One of the most recognizable paint schemes in the history of Hickory Motor Speedway will return to the track this weekend for the Throwback 276 when Charlie Watson climbs behind the wheel of his #41 Late Model that will pay tribute to four-time track champion Max Prestwood.
With Prestwood being a cousin of his wife’s father, Watson admitted that he had an easy time deciding what scheme to run for the prestigious CARS Tour event, and he hopes that he can pilot the familiar red and black colors to victory lane one last time on Saturday night.
“I saw Max race plenty of times when I was young,” Watson said. “He’s really excited about the scheme, but he won’t be able to make it on Saturday with his son racing somewhere else. He told me that I better win because that was all he did down there.”
Prestwood began his stellar career at Hickory in the early 1980s and easily got acclimated with the facility by winning several events against drivers such as Jimmy McClain and Tony Warren to secure two consecutive championships in 1984 and 1985.
1990 would prove to be the most successful year of Prestwood’s career, as he won 35 of the 40 events he competed in at both Hickory and Tri-County Motor Speedway to easily clinch the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Mid-Atlantic Region title over Roy Hendrick and Johnny Rumley.
Prestwood continued competing actively up until the late 1990s, but not before he brought home another track championship at Hickory in 1995, which firmly established himself as one of the greatest drivers to ever compete there.
Watson is optimistic that he can get a strong showing out of the famous #41, but he understands that he will have to shake off some rust to accomplish that goal, as he has spent the majority of the 2019 season working on other Late Models.
“I wasn’t really planning on running a lot this year other than a couple of events here and there, along with some big races,” Watson said. “I just kind of took on this new role, and I have to say that it’s going pretty good. I do think we’ll be good for the race. We might be a tad off in qualifying, but in race trim, we’ll be good to go.”
A starting position in the field is anything but guaranteed for Watson with 36 Late Models on the official entry list battling for 28 positions, but Watson is more concerned about laying down a lap that gives him a solid spot in what is expected to be an intense 138-lap feature.
“We need to get up in the Top 10 and stay right there until the end,” Watson said. “When it’s time to go, I’m going to do everything I can to work my way up to the front.”
Watson will have to fight off a strong field of contenders to pull off a win in the Throwback 276, which includes CARS LMSC Tour points leader and defending race winner Josh Berry, along with Taylor Gray, who won the most recent CARS LMSC Tour race at Hickory in March.
Cover photo by Nathan Eller.