Grading the 2014 All-Star Race & How Far We Have Come In the Last 50 Years…

headerBy David G. Firestone.

The 2014 Sprint All Star race is behind us, and as usual, there were a myriad of different paint schemes.  Some were good, others not so much, but I have to say there were a lot of great schemes in this year’s race.  Let’s start with the Sprint Showdown.  Unlike in previous years, The Showdown took place on Friday, and the All-Star Race was on Saturday.  The Showdown was a great event, which saw Clint Bowyer winning, AJ Allmendinger finishing second, and in the upset of the year, Josh Wise winning the Sprint Fan vote, and advancing to the All Star Race.  Let’s get to the grades:

#1 Josh Wise #98 DogeCoin Ford Fusion Such colors! Much design! So good! A+

#2 Dave Blaney #77 Amy R. Fochler Ford Fusion I think that this is the first time a lawyer has sponsored a Cup car, and it is a great design. A+

#3 Ryan Truex #83 Burger King Toyota Camry Great simple design, and I love the Borla Exhaust design adds a unique look. A+

#4 David Stremme #33 Little Joe’s Autos Chevy SS Simple design, great color scheme A+

#5 Landon Cassill #40 Hillman Racing Chevy SS Silver is a very attractive color on race cars, and this is a perfect example. A+

#6 Aric Almirola #43 Farmland Ford Fusion Simple design and a great color scheme earns an A+

#7 AJ Allmendinger #47 Freightliner/Sullivan Palatek Chevy SS Classic look, good color scheme, A+

#8 Reed Sorenson #36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevy SS Simple design, great color scheme A+

#9 Alex Bowman #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry Like the silver, and the design scheme is very good. A

#10 Cole Whitt #26 Speed Stick Gear Toyota Camry This is one of the few schemes that has both a classic and modern look at the same time, and paired with a great color scheme, it earns an A

#11 Marcos Ambrose #9 DeWalt/Stanley Ford Fusion Though a tad over designed, the car has a clean look, and a great color scheme, so I will give it an A-

#12 David Gilliland #38 Loves Truck Stops Ford Fusion Good color scheme, decent design, A-

#13 Austin Dillon #3 Dow Chevy SS While I like the color scheme and number and logo designs, the white stripe up the side kills the look. It takes an A scheme to a B+ scheme.

#14 Kyle Larson #42 Target Chevy SS The scheme looks decent, I like the red on the back, though I do not like the Target logos at the bottom. That takes a scheme that was an A grade to a B-

#15 Paul Menard #27 Menards/Serta Chevy SS Same scheme as last year, same C+ grade

#16 Michael Annett #7 Pilot/Flying J Chevy SS Good color scheme, but the awful template is back for Tommy Baldwin. It is really sad, because this could be a great scheme, but the template takes it from an A to a C-

#17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 Building For America’s Bravest Ford Fusion Much too overdesigned, and another example of why camoflage on race cars NEVER WORKS! The only thing keeping this design above water is a great color scheme. C-

#18 Joe Nemechek #66 Land Castle Title Toyota Camry If the bottom was a single color stripe, I would give it very high marks, but the over design makes it look awful. C-

#19 JJ Yeley #44 Phoenix Warehouse Chevy SS My first thought when I saw this scheme was it looked like the color scheme from the 1994-1995 NBA All-Star Game jerseys which is a decent color scheme. But to say the car is overdesigned is an understatement. This scheme is awful. Not even a great color scheme can help this car pass. F

#20 Danica Patrick #10 GoDaddy Cares Chevy SS Same scheme but with a bunch of logos on the hood, instead of just one. F

#21 Casey Mears #13 Geico Chevy SS Once again, it needs to be said…CAMO DOES NOT WORK ON RACE CARS! I’l give this an F!

#22 Clint Bowyer #15 Charter Toyota Camry Clint’s already bad paint scheme with an even worse color scheme…F

#23 Blake Koch #32 Ford Fusion No redeeming features whatsoever. F-

Now we move on to the All-Star Race, which saw Jamie McMurray pull an upset and take the win, thus guaranteeing him entry into the event for the next 10 years.  Overall there were a lot of great schemes, though I wish more teams would run special schemes.

