Speed Sport Suits…Legit or Counterfeit?

By David G. Firestone

Race car drivers will be the first to admit that the SFI rating is the most important part of a driver suit. The appearance and fit are nice, but how the suit protects from fire is crucial. That SFI patch can mean the difference between life and death.

SFI was founded in 1978, and originally called the SEMA Foundation Incorporated. SEMA stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association, and is composed of over 6,000 companies that promote after market automotive products. Since then, SFI and SEMA have parted ways, and SFI operates as an independent group devoted entirely to regulate racing safety equipment.

In the modern racing safety culture, the requirement that a suit conform to SFI standards is paramount, but not all companies are following the rules. Since 2013, the SFI has caught counterfeit racing equipment at least 5 times. Let’s also remember the Impact/SFI conflict from 2010. Each time they catch a company making fake SFI rated equipment, they publicly name the company, and the products. Examples can include newer models, and older ones, such as this Speed Sport suit which appears to date back to the 1980’s.Speed Sport was a racing suit manufacturer in the 1980’s. There is very little about them available on the company, and they didn’t last long. Every example of a Speed Sport suit appears to be of dubious quality, being made of a non-Nomex material that is labeled Nomex. This is a perfect exampe of why counterfeit racing suits need to be identified and called out.

This single-layer two-piece suit is clearly NOT made of Nomex, and shows decent wear. There are a number of pieces of evidence to support this theory.The collar has a Velcro closure with a SPEED SPORT patch on the strap.A second clue that this isn’t real Nomex, aside from the fact that it doesn’t look or feel like Nomex, is the fact that the wash instructions state “Wash in warm water, tumble dry, do not bleach.” Every other Nomex driver suit I have come across states that the suit needs to be dry cleaned.The chests and torso are unadorned, and show some discoloration. The shoulders have a white stripe that extends down the whole sleeve. The right sleeve features a SPEED SPORT UNIFORMS patch, and the white stripe extends to the end of the sleeve. The left sleeve has a suspect SFI Certification patch, which indicates that the suit has a 1 rating. A 1 rating would provide the most minimal of protection. Normally, a 1 rated suit would provide 3 seconds of fire protection, but since this suit clearly isn’t made of Nomex, I doubt it would provide that much protection. The back of the jacket shows some stains and discoloration. The pants show a decent amount of wear with tears and stains. The pants are made of the same materials as the jacket, and have the same stripes.The inside of the pants shows the same wash tag that the jacket shows. The front zipper has been torn and has clearly been repaired.The cuffs show some discoloration. The back of the pants show the same discoloration as the front.The back of the pants have the same suspect SFI rating patch as the jacket.The sad fact is that there are companies that have no concern for the safety of their customers, and have no reservations slapping a fake SFI rating on a suit or uniform item, and selling them to customers. SFI is fighting a never ending war to keep their customers safe. Customers should do their research on if a company is working with SFI, the list can be found here. No driver or crew members should get hurt because of counterfeit racing gear.

Next week, I will post something I tried to post before the NHL Draft.

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Comparing and Contrasting NHRA Championship Interview Caps

By David G. Firestone

Over the past few months, I’ve done a number of articles on NHRA Championship winner hats. When the NHRA was sponsored by Winston in the Winston Drag Racing Series. In 2001, Winston left the sport, and Coca Cola took over, creating the Powerade Drag Racing Series, which lasted until 2008. In 2009, Full Throttle Energy Drink took over the series sponsorship, creating the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, which lasted until the end of the 2012 season. In 2013, Mello Yello took over, creating the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series we know today.

