PBR…Not the Beer, Power Boat Racing!

By David G. Firestonebarber


Forest Barber is a true racer in every sense of the word. He won as a co-driver and owner in the 24 Hours of Daytona, along with one of my other favorite subjects Christian Fittipaldi. He has 5 other wins in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series. He has also participated in motocross and enduro riding. He has had the most success in offshore powerboat racing, where he has 5 National and World championships. In 1999, he won the APBA National Championship as well as the Superboat International Championship while racing Drambuie on Ice. He wore this suit during that effort.barberb


I never thought I would cover offshore powerboat racing in this blog, but this suit is a very interesting piece. It is a Sparco brand, single-layer suit that has full FIA certification. The light weight is used to accommodate the life jackets, and safety equipment that powerboat drivers need in addition to fire protection. Drowning is a real safety concern in power boat and other water sports. The front is designed with small DRAMBUIE ON ICE, TUBI STYLE EXHAUST SYSTEMS and KEITH EICKERT POWER PRODUCTS patches. Forest has signed the left chest and added WORLD CHAMPIONS 1999 as well. The back torso features a large DRAMBUIE ON ICE logo.barber-neckbarber-rchestbarber-lchestbarber-sigbarber-blogo

The sleeves both have a SPARCO logo, and one small patch. The right sleeve has a FEEL THE NEED RACING OFFSHORE CLASS 1 patch, and the left sleeve has a TNT CUSTOM RIGGING patch. There are no television logos, as the television coverage offshore powerboat racing had at the time did not have the cameras in the position for the logos to be seen.barber-rsleeve1barber-rsleeve2barber-lsleeve1barber-lsleeve2

Older Sparco suits have cowl tags indicating the size, and in this case, the size is 56, which is a large, with a 42 chest, 36 waist, and 42 hips. It also has two liability tags, one in the cowl and one behind the zipper in front.barber-tag1 barber-collar barber-tag2 barber-rchest barber-lshoulder

The shoulders have no epaulets or any other design covering the seam. Epaulets as I’ve said before are designed to pull an unconscious driver from a burning car. In offshore powerboat racing, drowning is a big concern in addition to fire protection, so epaulets are not needed. The arms are gusseted.barber-belt

There is an unadorned belt as well.barber-legs

The legs are unadorned and are cuffed as opposed to boot cut.

This suit was worn in Class 1, which is considered by many to be the Formula 1 of powerboat racing. Two individuals race in the boat, one drives the boat while the other navigates. A track is set on an open body of water, and the boats race each other around that track. These boats have 850 horsepower engines and can reach speeds of 160 miles per hour. They are catamaran designs, having two hulls, which help not only with speed but with stability as well. The races are typically 55-75 nautical miles in length, over a course that is 11-15 laps long, often with one or two long laps.

This is the first powerboat racing suit I have ever seen, and I have to say, it’s a very nice piece.


Collar Guard…Not a Product, but a Safety Feature.

1-lajoie-collarBy David G. Firestone

Like shoulder epaulets, the collar of a driver suit has made a transition. It has gone from safety accessory to fashion piece, but unlike the epaulet, it is not only ornamental. Because the collar is still a piece of safety equipment. It goes without saying that fire is an ever present danger in auto racing. The collar protects the neck from burns. This may seem minor, but many people who die from burns die from infection. When the skin is compromised, it can’t stop germs from getting inside the body, and as such makes infection a serious risk during burn injuries.

But the fashion aspect of collars is interesting as well. With the standard alignment of sponsors on the top of the suit, the Series logo, tire manufacturer logo, car manufacturer logo, and other sponsor logos are on the top, and the primary sponsor logos are present on the collar and epaulets. This Randy Lajoie example shows how the suit appears during an televised interview:1-lajoie-f

Note a couple of things: First, the fabric on the collar overlaps just a bit here, but when the driver wears it, it meets perfectly at the center of the neck. Second, it allows the driver to breathe easily. Comfort Vs. Safety is a constant debate. This is one kind of collar, the other kind of collar is what I call the Velcro collar, as shown in this Alex Barron suit from 1998:36-barron-collar

The Velcro collar is exactly what it sounds like, a collar with a strap which Velcros shut. This provides a little more protection in case of fire. It also has another use, as sponsor ads are popular to put on the front of the Velcro strap. This has been used quite often over the years…41-craven-collarbarber-collar

This is due to the fact that for quite some time the open face helmet was used, and the collar provided extra fire protection where the helmet failed. In this day in age, helmets come standard with Nomex socks on the bottom, so the collar, while still a key safety feature, is not as critical. But for sponsor logo placement, it really can’t be beat.

