For the second consecutive season, the drivers of the CARS Response Energy Super Late Model and Late Model Stock Car Tour will pay tribute to many legends in NASCAR and local short track racing with iconic paint schemes when they take to the track for the Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday evening.
A main part of the CARS Response Energy Tour’s goal to pay tribute to the legends of stock car racing has been Late Model veteran Bradley McCaskill, who runs the decal business Grafix Unlimited when he is not behind the wheel of a car. Although McCaskill helped put together a good portion of the throwback schemes that drivers will use this weekend, he ultimately credits the hard work of the CARS Response Energy Tour for making the Throwback 276 a reality.
“Chris Ragle was the one who started it, and I immediately jumped on board,” McCaskill said. “I thought it would be really cool to pay tribute to the guys that really got the short track world going. We’re definitely trying to inspire guys to do this because it’s kind of cool to do.”
McCaskill started Grafix Unlimited as a hobby after he finished high school in 2007, which he initially used to help put decals on his own car, as well as to help out his cousin Deac McCaskill. However, many of McCaskill’s friends began to inquire about putting decals on Late Models of their own, which eventually allowed Grafix Unlimited to become profitable and become one of the top decal companies in short track racing.
McCaskill enjoyed working on the numerous schemes for the Throwback 276 last season and was admittedly surprised at much support the race got in its first year. The 2017 edition of the race honored many prominent figures throughout NASCAR’s history, including Ned Jarrett, Harry Gant, and Jack Ingram, and attracted one of the largest crowds in the series’ brief history, which has left McCaskill optimistic about the turnout for this year’s race.
Although throwback schemes have always been common in motorsports, an entire weekend dedicated to them did not come about until NASCAR decided to honor the sport’s history when the Southern 500 returned to its traditional Labor Day weekend date in 2015. The event proved to be a success among drivers, fans, and series officials and has now become a new tradition for NASCAR, which has inspired other series, including the CARS Response Energy Tour, to hold throwback weekends of their own.
Along with designing throwback schemes, McCaskill was one of several drivers who elected to run an old-school concept of his own in 2017, as he paid tribute to Harry Gant in a car that closely resembled the #33 Skoal Bandit car that he made famous from the 1980s until he retired in 1994. This year, McCaskill will pay tribute to Bobby Allison’s 1983 #22 Miller High Life Buick, adding that he chose that scheme to honor one of the sport’s greatest drivers, as well as for personal reasons.
“My mom is a huge Bobby Allison fan,” McCaskill said. “She actually has a coat signed by him from all the way back in 1983, and we actually got him to sign it again for us this past weekend at Carteret. Last year we chose Harry Gant for the same reason we chose Bobby Allison, as he has been a true racer from the beginning. There are a lot of them out there, but this one was more about doing it for my mom, and making sure we got one in for her.”
McCaskill is confident that the Throwback 276 will continue to grow as the years go by and that the paint schemes will get more creative along with it, but he hopes to see more drivers pay tribute to short track and Late Model legends in future events. McCaskill admitted that he appreciated Kodie Conner’s tribute to Bobby Gill, who won 46 races in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, and is thinking about running a Late Model tribute of his own next year, but added that he is still weighing all of his options.
McCaskill is currently focused on bringing home a strong finish at Hickory on Saturday evening, where he has only raced twice before in CARS Response Energy Tour competition, earning finishes of 9th and 19th, respectively. McCaskill knows that track position will be key in a race that will have over two dozen competitors, but he is hoping to establish momentum in the final few races of the 2018 season in order to turn around what has been a disappointing season.
“So far this year, we have been struggling really bad,” McCaskill said. “We’ve made some huge gains over the last couple of weeks, but I know Hickory is really rough on tires, so you’re going to have to have a good car. The competition level is unbelievable in the CARS Tour right now, as there are 8-10 guys that can legitimately win each race, but you need a great car, and you have to be in the right place at the right time.”
The 2018 Throwback 276 has already attracted one of the largest entry lists in both divisions of the CARS Response Energy Tour, as 28 drivers are currently entered for the Late Model feature while 32 drivers have filed an entry for the Super Late Model race. Pre-race festivities will include tributes to several auto-racing legends, including Bobby Allison and Ron Hornaday Jr., before the green flag for the first race drops at approximately 8 p.m.