Item Spotlight-Alex Barron 1998 Champ Car Driver Suit

By David G. Firestone
While I typically watched NASCAR growing up, I did also watch IndyCar. That was before “the split” which diluted the value the sport so much that to this day it is still suffering, 6 years after the unification of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League. I got tired of politics and wanted to watch racing, I didn’t care who was sanctioning it. I still watch IndyCar racing and I collect race-used stuff.

I mentioned this a few months ago, when I discussed video matching. My first open wheel driver suit is this Alex Barron suit from 1998.36-barron

Not only is this my first open wheel suit, it was also my first suit that featured an FIA safety certification on the back of the neck. Having dealt in NASCAR suits, I didn’t know what to make of it, and through some research, I eventually learned what it was and what it meant.36-barron-neck 36-barron-fia2The chest features a FedEx Championship Series patch, probably my favorite sanctioning body patch ever,
and logos for Toyota and Denso.36-barron-lchest 36-barron-rchest 36-barron-flogoThis being my first Sparco driver suit, The cowl tags, and location of the warranty tags were out of place, as compared to a NASCAR driver suit.36-barron-tag 36-barron-tag2One thing I do find interesting is that there are no television logos on the sleeves and legs, but as the video at the end shows, that was not uncommon, but more on that later.36-barron-rsleeve2 36-barron--lsleeve2 36-barron-legs
The collar has an unusual design. Most collar designs feature either logos on the side, or logos across the front, or sometimes both. This one is unique in that it features a DEGREE logo on the front, as well as a CASTROL logo on the right side, but nothing on the left side…I’ve never seen that before or since, and I can’t understand the need for that particular design…it just looks odd.36-barron-collarAlex’s name is embroidered into the belt, and something I love about open wheel suits is that because it is an international sport, much more so than NASCAR, the driver usually has their home country flag embroidered next to their name on their suit, as this suit shows.36-barron-beltI also have a 1/18 die cast of Barron’s very sharp looking car from 1998. It is the only die cast I have that has a driver in it. I love the fact that he is wearing a very accurate version of his driver suit.36i-barron-2 36i-barron-3 36i-barron-1Now as I mentioned, this was the suit Barron wore during his most infamous moment, his crash at Road America, where he wound up on top of Bryan Herta. Someone recently uploaded the whole race to YouTube, and when watching it, notice that nobody has logos for the in-car camera. I find that rather interesting, since it would be very easy to place logos on the sleeves, and it was commonplace in other forms of racing. But it is an interesting race.

Now we have another piece of news to discuss.  In the realm of NCAA sports, the two major factions in uniforms are Nike and Under Armour.  Nike has a deal with Denny Hamlin for driver suits, and I was wondering when Under Armour would jump on the band wagon, and this week, we got our answer.  Under Armour, who has signed deals with Michael Waltrip Racing and Henrdick Motorsports to outfit teams with apparel.  This deal does not include the drivers themselves but the car numbers are fair play.  I find it a bit unusual that the deal provides apparel for all members of the team, pit crew members, front office personel, and everyone EXCEPT the faces of the franchises.  Now that might change in the near future, but for now that is how the deal works.  You can read more about the deal here.

Now we move to…


Jamie McMurray #1 Bell Helicopters Chevy SS Great look, great color scheme, A+

Austin Dillon #3 Dow Powerhouse Solar Chevy SS The side is somewhat over designed, but I like the product placement on the roof. The color scheme is great so I will give it a B

Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Office March Of Dimes Toyota Camry Decent color scheme, but the side is a bit overdesigned, and has a messy look to it. C+

Clint Bowyer #15 Willy’s Duck Diner/Buck Commander Toyota Camry Too much camo. Camo doesn’t work they way designers want it to on a car and I give it a D

Greg Biffle #16 Give Kids A Smile Ford Fusion Man! Greg Biffle really wants the Paint Schemie Awards for Most Degraded Paint Schemes, and Worst Paint Scheme Set with another F scheme. Horrible design, and an ugly paint scheme.