If the collar does not have a Velcro closure, then the primary sponsor logo is sewn into either side of the collar. Like the Lajoie example above, or this Mike Skinner example below, this can be used very effectively as a place for sponsor logos.31-skinner-collar

Like most other aspects of the driver suit, the choice of Velcro or not comes down to driver preference. Kyle Bush, as well as older brother Kurt favor the Velcro style, whereas Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards prefer the non-Velcro variety. Many pit crew shirts have a similar design to the driver design as well.

Editor’s note: For the next two weeks I will be on a very badly needed vacation. I will still have articles ready to go, but I won’t be commenting on up do date issues until I get back. I will still check in from time to time.

Moving on to paint schemes…

Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Express 2005 Toyota Camry Done as a memorial to Jason Leffler, this is a replica of the scheme that Leffler ran in 2005 during FedEx’s first season as a full-time NASCAR sponsor. It is very faithfull to the original scheme. It also has a great design and color scheme, and earns an A

Greg Biffle #16 3M/Give Kids a Smile Ford Fusion The same bland paint scheme that I described as “There’s nothing really wrong here, but nothing really right here either.  The side design looks forced, the black roof is idiotic, the color scheme is good, but the number design looks too cliche.  It makes no sense, but 3M schemes never do.” It has a small Give Kids a Smile logo on the hood, that is all but invisible. I gave it a C and it will stay at a C.

David Stremme #30 Window Wax Toyota Camry Ugh! This is bad, I can live with the color scheme, but the design is bad. It gets a D

Austin Dillon #33 American Ethanol Chevy SS While I hate the shade of green used here, this scheme looks pretty decent. The designs around the front brake vent are unnessicary, but I still like them. If the green were a bit darker, I could give it a better grade than a C+.

AJ Allmendinger #47 Charter Toytoa Camry The hood design is interesting here. It is designed in the same light as television logos on driver suits. It is a unique idea that works and I hope will catch on. The color scheme is great, and I love the overall design. A

Brian Vickers #55 Aaron’s/Louisville Cardinals Toyota Camry The color scheme is good, but the Fruit Stripe Gum design seen on the Louisville Cardinals shorts is ugly. The whole Zubaz design scheme is horrible on sports uniforms, and even worse on this car. I have nothing against the Louisville Cardinals, but this is horrible. F

Dale Earnhardt Jr #88 National Guard Solider of Steel Chevy SS Solid simple scheme with good colors, but the Superman Logo on the hood is next to invisible.

Arm Gussets…Comfortable AND Safe!

By David G. Firestone

We’ve all seen them in telecasts and photos, but what many of us do not realize is what they are and what they do. I am talking about the arm gusset. Arm gussets are seen at the top of the sleeve on a driver suit, under the shoulder. They are a flexible piece of Nomex specifically designed to do two things. One is protect the driver, the other is give the driver some freedom of movement.10-labonte-rshoulder 10-labonte-lshoulder

Arm Gussets are almost always present on race-worn driver suits. Anyone who has worn a one-piece full body jumpsuit can attest to the fact that it restricts freedom of body movement. The gusset takes some of that restriction away. This is important when it comes to driving, because it gives the driver one less thing to concentrate on, and in the worst case scenario, can help a driver escape a burning vehicle much quicker.36-said-rshoulder 36-said-lshoulder

Gussets have very little variation, though I have seen one unusual one. In this Ricky Craven suit from 1996, the front of the sleeves look like they are attached to the body, whereas the back has a gusset in it. This would be done for driver preference of course, bur I have never seen a half gusset before or since.100_3458 100_3457 100_3456

This Lake Speed suit from 1997 is store bought, as opposed to custom designed, and it has no gussets. This suit would have some restriction of movement. Again this can come down to driver choice.9-speed-rshoulder 9-speed-lshoulder

The need for protection vs. the need for driver comfort is a major conflict in the world of racing safety. The gusset is a major meeting point between the two sides involved, and the drivers love them.