The three championship caps show how differently Full Throttle, the old Mello Yello, and the new Mello Yello promote their companies. Taking a look at the front of the caps, in 2010, Full Throttle simply had a Full Throttle Energy Drink logo. In 2014, the old Mello Yello had a vintage-inspired logo, with a motorsports motif added. In 2016, the new Mello Yello has a bolder, modern logo that is vaguely motorsports themed.The left sides are telling too. Full Throttle went for a minimalist design, with a PRO STOCK CHAMPIONSHIP embroidery with a Full Throttle theme. The Mello Yello caps both utilize a circle design, with PRO STOCK CHAMPION embroidered into it, though the gray was changed for the new Mello Yello as well as a new font was used.The back of the 2010 Full Throttle cap has an NHRA logo, which was needed since the front only has a Full Throttle logo. The word CHAMPION is embroidered on the Velcro closure. This design is mimicked on the 2014 Mello Yello cap, albeit with a larger NHRA logo and slightly larger lettering on the Velcro closure. In 2016, the caps got an update, with CHAMPION above the closure and 2016 on the closure.The right side of the caps aren’t utilized as well as the rest, with only one, the 2014 cap having GO ON YELLO! embroidered into it. While the 2010 cap has 2010 on the brim, and the 2016 cap has nothing.While there isn’t the room for design as the rest of the cap, the top does show some design differences. The eyelets are white on the 2010 cap, as is the squatchee. In 2014, those had changed to black, giving the cap a bit more of an interesting design. This change continued into 2016.The inside of the caps have Main Gate tags. Main Gate is an Indianapolis-based apparel company, which has deals with the NHRA and all their teams. They also have a number of deals with other companies, some sports, some not. In 2010,the inside was black, and the tag is on the right side. In 2014, the inside of the cap is white, the tag is on the left side, and GO ON YELLO! is printed on the brim. In 2016, the brim font changes, but the rest of the inside of the cap remains the same.It’s amazing to me that Full Throttle, who sponsored the biggest drag racing series in the world, took such a minimalist approach to sponsoring the series, but Mello Yello has thrown everything into making the sport work, and bringing in fans. Between the new approach, and a good television deal with FOX, the Mello Yello approach is working out well, and I hope it continues to work well.

Next Week, I will examine a possibly fraudulent SFI-rated suit.

The Reigning King Of Funny Car Has A Hat To Match

By David G. Firestone

Every sport has that one driver who is a true great, but never could win a championship. Baseball has Ted Williams. Football has Dan Marino. Basketball has Charles Barkley. Hockey has Joe Thorton. NASCAR has Mark Martin. IndyCar has Hélio Castroneves. Formula 1 has Stirling Moss. Up until the end of the 2016 racing season, Ron Capps could be considered this for the NHRA. After 10 years of racing in Funny Car, and so many close calls, Capps finally scaled the mountain, and won the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Championship.

Ron Capps broke into the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series as a Top Fuel driver for Roger Primm. He would win his first race in Seattle that season. In 1996, he was signed by Don Prudhomme, and ran six races, though he did not qualify for two of them. In 1997, he switched to Funny Car, and raced for Don Prudhomme until 2005, when he signed with Don Schumacher Racing. In 2008, he signed a sponsorship deal with NAPA Auto Parts. In 2016, he finally climbed the mountain and won a Funny Car Championship.

2016 was not an easy season, he had a lot of competition from the John Force Racing teams, as well as other Don Schumacher Racing cars. But he had 5 wins, Winternationals, Epping, Englishtown, Norwalk, and Seattle, 5 runner up finishes, and four number one qualifiers. He also passed Cruz Pedregon for 2nd on the Funny Car all-time win list with 49. Though he didn’t win the NHRA Finals, he did win the championship at the final race in Ponoma. One of his crew members was given this white championship hat.The cap is in great condition, showing no signs of wear. The front has the newest NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series logo, introduced earlier in the year.The left side features a FUNNY CAR CHAMPION patch, which is the same basic design, with different font, and the gray in the center of the circle is darker.The rear has CHAMPION embroidered over the closure, and 2016 embroidered on the Velcro closure.The right side is completely plain.The top of the cap features six black eyelets, and a black squatchee.The inside of the cap has a Main Gate tag, the cardboard is still present, and the words GO-ON-YELLO! printed on the black material of the under brim.There doesn’t seem to be any reason why NHRA championship hats are white, and my best guess is that it was because John Force likes to wear white hats, but that is just speculation on my part. I have noticed that there is somewhat of an evolution of NHRA championship hats. I will discuss this in depth more next week.

