By David G. Firestone
When it comes to driver suits, I normally focus on race-worn items, but this week I’m going to shift gears, and focus on another kind of suit…and yes, pun intended. This example is a suit used by the Richard Petty Driving Experience. What the RPDE does is give die hard fans the ability to get in a stock car and either be driven around a track for a few laps, or drive the car around the track after some instruction. The cars are almost identical to Gen 4 cars, but have two seats and are scaled down to 600 horsepower from the over 800 currently run in NASCAR.
It looks similar in design to suits that Richard Petty wore during his racing days. Interestingly, there is no Petty blue, but a darker blue similar to the blue used in STP logos. There are no logos of any kind present, not even of the suit manufacturer, a company called Westex. I find it odd that at that time, the Richard Petty Driving Experience logo wasn’t used. There is no indication it was ever present on the suit to begin with. The legs are cuffed, as opposed to the boot cut that most NASCAR drivers like to use. Arm gussets, which give drivers better freedom of movement, are not here either. Later suits have some of these features.
Now even though the cars are either driven by professionals, or by drivers who have had lessons, the risk of crash and fire is present. As such, the fans are issued driver suits. This is an early version of the suit issued to them. What strikes me about this suit is that it is a single-layer suit with no epaulets. The epaulet is critical here because they are specifically designed for pulling an unconscious driver from a burning car in the event of a wreck. The fact that is is a single-layer suit is an issue here because in racing, redundancy is safety. NASCAR drivers wear double or triple-layer suits as well as fireproof long johns that give them 30 seconds of fire protection. I would be shocked if this suit would give 10 seconds.
I should also mention at this point that the suit does not have any SFI or FIA certification. When you are driving fans around a track with the ever present risk of fire, having a suit that can withstand the worst case scenario is a plus. SFI certification is designed to do just that, insure that the person wearing the suit will be able to be protected in the worst case scenario, so I do not get the logic of having uncertified suit for use.
All that said, now let’s discuss the basics.
The collar is a Velcro-shut design.
The tag is custom for the RPDE and has some things written and crossed out in Sharpie.
The sleeves are plain.
There is an unadorned belt.
The front torso shows some stains.
It should be noted that these suits are no longer used, and now Simpson SFI certified suits are currently in use. And while the suit has its short comings it is still a very attractive item. I plan on doing the RPDE in the very near future.