RIP Jason Leffler…you will be missed.

Now on to paint schemes.

Jame McMurray #1 Parade Magazine Chevy SS-Great color scheme, great design, nothing wrong at all, A+

Jame McMurray #1 Banana Boat Chevy SS-A scheme that could be a B+ is ruined by an awful color scheme. That orange is the worst I have ever seen on a race car. It takes this scheme and takes to a D-

Jamie McMurray #1 Bad Boy Buggies Chevy SS-An attempt to be innovative with design fails horribly here. The color scheme is decent, but the design is awful.

Marcos Ambrose #9 Stanley/DeWalt Racing for a Miracle Ford Fusion-This is a major improvement over what they currently run. This just works! A+

Denny Hamlin #11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry-Seriously? Why does it look like a sperm is painted in red on the side of the car? The red/white/black color scheme works, but the door design is just awful! D-

Denny Hamlin #11 Fedex/Autism Speaks Toyota Camry-Much better! The puzzle design, and solid color scheme look really good here. The red 11 is amazing too! Can’t give this anything but an A+

Tony Stewart #14 Code 3 Chevy SS-Love the scheme, love the simple design and great color scheme.  Works very well and earns an A+

Clint Bowyer #15 5-Hour Energy Patriotic Toyota Camry-How is this patriotic? Oh….I get it…the stars….just one problem…THE COLOR SCHEME IS WRONG! If it was red white and blue I would like this, but this is just awful! You want to honor America, but can’t get the color scheme right? F-

Greg Biffle #16 Fastenal Ford Fusion-Since minor variations of this scheme were run by Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse, and Carl Edwards with minor variations between them, I will grade them all here. Solid scheme, good color scheme, A+ for all 3.

Greg Biffle #16 3M/Ace/Rite Aid Ford Fusion-The color scheme is good, but the door design is too busy. If it was one single color, it would work quite well, but being a mix of black, blue, red, and white it just looks confusing. It works, but not as well as it could, and earns a C+

Jeff Gordon #24 Axalta Chevy SS-Another DuPont scheme with different logos that works very well. Good color scheme and design. A+

Paul Menard #27 Menard’s/Libman Chevy SS-The Libman green hood design just looks horrible on the yellow background of the car. The green is too light, and if it were darker it might work, but this scheme earns a D

Kevin Harvick #29 Budweiser Patriotic Chevy SS-This is another patriotic scheme that works very well with a good design. A+

J.J. Yeley #36 Click it or Ticket Chevy SS-Good design, but awful color scheme. The green and blue is just horrible. If one or the other was used it might work, but this is horrific. F

Ryan Newman #39 Quicken Loans Patriotic Chevy SS-Meh.  The design needs work.  Too much going on with the front of the car to earn anything above a C

Aric Almirola #43 Air Force Ford Fusion-Great design, simple design with a great color scheme. A+

Bobby Labonte #47 Bush’s Grilling Beans Toyota Camry-The overall design and color scheme is good, but the major flaw here is that the quarter panel has 5 different logos, most of which clash with the Bush’s scheme. It takes an A scheme and drags it down to a C

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowes Patriotic Chevy SS-The only bad thing I can say about this is that the red should be a little darker. Other than that, this scheme earns an A

Jimmie Johnson #48 Monsters University Chevy SS-If the blue was darker, I would like it more, but the blue is too light. Other than that, this is a solid scheme. B+

Martin Truex Jr. #56 Napa Patriotic Toyota Camry-Perfect…that is all I can say. A+

The Glossary of Terms

By David G. Firestone9-kahne

For this week’s blog, I will be doing a visual glossary of terms that I use when describing driver suits and helmets. To illustrate this, we will use this examples from a number of suits, including this Kasey Kahne suit from 2005.

and this Terry Labonte suit from 2008


Collar-The collar is the main protection for the driver’s neck. There are two types of collars, the ones that velcro shut, and the kind that overlap, but do not attach. A popular place for sponsor logos.9-kahne-collar29-kahne-rshoulder 9-kahne-lshoulder

