Daytona 500 in at a place like Darlington on throwback weekend? That’s pressure — a good kind of pressure, though.”
Keen on racing as ever at age 83, Andretti showed sincere gratitude that Rev Racing and Gainbridge wanted to honor a livery so important to his illustrious past.
“That’s definitely special,” Andretti told NASCAR.com via teleconference, eager to show a rendering of the truck he’d printed out. “I mean, it brings back such special, very treasured memories of a great time in my career. I’m just totally flattered that the team is doing this for me, and I’m going to really enjoy watching Nick put this baby up there – maybe on the top step at the end of this race.”
Andretti has been keeping a watchful eye on Sanchez’s inaugural Truck Series campaign, a rookie year that coincides with Rev Racing’s first endeavor at NASCAR’s national levels, thanks in part to an alliance with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Sanchez, the 2022 ARCA Menards Series champion, has shown impressive speed, with two poles and an Atlanta runner-up finish in six starts. A dominant performance at Texas Motor Speedway saw Sanchez lead 168 of 171 laps before a last-lap crash eliminated him from competition.
“I’ve been watching the young lad the last few races, and he’s definitely a comer for sure,” Andretti said. “He’s no stranger to the winner’s circle coming through the ranks, and now obviously, with NASCAR with the trucks, it looks like he’s definitely with the right team and a competitive truck and a driver that knows what to do with it.”
The victor over a half-century ago, Andretti celebrated his Daytona triumph in only the ninth running of the Great American Race. His No. 11 Holman-Moody Racing Ford led 112 of 200 laps on Feb. 26, 1967, en route to the checkered flag.
“I think the significance grows, quite honestly,” Andretti said of the win. “The stature of the event grows as well, then you have the strong tradition. And to be part of that tradition, let’s face it, the Daytona 500 for NASCAR is like for IndyCar the Indianapolis 500. I mean, there’s a marquee event, and then there’s a (season-long) championship.
“But sometimes, there’s as much value to winning that one particular race on either side as there is winning the championship. It’s unfair, but that’s a fact. And to see my name there in that roster of Daytona 500 winners is something I’m very proud of.”
Gainbridge serves as the primary sponsor for both Sanchez and the Andretti Autosport team in IndyCar. Having an opportunity to bridge the gap between series while honoring a legend in Andretti was something Gainbridge and Rev Racing seemed too perfect to pass up.
A conversation with Rev Racing led Mike Nichols, Gainbridge’s chief of sponsorship strategy and activation, to start brainstorming throwback ideas. In reality, that meant bouncing the question to his 17-year-old son, Michael, who himself is an avid NASCAR fan.
“Without hesitation, he said ‘1967 Daytona 500’ – and within 5 minutes, I had a half-dozen photos and drawings of that car texted to me by him,” Nichols said in an email. “Now I also have the good fortune of having an in-house graphic designer who spent 30 years designing paint schemes before he joined Gainbridge. … I texted the images to him and said, ‘I want to do a throwback to this car. Can you pull something together for me to approach Mario?’
“Within 48 hours, I had the amazing drawings with incredible attention to detail that you’ve now seen – and I fired off an email to Mario asking his permission to honor him and if he would be interested in being a part of it. As you saw today, he enthusiastically accepted and wanted to be as involved as he could be.”
Rev Racing has been a key part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, a driver development initiative created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track. NASCAR Cup Series drivers Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suárez and Kyle Larson are alumni of this program, which is operated by Rev Racing in Concord, N.C.
That aspect connects Rev Racing further with Andretti, a native of Italy whose Daytona 500 victory made him NASCAR’s first internationally-born driver to win. He has seen the benefits of diversity across motorsports – including at Andretti Autosport, where one of the top race engineers that he once worked with in IndyCar testing was a woman.
“I was very impressed with the way that she was analyzing situations and so forth and that I was giving her my practical side,” Andretti said. “So her and I bonded immediately. And again, that’s something that we all encourage. I mean, it’s definitely an open door. Anyone with those wishes and talents obviously will be looked at very seriously.”
NASCAR’s throwback weekend at Darlington offers a look in the rear-view mirror of the sport’s 75-year history. Andretti has been honored before – defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano ran his 1971 Formula One livery in 2021 commemorating Andretti’s inaugural South Africa triumph.
With Sanchez set to pay tribute to Andretti’s lone stock-car triumph, the memories keep flowing back.
“These throwback situations are something that, they’re much more valuable than a lot of people think,” Andretti said. “You know that some of these moments are not totally forgotten in time.”