One Of The Kings Of Pro Stock

By David G. Firestone

Minnesota might not seem like it, but they have a decent drag racing pedigree. They have Brainerd International Raceway, and the legendary Brainerd Zoo. Minnesota is also the home to a number of Pro Stock drivers, including Warren Johnson, Kurt Johnson, Jason Line, and Greg Anderson. Between them, they have won a combined total of 273 national events, and 13 Pro Stock Championships.

Greg Anderson’s road to NHRA stardom had some help from a legend. Anderson got his start tuning Warren Johnson’s Pro Stock car for many years, and winning three championships in 1992, 1993, and 1995. The 1995 championship was marred in controversy, with the feud between Warren Johnson and Wayne County Dodge driver Scott Geoffrion taking center stage. This was referred to as a war, and this led to an infamous incident at Houston where the two had a burndown, and a war of words. Later that season, the Wayne County Dodge team shop was broken into, and the engines of the cars were vandalized. Wayne County Dodge was also alleged to have illegally used Nitrous, and the team shut down soon after.

In 1998, Greg Anderson started racing in Pro Stock. He took to the class well, winning 86 races, and four championships. He won 12 races in a single season in 2003. In 2004, he set the record for most #1 Qualifiers in a season with 16. His career almost ended in 2014, after heart surgery. He rebounded, and had a solid showing in 2015, finishing second in the championship standings, as well as finishing second in 2016.

In 2010, he won 5 events, Norwalk, Seattle, Charlotte, Dallas and Las Vegas, and wound up winning the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Championship. One of his crew members was issued this white hat in celebration.The cap is in great condition. It has a Full Throttle Energy Drink logo, as opposed to an NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series logo.The left side features PRO STOCK CHAMPION embroidered into the side with black and yellow accents.The back of the cap has an NHRA logo and CHAMPION embroidered into the Velcro closure strap.The right side has 2010 embroidered into the bill.The top is pristine, and the cap has a white squatchee.The inside of the cap is black, has some light stains, and a Main Gate tag.Greg Anderson’s 2017 season is going well too. He has had solid showings at every event he has raced at, and has two wins, and has a good spot in the point standings. He will be a threat for the championship this year. He is 11 wins away from being the all-time win leader in Pro Stock.

Next week, I will discuss a Ron Capps championship hat.

Beckman’s Back For 2017

By David G. Firestone

I had originally scheduled this article for after the Route 66 Nationals, but sometimes, real life gets in the way. Shortly before the Route 66 Nationals, Terry Chandler who had been funding the Funny Cars of Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. passed away from cancer. I wasn’t sure what the best way to proceed was, and I decided to put it off until I had some information I didn’t have, and wasn’t available at the time. Since then, her husband revealed that both of their cars will be funded through 2020. I was glad that happened, and I’m happy her legacy will live on.

I’ve discussed Jack Beckman on The Driver Suit Blog many times. He is a great driver, he connects with the fans, and he was kind enough to grant me an interview last year. I’ve been into the Infinite Hero Challenge Coin program since the beginning, and love collecting them. Well, I’m back with another profile of the coins for 2017.

Launched in 2011, The Infinite Hero Foundation “…is to combat the most difficult front line issues – mental and physical – facing returning military heroes and their families.” Military personnel returning from overseas deployment face long term employment, mental and physical problems that the majority of Americans don’t understand. They work with other non-profit veterans groups and give out grants to help service men and women cope with these long term problems.

