NASCAR was one of the first sports to return after the initial Covid-19 shutdown last spring. Only in 2020 could cars have raced in the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 (at Indianapolis in July) as stock car racing embraced the new normal in a revamped season.
NASCAR also became a high-profile if perhaps unlikely arena of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, with driver Bubba Wallace Jr and the blackout #43 Petty Enterprises Camaro he raced at Martinsville at its fulcrum. The series pledged to do a better job to address racial injustice and banned the Confederate flag. And at the end of it all, we had a new champion, Chase Elliott, as Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports returned to Cup-winning form.
I did a count before writing this article and I have about 80 NASCAR models in my collection, almost all of them 1:64 scale. Given that there are several gazillion different models out there, that’s not a lot. I buy a few here and there if it’s a car or driver I like (classic machines from the 60s to the 80s have been a recent focus), if it’s a cool paint scheme, or if it’s cheap.
Not having bought any newer NASCARs for a while, at the end of the 2020 season I decided to bring in this trio. I picked them based on how they represented last season, on the paint schemes and on the fact that I didn’t have current models of either the Camaro ZL1 or the Camry. They took a few months to arrive, finally coming over the border with my M2s last week.
First up is Denny Hamlin’s #11 FedEx Camry, modeled as the car that won the Daytona 500 in those all-too-brief, pre-Covid months. FedEx has become a classic NASCAR paint scheme, in my opinion, and I love the way this one shows the tickertape from Victory Lane stuck to the car. It was Hamlin’s third win in the 500 and his second straight.
A couple of years ago someone pointed out to me that there’s an arrow between the E and the x in the FedEx logo. I’ve never looked at it the same way since!
Next, Bubba Wallace. I have a few Petty models with the iconic #43 on the side and the team has run some awesome paint schemes in the past few years, especially through the sponsorship tie-up with the US Air Force.
This blackout car is special, though, because for me it represents a real shift in the sport in 2020. It’s hard to imagine this appearing in a NASCAR event even just a few years ago.
On a more superficial level, this is an amazing looking car. I love the hood graphic and the peace sign on the rear quarter panel, a nod to Petty’s own racers of the 1960s and 70s. Here’s the Camaro with the #34 1969 Torino Talladega of the late Wendell Scott, the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR Grand National (Cup) race.
In the end it was another young gun, Chase Elliott, who emerged as the 2020 Cup champion.
My intention was to buy the NAPA car that he raced for the majority of the season (26 races, including four wins), but the seller didn’t have one and I wanted to combine shipping, so I grabbed this model instead! It represents the Little Caesars/Mountain Dew-sponsored machine that Elliott raced at Talladega in June. I’m not sorry to have it, it’s a cool deco in its own right.
The 2021 NASCAR Cup season is off to a flyer, with five different winners from five races at the time of writing. Wallace is now driving the #23 Camry for a new team backed by Hamlin and Michael Jordan. Who’d have predicted that a year ago? Meanwhile I already know one of the cars that I’ll add to my collection this season – first-time winner Michael McDowell’s awesome Love’s Mustang from Daytona.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at some NASCAR hardware. Happy collecting!
(follow me on Instagram @diecast215)