#1 Brad Keselowski #2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion Best Throwback scheme of the last 5 years  A+

#2 Josh Wise #98 DogeCoin Ford Fusion Such colors! Much design! So good! A+

#3 Marin Truex Jr. #78 Furniture Row Chevy SS Nothing wrong with this scheme at all.  A+

#4 Kyle Busch #18 M&M’s Toyota Camry Great color and design schemes. A+

#5 David Ragan #34 Taco Bell Ford Fusion Overall design and color schemes are good, and the only complaint is that the Taco Bell logo should be in color as opposed to black and white.  A+

#6 Kurt Busch #41 Haas Chevy SS Great design and color scheme, A+

#7 AJ Allmendinger #47 Freightliner/Sullivan Palatek Chevy SS Classic look, good color scheme, A+

#8 Brian Vickers #55 Aarons Toyota Camry A good scheme, and the 55 lettering looks really good here, and the gold is a nice touch. A

#9 Carl Edwards #99 Fastenal Ford Fusion The stripes work well here, and the color scheme is good. A

#10 Jamie McMurray #1 Bass Pro Shops/National Wild Turkey Federation Chevy SS As Bass Pro Shops schemes go this year, this one is really good. Good color scheme, good design scheme, no camo, A

#11 Jeff Gordon #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS Great overall design, great color scheme, though the D on the hood reversed to miror the curves of the hood looks odd.  Still it’s a good scheme and Ill give it an A

#12 Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 National Guard Chevy SS The new metallic numbers work, and the overall design is decent, since it incorporates the design used on the numbers.  I’ll give it an B+

#13 Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry The front nose design and stripes are awful. The color schemes are great, as are the logos and numbers, but the stripes kill it. The best grade I can give is a C+

#14 Kevin Harvick #4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevy SS  It’s a bit overdesigned, but the green looks good(I hate most shades of green used in NASCAR) and it earns a C

#15 Kasey Kahne #5 Time Warner Cable Chevy SS It is a good color scheme, but the design on the side needs a little tweaking. Get rid of the needless zig-zag pattern and it works a whole lot better. It is still a decent scheme, so I will give it a C

#16 Tony Stewart #14 Bass Pro Shop/Mobil 1 Chevy SS This is just brutal to look at. The orange and camo contrast is hideous, and the overall design is overdone. C-

#17 Matt Kenseth #20 Home Depot/Huskey Toyota Camry I would give this scheme an A grade, but the yellow back bumper ruins it.  The clash between the two just works awkward, and it takes an A scheme down to a C

#18 Joey Logano #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion Red and yellow is a really great color scheme, but the design is all wrong. It just looks awful. D

#19 Ryan Newman #31 Cat/Quicken Loans Chevy SS What in the blue hell is going on here? I’ve liked Ryan’s schemes this year but this is an F scheme, even though I like the color scheme.

#20 Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowes Patriotic Chevy SS Only one word can sum up this scheme…overdesigned. F

#21 Clint Bowyer #15 Charter Toyota Camry Clint’s already bad paint scheme with an even worse color scheme…F

#22 Greg Biffle#16 3M Ford Fusion-The sides and roof have gotten worse from last year.  I have to give it an F in that respect.

Also, check this video out concerning how different pit stops in open wheel racing were between 1950 and today:

The video shows how far we have come in pit stops, but we also have come a long way in driver uniforms.

By David G. Firestone

50 years ago this week, events over the course of 6 days in May of 1964 changed the culture, cars, and uniforms of auto racing forever. Three deaths in two races over those six days demonstrated that current safety methods were ineffective at best, and 3 talented drivers lost their lives. The 1964 World 600 and the 1964 Indianapolis 500 helped introduce reenforced fuel tanks and Nomex driver suits, among other things. 50 years later, those events are still being felt

The World 600 began in the early afternoon on May 24, 1964. For the first six laps, it was business as usual, but on lap 7, on the backstretch, Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett wrecked, and Glenn “Fireball” Roberts swerved to avoid them, and wrecked. He was trapped in the car by the pedals, and his car caught fire. Ned Jarrett ran and pulled Roberts from the car, and paramedics took him to the hospital. 39 days after the wreck, while still in the hospital from his injuries, he died from pneumonia.

