Tony Stewart knows a hard racer when he sees one, so it's no surprise that for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Stewart will pay homage to one of the sport's legendary tough guys: NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison.
At the Labor Day weekend race, Stewart's No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet will carry Coca-Cola sponsorship and the same red-and-gold paint scheme Allison used to win the Southern 500 in 1971 and '72, the first of five premier series wins Allison earned at Darlington.
And Allison crushed the field at the Track Too Tough To Tame in both those Southern 500s, leading 558 of the 734 laps run -- 76 percent -- in the two races.
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At this year's Bojangles' Southern 500, Stewart's car will feature Coca-Cola's tagline of that era, "The Real Thing," on the car, along with period-correct details like gold wheels and engine displacement listed on the hood.
"I've been a member of the Coca-Cola Racing Family for my entire NASCAR career and been a part of some pretty cool and unique promotions, but this one is definitely my favorite," said Stewart, who will retire following the season finale Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "The throwback weekend Darlington has created makes it the perfect place to run a scheme that has a ton of history with Bobby Allison and Coca-Cola."
Stewart is a three-time NASCAR premier series champion with 49 career victories. Allison is the 1983 NASCAR premiere series champion with 85 career victories. Allison was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, the year Stewart won his third Premier Series title.
Without question, Stewart is a first-ballot lock for the NASCAR Hall of Fame and he is a virtual lock to make this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his final season.
"Those red-and-gold Coca-Cola cars were very good to me," said Allison. "From 1970 through 1975, Coca-Cola was on my car and we won a lot of races. We won 11 races in '71, the most I ever had in a single season, and then we came back to win 10 more in '72. And that first win at Darlington -- it was such a tough track and such a long race -- it meant so much."