Who is the greatest country singer ever associated with NASCAR? There has been Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley, Brooks and Dunn, Hank Williams Jr., Toby Keith, Cledus T. Judd, and lately Blake Shelton. That is a pretty impressive list of talent and it is far from complete. However, there is no question that the King of NASCAR Country was Marty Robbins.
While he is best known for singing White Sport Coat, El Paso, and My Woman, My Woman, My Wife, among his 17 Number One hits and 82 Top 40 entries, Robbins raced. Between 1966 and 1982, he managed to get into 35 Cup events, claiming six Top Tens along the way. He drove them, Hall of Famer Cotton Owens prepared them.
As the boys and girl head to Darlington for the Southern 500, we should remember that the singer once finished seventh in the iconic race back in 1971. A year later, he was ninth again behind the wheel of the No. 42 at the Lady in Black. When you race, you wreck, and he did. A pileup in Talladega in 1974 left him with some 37 stitches in his face. The same year at Charlotte, he deliberately wrecked to avoid a t-bone collision with Richard Childress, some saying the action may well have saved the future Hall of Famer’s life.
He was a legitimate driver. His results were legitimate. Well, all but one. His Talladega result in the spring of 1972 was not. Robbins was disqualified. When they tried to give him rookie honors, he declined, then had the officials check out his carburetor. It was as illegal as it gets. He just wanted to know what it felt like to drive up front with the big boys. I do not believe NASCAR was terribly impressed as they dropped him to 50th. Finishing up front that day was David Pearson, and it marked the debut of one Darrell Waltrip.
This weekend, Darlington features throwback paint schemes for both the XFINITY event as well as the Southern 500. Michigan winner Kyle Larson will be one of a half dozen Cup guys in that Saturday contest. His paint scheme in that race will honor Marty Robbins.
As Chris Buescher attempts to stay in the Chase by keeping ahead of David Ragan in the standings, and while Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, and Jamie McMurray try to protect their own championship hopes, here is a look at whom or what our Hot 20 honor with their paint schemes heading into Sunday’s Southern 500.
1. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 4 WINS (774 Pts)
Original Miller Lite can design of 1972
2. KYLE BUSCH – 4 WINS (696 Pts)
Dale Jarrett’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet
3. KEVIN HARVICK – 2 WINS (799 Pts)
Cale Yarborough and the 1979 Daytona 500
4. CARL EDWARDS – 2 WINS (724 Pts)
Tony Stewart, who made his debut in 1999
5. DENNY HAMLIN – 2 WINS (691 Pts)
Darrell Waltrip, behind the wheel of the No. 11 from 1981-86
6. JIMMIE JOHNSTON – 2 WINS (648 Pts)
David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt of the late 1970s and early 1980s
7. MATT KENSETH – 2 WINS (633 Pts)
Ricky Rudd’s 1995 Tide ride
8. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (721 Pts)
The Haas VF-1 vertical machining center, introduced in 1988.
9. JOEY LOGANO – 1 WIN (716 Pts)
Bobby Labonte’s Busch series, Shell-sponsored car of 1996-98
10. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN (652 Pts)
Sponsor Auto-Owners Insurance’s 100th anniversary
11. KYLE LARSON – 1 WIN (582 Pts)
Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar history, going back to 1990, with seven championships, 90 wins
12. TONY STEWART – 1 WIN (420 Pts)
Bobby Allison and his five Southern 500 victories
13. CHRIS BUESCHER – 1 WIN (334 Pts)
Tribute to sponsor Love’s Travel Stops, in its original 1981 colors
14. CHASE ELLIOTT – 628 POINTS
NAPA’s delivery trucks of the 1960s
15. AUSTIN DILLON – 622 POINTS
Saluting first Childress win, with Ricky Rudd, in 1983
16. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 616 POINTS
Bill Elliott in his 1997 colors
17. RYAN NEWMAN – 601 POINTS
Ricky Rudd’s first Childress win of 1983 at Riverside, California
18. KASEY KAHNE – 564 POINTS
Tribute to Terry Labonte and his 1982 J.D. Stacy-sponsored Buick
19. TREVOR BAYNE – 558 POINTS
Mark Martin, 619 Starts, 35 wins in the No. 6 from 1988 to 2006
20. RYAN BLANEY – 545 POINTS
David Pearson’s 43 wins during the 1970s piloting the No. 21 for the Wood Brothers