Dale Earnhardt Jr. surprises fans at his race shop and reveals new paint scheme.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. surprises fans at his race shop and reveals new paint scheme.

ThatsRacin

Dale Earnhardt unveils ‘Gray Ghost’ 2016 paint scheme to honor Buddy Baker

October 14, 2015 11:56 AM

UPDATED October 18, 2015 08:38 PM

CONCORD

A late friend will be honored by the newly released paint scheme on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Chevy for the 2016 NASCAR season.

The side panels of Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevy will be painted gray – a nod to the car known as the “Gray Ghost” once driven by Buddy Baker.

Baker, who died in August, won the 1980 Daytona 500 in an Oldsmobile painted gray, silver and black – hence its nickname.

“It’s my all-time favorite paint scheme,” Earnhardt said recently at his Hendrick Motorsports shop. “So we’ve put a touch of the ‘Gray Ghost,’ on this car. With Buddy’s passing, it made me want to do it even more, to acknowledge him and what he’s done.

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“It turned out to be a good-looking car. It looks good on paper, but you never know until it’s on the track.”

It’s my all-time favorite paint scheme. So we’ve put a touch of the ‘Gray Ghost,’ on this car. With Buddy’s passing, it made me want to do it even more, to acknowledge him and what he’s done.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt said he had a lot of input in the design of the ’16 car, which will continue to have Nationwide as its primary sponsor. The car was unveiled recently to a small group of fans who had won a contest that brought them to Hendrick Motorsports and a surprise meeting with Earnhardt.

“I’ve always had a lot of influence on the design of my car,” Earnhardt said of the car, which is painted dark blue on the hood and trunk. “Some drivers probably don’t care. I do. I like my car to look cool.”

That’s why Earnhardt has always been attracted to the Gray Ghost, a car that didn’t last long after Baker’s competitors complained it blended with the color on the racetrack and they couldn’t see him coming. NASCAR ordered Baker to put Day-Glo stickers on the front of the car to make it more visible.

Earnhardt said his team might consider using the entire Gray Ghost scheme at the 2016 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, if cars in the race again feature “throwback” paint schemes like they did in September.

Earnhardt Jr. said he would welcome having to put day-glo stickers on the car if it was so mandated.

“That would be a pat on the back, a compliment,” he said. “If the nose is gray, people would be talking about it and not see it coming. I remember that story. That’s what they did with Buddy.”