While the ultimate focus in NASCAR Cup Series lies on the racing, the significance of paint schemes cannot be overlooked in shaping a driver’s overall image. In an interesting move, the NASCAR on Fox Twitter account sought assistance from ChatGPT to identify the most exceptional paint schemes in Cup Series history. The findings are in, and they promise some intriguing surprises.
Consider, for instance, the indelible association of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. with his iconic black No. 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet from Richard Childress Racing. Similarly, one cannot think of Jeff Gordon without envisioning his vibrant No. 24 DuPont Chevy adorned with a rainbow-inspired livery from Hendrick Motorsports. In fact, Gordon’s car stood out so prominently that he earned the moniker “The Rainbow Warrior.”
Given that a driver’s face is not visible during a race, the paint scheme on their car becomes the most recognizable feature on the track. Paint schemes like those of Earnhardt and Gordon have transcended the sport and become an integral part of NASCAR’s rich history and mythology.
Taking into consideration the significance of paint schemes in NASCAR, the team at NASCAR on Fox sought the assistance of ChatGPT, an AI tool, to determine the top 10 most legendary paint schemes in the history of the Cup Series. Let’s delve into the results.
10. Jimmie Johnson — No. 48 Lowe’s
Starting off the countdown is the iconic No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson during his tenure at Hendrick Motorsports from 2001 to 2020. Throughout his career, Johnson achieved remarkable success in the No. 48 car, securing 83 Cup Series victories and equalling the record for the most NASCAR points titles with an impressive seven championships.
9. Kyle Petty — No. 42 Mello Yello
Coming in next is the renowned No. 42 Mello Yello Pontiac, which was piloted by Kyle Petty during the early-to-mid 1990s. Initially sponsored by Peak Antifreeze when Petty joined SABCO Racing (now Chip Ganassi Racing) in 1989, the car’s sponsorship was taken over by Mello Yello in 1991. Interestingly, the popularity of this paint scheme can be largely attributed to the movie “Days of Thunder,” as Tom Cruise’s character sported the exact same design in the film, creating a strong association between the car and the movie.
8. Rusty Wallace — No. 2 Miller Genuine Draft
During the 1990 season, Rusty Wallace found himself behind the wheel of the No. 27 Miller Genuine Draft car, representing Raymond Beadle’s Blue Max Racing team. However, when his contract expired at the end of the season, Wallace made a move to Penske Racing (now Team Penske), bringing his Miller sponsorship along with him. In the subsequent years, the No. 2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac became one of the most beloved cars in the Cup Series. It certainly helped that Wallace achieved remarkable success in the No. 2, securing 37 Cup Series victories, with an impressive 10 wins during the 1993 season alone.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. — No. 8 Budweiser
It’s no surprise that a list of the most iconic paint schemes in NASCAR Cup Series history would feature Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8 Budweiser car. From 1999 to 2007, Junior drove the No. 8 Chevy for Dale Earnhardt Inc., securing 17 Cup Series victories, including a memorable win at the 2004 Daytona 500. However, he later made a transition to Hendrick Motorsports, where he began driving the No. 88 car.
6. Bill Elliott — No. 9 Coors
When reflecting on Bill Elliott’s impressive 37-year NASCAR Cup Series career, it’s hard not to associate him with the iconic No. 9 Ford from Melling Racing. In 1984, Elliott secured full sponsorship from Coors, a partnership that proved fruitful as he clinched three victories that season. The following year, he elevated his performance, winning a remarkable 11 races, including a triumph at the prestigious Daytona 500. He went on to claim another victory at Daytona in 1987 and attained the ultimate achievement of his Hall of Fame career by winning the championship in 1988.
5. Bobby Allison — No. 22 Miller High Life
Starting off the top five is the legendary Bobby Allison and his iconic No. 22 car, which he piloted for multiple teams throughout his illustrious NASCAR career, carrying his number and Miller sponsorship to new heights with each transition. In an impressive feat, Allison competed in 215 Cup Series races with the No. 22, marking the highest usage of any number throughout his career. He showcased his exceptional skills by securing 17 victories under the banner of the No. 22 car.
4. Darrell Waltrip — No. 17 Tide
Undoubtedly, this entry on the list is both intriguing and perhaps somewhat surprising. Darrell Waltrip’s accomplishments in the No. 11 car are significantly more notable, with him securing nearly three times the number of victories (43) compared to his wins in the No. 17 car (15). Interestingly, out of those 15 wins in the No. 17, only nine of them were achieved while driving the Tide-sponsored car. It’s worth noting that Waltrip’s tenure with the Tide car lasted from 1987 to 1990 when he raced for Hendrick Motorsports. When he eventually started his own team, he took the No. 17 with him, but Tide sponsorship did not continue. Despite the unique circumstances surrounding this paint scheme, ChatGPT considers it the fourth most iconic in NASCAR Cup Series history. It just goes to show that AI isn’t always infallible, doesn’t it?
3. Jeff Gordon — No. 24 DuPont
With the exception of eight races towards the end of his career when he drove the No. 88 car, Jeff Gordon participated in every race of his NASCAR Cup Series career behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. To be precise, he competed in 797 races with that iconic number. Throughout those 797 starts, Gordon, known as “The Rainbow Warrior,” triumphed in 93 races and secured an impressive four points titles. As emphasized earlier, it is almost inconceivable to associate Gordon without envisioning his car adorned with the vibrant rainbow-inspired livery.
2. Dale Earnhardt Sr. — No. 3 Goodwrench
Although Dale Earnhardt Sr. utilized nine different numbers throughout his remarkable 27-year NASCAR Cup Series career, his association with the No. 3 Goodwrench Chevy for Richard Childress Racing remains etched in racing history. Behind the wheel of the iconic No. 3, Earnhardt, known as the Intimidator, triumphed in an astounding 67 races, a staggering majority of his total 76 career Cup Series victories. Additionally, Earnhardt secured an impressive six out of his record seven points championships while piloting the No. 3 car.
1. Richard Petty — No. 43 STP
Finally, we reach the pinnacle of the list with the No. 1 entry — the renowned No. 43 STP car of Richard Petty. Although “The King” dabbled with a few other numbers and paint schemes during his illustrious 35-year NASCAR career, the No. 43 holds a special place. Petty competed in a remarkable 1,125 out of his 1,184 Cup Series starts and achieved an astonishing 192 out of his 200 victories in the No. 43 car. The iconic STP logo adorned the car throughout the majority of his extraordinary journey.