For this year’s Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Paul Menard’s No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will carry a red-and-white paint scheme reminiscent of the Wood Brothers’ 1968 Mercury Cyclone that Cale Yarborough drove to victory in the 1968 Southern 500.
The paint scheme honoring Yarborough is part of the track’s fourth-annual throwback weekend. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Seven Decades of NASCAR” and few drivers and teams have as much history at Darlington as Yarborough and the Wood Brothers.
Yarborough is from Timmonsville, S.C., which is just 14 miles from NASCAR’s original superspeedway. He made his first NASCAR start in the 1957 Southern 500 at the age of 18. Three of his first four NASCAR starts were in the Southern 500, but it wasn’t until he teamed with the Wood Brothers late in the 1966 season that he had a car capable of winning the 500.
This year’s throwback scheme on the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion comes 50 years after Yarborough’s first Southern 500 victory in 1968.
That win came in a race in which he led 169 laps, including the final 90, and finished four carlengths ahead of another Darlington legend and eventual Wood Brothers driver David Pearson.
The 1968 win was the first of five in the Southern 500 for Yarborough and the first of eight overall at Darlington for the Wood Brothers, including three more Southern 500s – two with Pearson and one with the late Neil Bonnett.
Eddie Wood said Yarborough certainly deserves the recognition.
“He’s one of the original heroes of our sport,” Wood said. “He got his first Southern 500 victory in our car and had a great career winning 83 races and three championships.”
Thirteen of those wins came in cars fielded by the Wood Brothers, and in many ways Yarborough’s career paralleled that of the Woods.
Before they joined forces in 1966, both had won races but the pairing led to a rise in results by both Yarborough and the Wood Brothers.
“When Cale got in our cars, they won a lot of races, sat on a lot of poles and led a lot of laps,” Wood said.
“It was a good time for him and for the Wood Brothers.”
The throwback paint scheme features many of the same details that were on the 1968 Cyclone Yarborough drove, right down to the “396 Cubic Inches” lettering on the hood.
Wood explained that in those days NASCAR required teams to prominently post the engine size on the car. And that engine size was unique in that 396-cubic-inch engines are normally associated with another manufacturer.
In the Woods case, the 396 described a de-stroked 427-cubic-inch Ford engine.
Wood said the rules at the time allowed teams to run a lighter overall car weight if the size of the engine was smaller than NASCAR allowed.
He also said he wouldn’t mind NASCAR going back to posting cubic inches or horsepower numbers on the hood.
“Who wouldn’t like to see a Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion with ‘900-HP’ on the hood?” he asked.
The Bojangles’ Southern 500 is set for Sept. 2 at Darlington Raceway.