Earnhardt Jr. Resurrects “Gray Ghost” For Southern 500

The Gray Ghost rides again. Drivers will pay homage to a bygone era during Darlington Raceway’s annual Bojangles Southern 500 over Labor Day Weekend and throwback colorways will be in full effect. Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet will bear the iconic gray markings that Buddy Baker had when he won the Daytona 500 in 1980.

Baker driving at Pocono Raceway in 1985. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Baker driving at Pocono Raceway in 1985. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Earnhardt Jr.’s ride will be tricked out with retro Nationwide advertisements. It will be a throwback to a simpler time – a time when your doctor smoked cigarettes and cars were powered by engines, not computers.

Nationwide admitted they had a hard time watching last year’s inaugural Throwback Weekend from afar.

“As a significant NASCAR sponsor for almost 20 years, it was very hard for Nationwide not to be the primary sponsor lat year in Darington and sit on the sidelines for the inaugural throwback weekend.”

 

“When it came time for the 2016 race draft, we made Darlington a priority because of what Chip [Darlington Raceway General Manager Chip Wile] and the team have built around this race, but more importantly because of our share passion with Dale for the history of this great sport.”

 

“We tapped into Dale’s passion when designing this year’s throwback car. The 2016 No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS throwback design honors Buddy Baker’s No. 28 Gray Ghost paint scheme.”

Jim McCoy, Director of Sports Marketing at Nationwide

Baker’s Gray Ghost car was owned by the legendary Hoss Ellington, who was himself a NASCAR driver before becoming an owner.

Hoss Ellington of Wilmington, NC, with the 1969 Ford Torino Talladega he entered in the ARCA 300 at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by ISC Images and Archives via Getty Images)
Hoss Ellington of Wilmington, NC, with the 1969 Ford Torino Talladega he entered in the ARCA 300 at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by ISC Images and Archives via Getty Images)

It was that car, driven by Buddy Baker and owned by Hoss Ellington, that set the record for fastest average speed at the Daytona 500 which still stands today.

Earnhardt’s affinity for Buddy Baker and the Gray Ghost stems from parallels he draws between himself and Baker, for Baker, too, was the son of a famous racecar driver – Buck Baker, one of the most prolific drivers of his era.

Dale Jr. spoke on the Baker clan during a radio appearance last year.

“When I was really young, I grew aware of his [Baker’s] situation. I hadn’t become a driver yet and I didn’t feel like I could relate to him. But I knew what growing up in his household must have been like, the yearning to compete and get into the series, to do what you father was doing and be part of it to be more a part of his life. Being part of his life is one of the main resons why you get involved.”

 
Buck and Buddy Baker are cut from the same royal cloth as the Earnhardts, so it’s really no surprise that Dale Jr. chose to pay homage to Baker’s No. 28 Gray Ghost. Class begets class.

Catch the Earnhardt-Nationwide No. 88 Gray Ghost in action Sunday, September 4th at the Bojangles 500 in Darlington, South Carolina.