In April 2014, they started appearing on the side of Jack Beckman’s funny car. Terry Chandler, who also sponsors Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Make a Wish Foundation Funny Car, is the financial backer of the car. She pays for Infinite Hero to race on the sides of the car. This also began the NHRA coin program. When Jack Beckman gets into his funny car to race, he carries at least 5 Infinite Hero Challenge Coins in the pocket of his driver suit. Once the race is over, he will autograph them and sell them at the track and on eBay. They cost $100 with all proceeds going to the Infinite Hero Foundation.

The 2014 design is quite thick, and has a ridged edge. One side featured “Courage, Honor, Virtue, Heroism,” around a globe design with an Oakley logo. Oakley is a partner with the Infinite Hero Foundation. The other side features an Infinite Hero Foundation logo with purple enamel. The coin was placed in a round, flat plastic container, with black foam braces. The coin lacks the blue enamel that the coin that comes with the glasses coin, and future coins, and has a very plain look. I do like the plain look. Jack used was identical to the one sold in stores. Jack autographed the plastic case. In 2014, this 1/24 scale die cast was produced. It is a full replica of Beckman’s funny car. Valvoline was a primary sponsor, and this was the only season Infinite Hero and Valvoline were together on the car. It’s also the only time that Infinite Hero Challenge appeared on the older Dodge funny car body. In 2015, the current body was introduced, and Pennzoil replaced Valvoline. Jack has autographed the windshield. A redesigned coin of the same size was introduced for 2015. The Oakley logos are gone. One side features a design similar to the globe design, but the globe design has been replaced with an American Flag design. “Courage, Honor, Virtue, Heroism” has been replaced with “Duty, Honor, Innovation, Courage.” The new emblem on the reverse side has one of the across bands removed. The new packaging is an upgrade, with the circular plastic cylinder replaced with an attractive box. It comes with a card that Jack Beckman autographed, and on the reverse it has the Infinite Hero Foundation Pledge. The first one is from The CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Phoenix on February 22, 2015, where Jack was eliminated in the first round. The second one is from the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, where Beckman won the event, beating Courtney Force in the final round. Also in 2015, these hero cards were produced. Hero cards are given away at racing events and driver appearances. They have Jack’s picture, and information about the driver, team, and the Infinite Hero Challenge. For 2016, the coins got a major makeover. The Infinite Hero logo is now bigger. The words “Reimagine” and “Recovery” are stamped near the logo, and on the opposite side, a picture of Jack’s funny car replaces the flag motif. It should also be noted that the coin is slightly smaller, because it isn’t as tight in the coin case as the previous version. The Infinite Hero Pledge accompanies the coin. Also changed from 2016, Jack doesn’t sign the box and the pledge, he just signs the pledge. The 2017 Infinite Hero coin is slightly larger than the 2016 coin, and fits snugly in the box. The pledge piece remains unchanged. The coin itself has a plain pewter Infinite Hero Challenge logo on one side, and a blue enameled claw stripe design with a hex nut design on the border. Hero cards are given away at racing events and driver appearances. They have Jack’s picture, and information about the driver, team, and the Infinite Hero Challenge. For 2016-2017, a new card design was introduced. It has updated information, as well as the updated paint scheme introduced at the beginning of the season. Recently, I took a number of selfies with race car drivers, and made them into a book, and got them signed. This is me with Jack Beckman. Hector Arana signed the upper-left corner.

Jack Beckman is a great driver, who races for a great sponsor, and supports a great cause. He has been really amazing not just to me, not just to to The Driver Suit Blog, but to the NHRA and their fan base. I’m glad he’s going to be racing for The Infinite Hero Challenge until 2020. As long as he is selling them, I will continue buying the Infinite Hero Challenge Coins, and promoting them on The Driver Suit Blog.

Next Week, we will continue something I started in July…

One of the Goals of All Drivers In Auto Racing

By David G. Firestone

The term “pole position” comes from horse racing, where the fastest qualifying horse would be placed on the inside part of the course, next to the pole. Though Qualifying takes several different forms, all drivers want the pole position.