Greg Biffle #16 3M Areospace Ford Fusion Take the worst aspects of Greg Biffle 2014 schemes, and add a liberal amount of camo, and you have an F scheme

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 Ford EcoBoot Ford Fusion I like the color scheme, I like the overall scheme, and my only complaint is that the orange numbers on the roof should be on the door.  Still it is an A scheme

Cole Whitt #26 Swan Energy Toyota Camry Simple design and a great color scheme earns an A+

Cole Whitt #26 Swan Energy Toyota Camry Simple design and a great color scheme earns an A+

Paul Menard #27 Menards/Duracel Chevy SS This is the best Menard scheme I have seen! Duracel works very well on the hood, and I give it an A

Parker Kligerman #30 Swan Energy Toyota Camry Just when I thought Swan had learned the error of their ways, and were improving their paint schemes, along comes this one. Now we are back to square one, and this scheme earns a D+

Parker Kligerman #30 SMS Audio Toyota Camry Well things for Swan are looking up, this is a pretty cool design. It works very well, and has a great color scheme. A+

Ryan Newman #31 Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge Chevy SS I understand what they tried to do, but the scheme as a whole is just bland, boring, and C+.

Travis Kvapil #32 Keen Parts Ford Fusion  Decent design, good color scheme, but the logo on the hood is very difficult to see.  That is a major issue.  When a sponsor pays for a car, the hood design should be easy to see, but this isn’t easy, and I give it a C-

Aric Almirola #43 Ekrich Ford Fusion The red on the roof is pointless, and it takes away from a great scheme. If the roof were Petty Blue, and the red was just a stripe on the bottom, I would give this scheme an A+ but with the red roof, it goes down to a B-

Michael McDowell #95 Triangle Office Equipment Levine Family Racing keeps up the fight with Swan Racing to win the Most Improved Paint Schemie Award with another beautiful A+ scheme!

Video-Matching, and The Challenges It has

By David G. FirestoneUntitled2 - CopyVideo matching is another way to authenticate a driver suit, though it is somewhat more complex than simple photo-matching. Whereas a photo stands still, video is in motion, and this method of authentication is more complex and can sometimes be problematic. I will give you the steps to make this happen.

First is that you need to find a video that may have the driver wearing the suit visible in it. Google and YouTube are very good for this. It will take some time, and can be frustrating. Once you think you have found it, you have to watch every second of the video to see if the driver is in fact in the video. This can and often is time consuming and frustrating. If you get lucky and find a video, take a screen shot, and isolate the driver. On a PC you hit prtScn and then save it on an image saving program such as Windows Paint. For Macs, you use Command-Shift-3: Take a screenshot of the screen, and save it as a file on the desktop Once done, you can compare the screen shot to the real suit, as seen below:Untitled - Copy Untitled2 36-barron1 Untitled2 - Copy - Copy Untitled2 - CopyIt needs to be noted that race-wear, that is wear that comes from racing does not always show up in video, as it is difficult to pinpoint when and where race-wear happened over the course of the season. In-car cameras can be used for video matching, but the downside to this is that since there is not a lot of the suit that shows up on in-car cameras during a race, this can be problematic, and can in some cases lead to a false identification of a suit.

In a number of instances, drivers appear in video games. Many racing games feature a select screen, where you can choose a driver, and they wear their suits as seen below:

Again, there is not a lot of the suit visible, so total identification can be difficult. I would wait until all other avenues have been exhausted.

The last way is to use a VHS tape of a race that has video of the driver in question. If at all possible, transfer the tape to a computer, or a DVD, but if that is not possible, then, as a last resort, take a picture of the screen, and use that to match the suit. It is not very scientific, and the quality will probably be low, but if it works, it works.

While it is not required to match a suit, real collectors who care about the hobby do so to make sure that they are getting the real deal when they buy a driver suit. But where exactly do you buy these suits? We’ll discuss that next week.

