Top five paint schemes of 2016

By Taylor Goins
January 13, 2017

Often overlooked, paint schemes hold an important place in the world of NASCAR. Fans grow attached to their favorite drivers’ looks over the years and companies carefully craft schemes to reflect their brand image.

Largely gone are the days of drivers having one primary scheme for all 36 races, as many racers will now sport five or more different looks per season on their cars.

This influx of different schemes has led to many creative designs being displayed over recent seasons, so it’s only fitting to take a look back at the top five paint schemes of 2016 before we wipe the slate clean and turn our attention to the fresh paint that 2017 will offer.

No. 5 David Ragan sweetFrog

Even though David Ragan may not be a top contender for race wins every week, the BK Racing driver sported some of 2016’s best paint schemes.

Also, while new NASCAR sponsor sweetFrog may not have the presence in the sport of a Lowe’s or Miller Lite, it’s worth noting that the main goal of any sponsor is to use their scheme to catch the eye of race fans. This goal was accomplished better than anyone by sweetFrog with their No. 23 Toyota Camry, which Ragan ran at both Richmond races and the fall Talladega race in 2016.

The sweetFrog ride features vibrant lime green and pink hues that complement each other perfectly, along with prominently featuring the premium frozen yogurt chain’s frog mascot on the hood.

Despite starting last at Talladega in October, Ragan wheeled the sweetFrog car through the field to nab a top-25 finishing position.

No. 4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Zest

If one were to take a random sampling of NASCAR fans and ask them which of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s 2016 paint schemes was most memorable, the top answer would probably be his color-popping orange-and-yellow SunnyD scheme or his traditional blue-and-white Fastenal that ran the majority of races.

However, it’s Stenhouse’s Zest car that makes this list. There’s just something about a neon orange name-rail and soap bubbles on a race car that makes a look “pop.”

This vibrant car ran six races in 2016, and was in position to contend for a win at the October Talladega race, starting sixth and leading six laps before finishing in the top five.

Zest has sponsored cars with their signature teal and navy blue colors every season since 2012; with their departure from the sport in 2017, the Zestfully Clean paint schemes will certainly be missed in the future.

No. 3 Tony Stewart Coca-Cola Throwback

For this ranking of 2016’s top paint schemes to truly be representative of the entire NASCAR season, it was necessary to resist the temptation to make the list too “Darlington heavy” and include a true sampling of cars that raced over the course of the whole year.

With this being said, there was no holding back from including Tony Stewart’s classic Coca-Cola (no pun intended) No. 14 Chevrolet that ran at Darlington Raceway’s historic Bojangles’ Southern 500.

Stewart’s throwback look paid tribute to three-time Cup Series champion Bobby Allison. Allison won two Southern 500’s while driving the famous red-and-gold No.  12 Coca-Cola Monte Carlo that inspired Stewart’s ride.

To mark the occasion, Stewart’s pit crew even donned the classic 1970s Coca-Cola red-and-white pants.

No. 2 Chase Elliott SunEnergy1

To say that Chase Elliott’s 2016 SunEnergy1 ride was his brightest and boldest paint scheme is quite the statement, considering that the promising rookie had many colorful schemes during his debut season in NASCAR’s top series.

This statement rings true, however, as this paint job is definitely the most eye-catching look that the No. 24 car has sported in years. Flashing onto the scene as a first-time Cup sponsor with an array of colors, this SunEnergy1 scheme just barely missed nabbing the top spot on this list. This scheme is also probably the most controversial on this list, as fans either love it or absolutely hate it.

Elliott ran the SunEnergy1 colors for four races during the 2016 season and nearly nabbed a win with the scheme at Kansas Speedway before tire issues thwarted his bid for victory.

No. 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald’s Mac Tonight Throwback

Any list of best paint schemes will usually include one or two from NASCAR’s annual throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway, and this ranking is no exception.

The award for best look of the entire 2016 season goes to Jamie McMurray’s McDonalds Mac Tonight throwback, which is a nod to Bill Elliott’s famous No. 94 Mac Tonight Ford Thunderbird that first ran in 1997.

McMurray ran this paint scheme only once this season (on Labor Day weekend at Darlington, of course), but that was still enough for it to earn top-billing. The midnight blue old-school look fit the throwback weekend perfectly and McMurray was able to snag a top-15 finish in the retro ride. DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Of the paint schemes listed, which is your favorite?
No. 1 Jamie McMurray
No. 14 Tony Stewart
No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
No. 23 David Ragan
No. 24 Chase Elliott