In 1979, Busch Beer started sponsoring the pole award in the Winston Cup Series, with the pole award winners would race in the Busch Clash, before the Daytona 500. The Busch Clash lasted from 1979 until 1997, when it became the Budweiser Shootout in 2001, to 2012. The sponsorship spread to the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series as well. Anheuser-Busch dropped the sponsorship in 2012, and Molson took over. In the Cup and Xfinity Series, the pole award is sponsored by Coors Light. In the Truck Series, the pole award is sponsored by Keystone Light. With the new sponsor came these small flags given to the drivers and crew members of the pole winners.

This version is given to pole award winners who are under 21. The flag is 19 inches long, and 12 inches wide, is only printed on one side, and is in good condition. In 2015, nobody in the Cup series under 21 won the pole award. In the Xfinity Series, Erik Jones won pole awards at the Drive4Clots.com 300 at Fontana, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas, and the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol. Darrell Wallace Jr. won the pole at the Buckle Up 200 at Dover. Finally, Ben Rhodes won the pole at the Road America 180 at Road America.

In 2015, nobody in the Cup series under 21 won the pole award. In the Xfinity Series, Erik Jones won pole awards at Fontana, Texas, and Bristol. Darrell Wallace Jr. won the pole at the Dover. Finally, Ben Rhodes won the pole at Road America. In the Truck Series, Erik Jones won the pole at Kansas, Texas, Gateway, Iowa, Pocono,and Phoenix. Bobby Pierce won the pole at Eldora, and Cole Custer won the pole at Martinsville. This flag was given to one of their race teams at some point.

This flag was from 2015 at Dover, and would have been awarded to Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, or Ryan Blaney. It’s the same size as the under 21 flag, The flag is 19 inches long, and 12 inches wide, is only printed on one side, and is in good condition. These pole award flags are small when compared to a full-sized checkered flag, this one from the 2010 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Miami Grand Prix.What I find odd is that Coors Light sponsors the pole award, and they have a contest where the driver who wins the most Coors Light Pole Awards will win $100,000. While this is a great idea, for some reason, it’s never mentioned on any NASCAR telecast EVER! Why? Coors Light has done a terrible job promoting the pole award, and the fact that they are the Official Beer of NASCAR. While Monster Energy is the most promoted official beverage, followed up by Coca Cola, Coors never seems to get mentioned. Why is Coors Light not making more an effort?

Anyhow, next week will feature Driver Suit Blog favorite Jack Beckman.

From Nomex to Polyester: Part 2

By David G. Firestone

Since this weekend is the opening week for the NFL, I felt I’d shift gears, and talk about football memorabilia this week. I’m a football fan when I’m not watching auto racing. I didn’t get into football until I was in high school, but now I follow the NFL regularly. I almost got into the NFL Draft in 2016. I also periodically buy NFL memorabilia. As regular readers know, I buy game-used toss coins, but I also buy other NFL toss coins.

The commemorative coins used for the coin toss have become a collector’s market of their own. While made by different companies over the years, The Highland Mint, based in Melbourne, Florida has become the leader in sports commemorative coin manufacturing. They produce coins for the NFL for their coin tosses and fan souvenirs. An example is this 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers coin set, which has a standard coin, an NFL Kickoff Coin, and, strangely, an NFL Thanksgiving coin, even though Tampa Bay didn’t play on Thanksgiving in 2004, and played an AWAY game that week.This set, limited edition #10 of 1,500, is in decent condition with the coins in great condition, and the case a bit worse for wear. The first of three coins is the standard Buccaneers’ Home toss coin, which features a TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS logo on the front, and an NFL logo on the back. The NFL Kickoff coin is the second coin, this one features a Buccaneers’ helmet logo on the front and a 2004 NFL Kickoff logo on the rear. The third coins is the aforementioned Thanksgiving coin, which is odd, since the NFL only uses that logo on Thanksgiving day, not the whole week. It is the same as the NFL Kickoff coin, but with an NFL Thanksgiving Day logo. This is an example of a standard-issue NFL Highland Mint toss coin, this one the New York Giants, numbered 840 of 5000. It is in decent condition.