Getting the Belt…Not Always a Bad Thing!

By David G. Firestone

One aspect of driver suits that has become a target for new customizations in the last 15-17 years is the belt. For many years, the belt was unadorned, or had a very small logo. Belts are a comfort feature, and typically made of the same material that the suit itself is made out of, with the same amount of layers and has a Velcro closure on it. Belts may incorporate a border made with an alternate color, to help it stand out.

Belts had no design or decoration on them for many years, as examined by this Ted Musgrave example from 1995,16-musgrave-beltthis Ricky Craven example from 1996,41-craven-beltand many more.barber-belt nunn-belt petty-belt 17-sedgwick-belt 9-speed-belt But it was around that time, that something began to happen. Looking at the Ted Musgrave suit from 1995, his name is embroidered into the left-chest area.16-musgrave-lshoulderIn 1998, this had changed so that his name is embroidered into the belt.15-musgrave-beltThis was popular in F1 and IndyCar for many years, and is still the way that names are presented on the driver suit.25-wallace-belt 23-wimmer-belt 12-stremme-belt 10-labonte-belt 15-sprague-belt 31-skinner-belt 36-said-belt1 90-stricklin-belt 96-reeves-belt Other examples, such as this Randy Lajoie example circa 1999-2000 will have a sponsor logo embroidered into the belt.1-lajoie-BELTKasey Kahne wore this suit in 2005 at an event, and it has a GOODYEAR logo on the front, and when the belt is opened, on the inside, the FIA certification is present here. 9-kahne-belt 9-kahne-fiaFormula 1 and IndyCar have a unique quirk to the design. Since the drivers come from all over the world, the flag from the driver’s home country is sewn into the belt, such as this Alex Barron example from 1998:36-barron-beltNot all belts are created equal. Christian Fittipaldi didn’t wear belts on two of his NASCAR suits. The first one, comes from 2002, while he was sponsored by Georgia Pacific, and instead of the belt, he just has his name sewn into the suit.45-fittipaldi-beltThis Christian Fittipaldi example from 2003 features no belt, and no name.44-fittipaldi-beltThis Nate Northam example from the 1988 Sunbank 24 at Daytona, now the Rolex 24 at Daytona, features a belt that is specifically designed to be removed.56-Northam-beltMany NASCAR action figures will feature the belt designs on them, and many of these figures are pretty accurate, but I think I’ll save that for another blog.

Tailgating Time!

Just for fun, I’ve decided to add a recipe that can easily be made while tailgating at the track. This is my recipe for beer-broiled brats. This works well in the fall, during the Chase, on a cooler day.

You will need:

1 6-pack of beer

1 16oz jar of sauerkraut

½ sliced onion

garlic salt and butter to taste

12 plain, uncooked bratwurst

Take the 6 pack, and pour it into a large pan. Place the pan on the grill or stove, and add 1/4 the jar of sauerkraut, the onions, salt and butter, and finally the brats. Bring to a boil and boil for 8 minutes.

Tip-Do NOT cut or puncture the brats in any way, the casing keeps the juice, and taste in the brats. For more flavor, let soak after cooking. DO NOT OVERBOIL THE BRATS, that is the best way to ruin them.

While the brats are boiling, prepare a grill. Gas or charcoal works either way. After boiling is done, remove from the liquid, and place on the hot grill, and cook 5 minutes per side. Brats are made from pork, and under-cooking them can be hazardous, You want to watch the race from the stands, not a hospital room.  Here is a video visualizing the process…

After grilling the brats, toast the buns on the grill for 20 seconds, place the brats in the buns, and serve. For sides, I would recommend some mustard potato salad, some potato or tortilla chips, and, of course, plenty of ice-cold beer!

This recipe will rock your tailgating party at the next race, and I will post more simple recipes for tailgating in the near future.

Paint Scheme Reviews

Jamie McMurray #1 McDonald’s/Monopoly Chevy SS The simple design is good, but the color scheme needs a lot of work. Beige does NOT work on race cars, and this is a perfect example. The Rich Uncle Pennybags(or Mr Monopoly) wearing sunglasses is not very attractive either, so I can give this scheme a C at best.