Shoulder Epaulet-a piece of fabric used to decorate the shoulders. Some are designed for visual appearance, but some are designed to be used to pull an unconscious driver from a burning car. Another popular place for sponsor logos.  10-labonte-rshoulder 10-labonte-lshoulder

Arm Gusset-Pieces of Nomex at the top of the sleeves that attach to the main body of the suit designed for driver comfort, while keeping it fire retardant.100_3458 100_3457 100_3456

Liability Tag-Found in every piece of racing uniforms this tag states that any injury they incur while wearing the item is the fault of the driver, not the company. 10-labonte-tag

Series Logo-Logo indicating what series the driver is racing in. Currently found at the top of the suit on the right side for NASCAR and the left side for IndyCar, though it has been more nomadic in the past. 10-labonte-rchest9-kahne-rchest

Associate Sponsor Logos-Smaller logos found at the top of the chest. Typically these include the series logo, tire logo, car manufacturer, team name, and one or two other sponsors. These small logos are a good way to photomatch a suit.9-kahne-rchest 9-kahne-lchest

Primary Sponsor Logo-The biggest logo on the suit, can measure as much as 14 inches around. Usually found on the center torso on front and upper torso on back. This logo is also the reason is why all of the other design features of the suit revolve around.9-kahne-flogo 9-kahne-blogo

Belt-Many driver suits feature a belt, which is for driver comfort. The safety certification is sometimes found on the inside, has a velcro closure. The driver name or a sponsor logo is often found here.  9-kahne-belt

Television Logo-Found on the sleeves and legs, these logos are specifically positioned so that when the driver is sitting in the car, they appear visible to the in-car cameras.  9-kahne-rsleeve2 9-kahne-legs

Cuff-the end of the arms and legs have a Nomex cuff. On the legs, the cuffs are often covered by a boot cut.  100_2474-copy1

Double or Triple-Layer-Most driver suits have multiple layers of Nomex in them to protect the driver from firescreen

Safety Certification-Driver suits are independently inspected by FIA and/or SFI to insure that they meet or exceed the fire protection they promise to provide. SFI certification is typically found on the inside of the left sleeve, and FIA can be found on either the back of the neck, or inside the belt.10-labonte-sfi 9-kahne-fia  fia 1 sfi36-barron-fia236-barron-neck

The Replacements…The Driver Suit Edition

By David G. Firestone

I have been focusing too much on paint schemes lately, so I’ll hold off on that for a while. Back to driver suits. As Brian Vickers demonstrated earlier this year, when there is time to plan for a driver replacement, a full driver suit with all correct sponsor logos can be done for a driver. But what if the driver change isn’t as easy to anticipate? What if it is a last minute deal? Sometimes, you get an item like this:10-labonte

10-labontebHere’s the back story, Patrick Carpentier was racing for Gillette-Evernham Motorsports in 2008. He was a part time Cup driver, and full time Nationwide Series driver. During the week of August 3, 2008, Carpentier was scheduled to driver in the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Quebec. Because of the travel restrictions involved, he was not able to make the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 the next day. As such, Terry Labonte was chosen to take the #10 Charter Communications Dodge Charger for that race. Since this was a last minute deal, Labonte was given this basic suit, with SPRINT CUP, GOODYEAR, VALVOLINE, GILETTE-EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS, NASCAR, and SUNOCO logos. The full Charter Communications design would have taken more time than the team had to make the suit.

10-labonte-rchest 10-labonte-lchest 10-labonte-rsleeve1 10-labonte-lsleeve1

In all honesty, it works very well. It has the classic quilt pattern, and the minimal logos give it a very retro look. This is also the only driver suit that I have ever seen that has no manufacturer logos, either Dodge or Simpson, and has a full SFI Certification.

10-labonte-rshoulder 10-labonte-sfiOther than the lack of logos, this is a standard custom designed Sprint Cup driver suit. It has shoulder epaulets and arm gussets, as well as Terry Labonte’s name on the belt. The Texas logo is presnet next to Labonte’s name, and I have never seen this on other suits he wore. I was able to find some pictures of him wearing the suit, and he looks good in it.