Everyone will always remember the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for a game between the Packers and the Colts that never happened. The game was canceled because the brand new field had to be repainted, and the field wasn’t ready in time. This commemorative silver coin, numbered 229 of 5,000, was made for the weekend festivities. It is in decent condition, but the case shows wear. This is a slightly smaller coin made to be sold in souvenir stands. It’s inexpensive, and smaller than the real coins. This was made for Super Bowl XXXVIII, which saw the Patriots beat the Panthers 32-29. It is in great condition. In addition to coins, I’m also into collecting other football items, such as this vintage tear-away jersey. For many years, football jerseys were made of durene, a treated, heavy polyester. This proved problematic for teams playing in hot weather cities, so a lighter jersey, similar to a t-shirt was introduced in the 1970’s. These jerseys were so delicate, they could be torn to shreds after only one game, and the NFL finally banned them, replacing them with the current mesh material. This example dates to the 1970’s, and shows heavy wear with tears all over.The numbers are heat-pressed on, and the front numbers show repair work. The shoulders show wear, including tears and stains. The back shows the same wear as the front, stains, tears, and repairs. This is a wristband that was worn by a member of the LA Rams in the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s, and it shows great use.The first player in football history to win a Super Bowl and an XFL Million Dollar Game, David Richie had an unremarkable career aside from that piece of trivia. He played in Super Bowl XXXII for the Denver Broncos, and the XFL Million Dollar Game in 2001. These gloves were worn by, and signed by David Richie. One piece of NFL gear that gets replaced frequently is the face mask. Often replaced because of damage, masks are a part of the helmet that suffers damage from impact more than the helmet shell. This example was worn by New York Giants Defensive Tackle Fred Robbins. It was worn on October 2, 2005, playing at home against the Rams. While his stats for the game were not impressive, the damage on this face mask is, with numerous dings and scuff marks.

I collect a lot of stadium memorabilia. One of my favorite things to collect is turf. Turf is pulled up and replaced every few years. This large example is the size of a doormat, and comes from the end zone of Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, home of the Oregon Ducks.Lyle Smith Field in Boise will forever be known for its blue turf, where the Boise State Broncos play. This is an example of that blue turf, one foot tall, in the shape of Idaho.Three Rivers Stadium was a cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadium in Pittsburgh. It lasted until 2001, when it was demolished, and replaced with newer venues. This plaque has a piece of turf and a piece of a seat.Every sports fan in San Francisco will forever remember Candlestick Park, be it for Joe Montana and Steve Young, or the 1989 Earthquake. It was also the site of the final concert of the Beatles. Like many classic stadiums, Candlestick has been demolished, and replaced with newer venues. While Candlestick Park used grass for most of its history, from 1970 to 1978, it had turf installed, and this 13″ by 13″ piece was given away. It shows nice use.This small 3″ by 3″ piece of Soldier Field Turf was used from 1977 to 1988, and was replaced by grass. When it was removed, it was sold in Shell stations with an 8 gallon fill-up. This piece has part white, and part green, and is in decent condition.Before the renovations which left it looking like a UFO landed on a Roman Colosseum, Soldier Field was a traditional stadium with a traditional look. In 2002, renovations began, and many old components were removed and replaced. Once such piece is ths GATE 31 sign, with a Walter Payton sticker still attached. It shows nice, weathered use. This last item is a set of notes written by Captain Beckwith from the Union College Dutchmen from 1895. For a document this old, it’s in great condition.I find NFL stuff to be interesting, and I’ve covered some aspects of my collection in previous articles. There are some things I would like to buy, such as yard markers, maybe a goal post, and some penalty flags. Speaking of flags, I’m going to discuss some racing flags next week.