Kasey Kahne #5 Pepsi Max Chevy SS Are you kidding me? Is it too much to ask to pick a design scheme? You can have a cutting edge purple design which works, OR a matte black design that works, BUT YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH! The purple, red and black design is good, but the design scheme is just horrible. Even with a good color scheme, this earns an F

Tony Stewart #14 Mobil1 Chevy SS Ok, now THIS is a great scheme! Simple design, great color scheme, great design all over, A+

Tony Stewart #14 Go Daddy Chevy SS This is, without a doubt, the best Go Daddy scheme EVER! Great simple design, amazing color scheme, and black works much better than yellow or green. A+

Clint Boyer #15 Peak/Duck Dynasty Toyota Camry Oh man, where do I start here? The color scheme would work without the baby blue stripe, the hunting camo roof is just awful, and the overall design just looks forced. This car looks like a bad photoshop job…F

Greg Biffle #16 3MSafety Ford Fusion The contrast between the white and black parts of the car would normally not work, but because it is a safety themed car, and safety coveralls are typically white or black with an orange and silver stripe on them to increase visibility, this scheme makes sense. The colors are good, and I give this scheme an A

Kyle Busch #18 M&M’s Peanut Butter Toyota Camry I ranked Kyles regular M&M’s scheme as an A+, and this scheme somehow improves on it. The orange background works even better than the regular scheme. I have to give this scheme an A+

Trevor Bayne #21 Motorcraft/Henry Ford Ford Fusion This is a solid scheme, I like the Henry Ford design. The black, white and gold scheme works very well, and it is an A scheme

Austin Dillon #33 Mycogen Seeds Chevy SS Meh. I like the color scheme, but the front to back arch is overdone, and the is unoriginal at best. I will give it a C

Ron Fellows #33 Canadian Tire Chevy SS Grey red and black can be tough to work with sometimes, but this scheme works very well. The red flames work well, and the otherwise basic design is very attractive. A

Victor Gonzalez Jr. #36 Mobil 1/IMCA Chevy SS This was a late entry into the race in Sonoma, Gonzalez is a “road course ringer” so there was not much time to design and decal a car, but that said, this is a great simple scheme, no pointless design, and a great color scheme. A+

Ryan Newman #39 Quicken Loans/Smurfs 2 Chevy SS Again, as with Kasey Kahne above, PICK A DESIGN SCHEME! You can either have a red and black scheme, or a red and white scheme, BUT NOT BOTH! It looks like someone designed a Smurf scheme, quickly realized that it needed to carry a Quicken Loans design as well, and tried to make a hybrid of the two, which is just awful, and earns an F

Landon Cassill #40 Interstate Moving Company Chevy SS Good color scheme, kinda reminds me of United Airlines back in the day, and a really simple smooth design. Good scheme and earns an A

Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Depends Chevy SS Is this a good look? Depends! Joking aside, this is not a very good scheme, the green logo works, but the black and grey scheme is awful.

Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Axe Apollo Chevy SS The Apollo Astronaut design is unique. It works very well, and although the design is convulted, it is very attractive. The color scheme works well and this scheme earns an A

Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Energizer Chevy SS From the wheel well forward it is a great scheme. From the driver door backward it is awful. Whatever look they were going for, they missed. It just looks horrible. Great colors, but awful design, D

Aric Almirola #43 Smithfield Helping Hungry Homes Ford Fusion A patriotic scheme, mixed with Petty Blue, that is not overdesigned. Giving this scheme an A is not going far enough to describe how good it is.

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowes/Disney’s Planes Chevy SS While I like the color scheme and basic design, the hood logo is awful. The door number has a black outline, and it is very visible, but the hood logo which does not have a black outline is next to invisible, which defeats the purpose of having a logo on the car in the first place. That said, it is still a good design, and I will be generous and give it a B.

