As the concept for Joey Logano’s paint scheme for throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway began to take shape, he couldn’t help but think one thing.
“About time,” Logano said with a laugh when speaking to RACER about the scheme.
Logano got to see the completed car for the first time Tuesday morning ahead of its official unveiling to the NASCAR world. The Team Penske driver will drive a No. 22 Pennzoil Ford reminiscent of the car former Pennzoil driver Steve Park drove during his tenure at Dale Earnhardt Inc.
It is a paint scheme that representatives from Pennzoil admit fans have repeatedly asked to see on the track.
“To me, when I think of a Pennzoil car the Steve Park car always comes to my mind because I watched it growing up,” Logano said. “Being a New England guy and Steve being a New England guy, I always thought it made sense and I never really understood why we didn’t do it, but it is really cool to see that with the 22 on the side. It just makes sense.
“It’s going to be a cool-looking car. We had Steve here, and it was cool to see his face and his wife’s face when they saw the car. It’s a special thing to see their face. I said we’ve got to put his name on the car!”
Park (above, with Logano) ran a similar design from 1998 through early 2003 when he left DEI and moved over to Richard Childress Racing. Logano’s scheme for the Sept. 2 Bojangles’ Southern 500 will celebrate the ’98 version of the car, which was the year Park began driving it.
“I was maybe eight, nine, 10 years old, so as a racer I knew nothing about what I was looking at,” Logano said of his memories of Park’s career. “I knew that he was in a Cup car and that automatically makes you a badass is pretty much what I knew. And like I said, him being up north you see this car when you’d go to get an oil change or to your local repair shop or just a lot of times in my dad’s garage. You’d always see Steve Park hero cards or Pennzoil calendars that had this car on it.”
While running this scheme at Darlington is perfect for throwback weekend, it also has an unfortunate tie to an unforgettable moment in Park’s career.
In 2001, Park was competing in what is now the Xfinity Series race when a freak accident derailed his career. Under caution, Park’s car spun to the left and was hit in the driver’s side door by Larry Foyt, who was making his way past the field to regain position.
The accident was the result of the steering wheel coming off in Park’s hands. He had tugged on the wheel to make sure it was set right.
“It was due to my mistake,” Park said in a 2010 interview with ESPN.
Among his injuries, Park suffered brain damage. But he did return to run 32 of the 36 races in 2002, then 35 of 36 in 2003. After that, Park competed mostly in the Truck Series before running two more Cup Series races between 2010 and 2011.
On the positive side, the timing of Tuesday’s unveiling was fitting because Park’s first career Cup Series win came at Watkins Glen in 2000. The Cup Series races at the Glen this weekend.
Park won twice in the Pennzoil car. His second victory was a memorable and emotional feat at Rockingham Speedway the week after Dale Earnhardt’s death in February 2001.
Logano has never won at Darlington, but he has four top-10 finishes in nine starts with 85 laps led. A fourth-place finish in 2015 is Logano’s career best at the track.
When he’s behind the wheel, the special event weekend becomes just another race, and Logano says he won’t feel any additional pressure to put the car in victory lane. However, he would like to do it for specific reasons.
“Just thinking about how neat it would be to be in victory lane with Steve Park and all of us there,” Logano said. “I said [to everyone] how cool would it be in victory lane if you put a 1 on the door to have a cool picture? Where else can you run a paint scheme that has been made iconic by somebody else and have the chance to win with it and that guy in victory lane with you? It doesn’t happen. That’s cool.
“It’s cool that only happens once a year and it should happen once a year. Darlington is the perfect racetrack for throwback weekend, and the way the teams and sponsors have wrapped their hands around it, what a home run and great idea.
“I wouldn’t mind racing [this] every weekend. I think the black looks really cool and the yellow is like a bumblebee, but it’s neat.”