For the sixth edition of the Throwback at Hickory Motor Speedway, the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour will be honoring the foundation the series was built upon.
Every team that elects to participate in the festivities is going to utilize a special paint scheme that will honor a driver who competed in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, which operated from 1997 until the end of 2014 when it was reorganized into the CARS Tour.
This year’s Throwback has been a passion project for CARS Tour director of operations Keeley Dubensky, who stressed the importance of honoring the roots of the series as it continues to grow under the new ownership group led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Justin Marks.
“Now is a better time than ever to pay tribute to the origins of the CARS Tour,” Dubensky said. “There have been so many changes in the past year, and while I could not be prouder of the on-track product we have, we still have to remind all of our old and new fans of where we came from and the values that originated from the Pro Cup Series.”
The idea of the Pro Cup Series was conceived by Hooters owner Robert Brooks to honor his son Mark Brooks, 1992 NASCAR Cup Series champion Alan Kulwicki, Dan Duncan and Charlie Campbell after they all lost their lives in a plane crash on Apr. 1, 1993.
After initially overseeing a Late Model Series that competed at several different tracks across the United States, Brooks formally established the Pro Cup Series in 1997 with an 11-race schedule that saw Mario Gosselin take home the championship with five victories.
The Pro Cup Series only continued to grow from there and eventually expanded into a Northern and Southern division starting with the 2001 season. Each season would end with a four or five-race stretch that saw drivers from both divisions battle each other for a shot at the national championship.
Among the drivers that thrived in the Pro Cup Series during its peak include Bobby Gill, who holds the record for most wins in series history with 46, along with five-time champion Clay Rogers, Shane Huffman, Benny Gordon, Mark McFarland and many more, all of whom carried their own unique and iconic paint schemes.
In the latter part of his Pro Cup Series career, Gill carried the blue, silver and red colors of his sponsor in USG Sheetrock, all while Rogers’ white and red No. 44 was regularly found at the front of the field.
Other notable schemes that came from the Pro Cup Series include Jay Fogleman carrying the colors of Lucas Oil, Joey Logano driving a silver No. 51 to victory lane when he was just 15 years old, and the late Matt Hawkins shocking the racing world in his first start by winning in a blue and black No. 2 in 2007.
Although Brooks’ passing in 2006 served as the catalyst for the Pro Cup Series’ eventual demise, his vision still lives on through CARS Tour general manager Jack McNelly, who operated a team in the original series before eventually establishing its spiritual successor in 2015.
Without McNelly’s determination to carry on the spirit of the Pro Cup Series, Dubensky said short track racing in the southeast would be nowhere near as prosperous and is honored to see so many competitive teams and drivers compete with the CARS Tour on a weekly basis.
Dubensky’s goal for this year’s Throwback is to ensure the people that helped the Pro Cup Series build its identity are properly honored in front of a new generation of fans, especially since many of them are still actively involved with the CARS Tour like Danny Willard, Mark Turner, Jim Creighton, Kenny Hunter and Lou Lauer.
Even though she never got to see a Pro Cup Series race herself, Dubensky has heard countless stories of how thrilling those races were and is eagerly looking forward to seeing the past revitalized with a plethora of memorable schemes.
“When the gates open on July 29, I want people to feel like they’ve stepped back in time to watch an old Pro Cup race,” Dubensky said. “It’s important for us to honor what Mr. Brooks and what Jack formed afterwards. He has been the backbone of this series and deserves to see all of this come full circle in a proper manner.”
Dubensky wants as many teams as possible to submit their ideas for the Throwback and is encouraging drivers and fans to share their own photos from the Pro Cup Series on social media in the weeks leading up to the race.
For more information on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the CARS Pro Late Model Tour, visit www.carsracingtour.com. Be sure to stay active and social with the tour by liking “CARS Tour” on Facebook, following @CARSTour on Twitter and scrolling through photos on Instagram cars_tour.
Additional series information can be obtained by calling the CARS Tour series office, located in Mooresville, NC, at 704.662.9212.
-CARS Tour Release
-Photo credit: Jack Walker