NASCAR had rules concerning “fire retardant” uniforms but these were inadequate at best. These uniforms were cotton coveralls traditionally used by workmen that had been dipped in a number of fire retardant materials including Borax. These were not only ineffective, but were extremely uncomfortable to wear. They were known for inflaming the skin, and aggravating asthma. Fireball was not wearing these coveralls during that race, because he had a doctor’s note stating he should not wear them. There is some debate over what the doctor’s note was for, either for asthma or skin hives. It llustrates why these uniforms were not popular, they were so uncomfortable to wear that drivers did not want to wear them.

6 days later, on May 30, the 48th Indianapolis 500 was held. Dave MacDonald started 14th, and Eddie Sachs started 17th when the green flag dropped. MacDonald was racing a car built by racing innovator Mickey Thompson, which by all accounts was badly built and difficult to drive. The first lap led into the second, which saw Dave MacDonald lose control of his car and smash into the inside wall. The fuel tank instantly ignited and the car went across the track, and collected a number of other cars, including Eddie Sachs car, which also exploded on impact. Sachs was killed by the impact, but MacDonald was seriously burned, and his lungs were scorched, the lung damage proved to be fatal.

Inspired by these events, the Nomex firesuit was introduced in 1967 as a replacement for the cotton coveralls dipped in chemicals. It was a lot more comfortable and safer than chemical-dipped cotton, so drivers were more willing to wear them. Like most new safety equipment in sports, it took a while to catch on. Nomex was created in 1967, for NASA. Its main use at the time was for the Apollo Command Module parachutes. NASA needed a material that could stand up to the heat of reentering the earth’s atmosphere, and still remain fully functional.

Bill Simpson is credited with introducing Nomex to driver suits. The story goes that Simpson started making Nomex suits after learning about the material from astronaut Pete Conrad while Simpson was working as a consultant for NASA. One of the pivital moments in the history of the suit was when Simpson had heard that a competitor had been badmouthing his products, and so, in something he said later was “the dumbest thing I have ever done,” challenged the competitor to a “burn off.” Simpson put on his suit and lit himself on fire. He later recreated this for a Mazda commercial.

Why did it take so long to make critical changes to driver uniforms? The events that took place in 1964 were tragic, and it clearly illustrated why the old system didn’t work. The only change made immediately after the events was the rule that fire retardant suits were now mandatory, regardless of how it made the driver feel. In today’s sports safety culture, there would be focus groups, meetings within the sanctioning body, and changes within a few months after the event. But by 1964 standards, just rigidly enforcing the rule was the best course of action. Remember that in 1964 race car drivers were seen as somewhat expendable. Driver deaths in racing were stunningly common back then. As such, while there was a need for improvement, it was not a priority for sanctioning bodies. The sad fact is that back then, driver deaths were part of the allure of racing. People would go to these events and hope to see a fatal crash, as crass as that sounds. As for the suits themselves, the only other options besides chemical dipped cotton was aluminized cotton or aluminized kevlar, which was not more comfortable, as it was like wearing aluminum foil.

So what did these pre-Nomex driver suits look like? They looked like this. This is a driver suit made by Hinchman in Indianapolis. It is basically a polyester suit that is customized to the driver’s preference. It is not all that different than a jumpsuit that one would wear to work. It is a very flimsy material, has no cuffs on the arms or legs, and, most amazingly, the tag states that the suit is “Untreated, will burn, must be dipped.” This suit was worn circa 1972, which is indicated by the “Archie Bunker for President” patch sewn into the chest. Like any new safety technology in sports, it takes time for it to become the standard, and for Nomex, this is no exception.

This race, along with the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 2001 Daytona 500 have their legacies written in death, but unlike other similar events, the lessons they had to teach were learned, and the racing world as a whole is better for them. The deaths in these events were not in vain, and others are alive because of them. 50 years later, those 6 days in May 1964 are still having an impact on racing.

One thought on “Grading the 2014 All-Star Race & How Far We Have Come In the Last 50 Years…

  1. Thank you for the comments in #2 and the great grade! I thought the design was great too. Look for an even better wrap on the #77 in Pocono this weekend. Hopefully it will bring some awareness to all Veterans that there is help in their fight for VA benefits.

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