Paulie Harraka #52 HASA Pool Products Ford Fusion I like matte black, and the hood logo and basic color scheme are good. The smaller logos on the quarter panel are hard to see, but it gives the car a smaller, short track look. A

David Reutimann #83 Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry Dr Pepper has a great color scheme and great designs on their packaging, and this is reflected in this paint scheme. It works very well, and is a great complement to a bottle of Dr. Pepper. A

Tomi Drissi #87 The Wolverine Toyota Camry Many movie paint schemes don’t work, but this is not most movie paint schemes. It is simple, has a great color scheme, and has a great design, and earns an A

Travis Kvapil #93 Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry A design based on Diet Dr. Pepper, again a design faithful to the packaging, that works very well. Everything that I said about the Reutimann scheme above applies here, and this scheme earns an A

Travis Kvapil #83 Burger King Rib Sandwich Toyota Camry BK Racing has a lot of great schemes this year, and this is another one. Great color scheme, great overall design, and I like what they did with the rib sandwich. I’m not a “Rib-wich”guy, but I like this, and give it an A.

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.

Warranty Labels…Unseen by Many

90-stricklin-tagBy David G. Firestone

This week, we take a look at a suit feature that is unseen by most race fans. Every suit has one, the so called “Liability Tag. ”-Every piece of racing equipment has some form of “liability tag” which basically states that anything that happens to the wearer of the item is the wearer’s fault and not the company’s fault. The Simpson tag, which has remained virtually unchanged since the 1980’s reads as follows:

“Warning-Auto Racing is Hazardous-this Article is sold without warranty expressed or implied. No warranty or representation is made as to this product’s ability to protect the user from any injury or death. This garment is made of Nomex and other flame retardant materials. Even with the high quality of this garment there could be fires or circumstances where this garment will give only minimal protection. Nomex underwear should be worn under this garment. This garment is manufactured to comply with the rules as set forth by S.C.C.A., N.A.S.C.A.R. , S.F.I., F.I.A., and other regulatory bodies.”Cleaning Instructions” Dry clean only. Dry clean alone. Specify using perchloroethylene only.”36-barron-tag2

Sparco’s tags are located behind the zipper andhave two different statements. Older suits have this tag:

“Although this product is manufactured from special materials that satisfy certain safety standards and may carry the approval of various authorities for its use in specific circumstances the manufacturer or supplier can not be held liable for its protective qualities under all activities, circumstances, and conditions.”barber-tag1

Newer Sparco tags have this warning in both English and Italian:

“It is important to carefully read the user’s handbook concerning the care of the garment. This suit will offer protection from fire and the transmission of heat for a limited time, but it does not offer total protection against any kind of hear or fire. The fabric used to make this suit is subject to aging. It is recommended that the suit is inspected frequently for any signs of wear or damage that may result in a loss of protection to the wearer. If the suit has been worn extensively and shows signs of war or damage it is recommended to wear another suit. Sparco is not responsible for any damages the suit incurs from improper use of the suit bu the user, or any third party. Through improper care of the suit, misuse of the suit, or discoloration of the suit from perspiration, or any use of the product after the expiration date, as described in the instruction manual. Do not leave this garment under sunlight, or any artificial light. This suit is not intended for use in go-karts.”12-stremme-tag


Impact! Suits use this simple warning:

“Motorsports are dangerous. the user of this product assumes the risk of injury or death. No warranty or representation is made that this product will protect the user from injury or death”

This is by no means unique.  Almost all sports equipment to a certain extent has this type of warning.  This example is from an XFL helmet. outlaws-helmet9 outlaws-helmet10 outlaws-helmet7

On to Paint Schemes…from here on out, I will only review Sprint Cup paint schemes.

Paul Menard #27 Rheem Chevy SS/Serta Chevy SS Basically the same scheme as his regular scheme, but with two different hood logos…nothing really to say here…C-

Kevin Harvick #29 Jimmy Johns Chevy SS Great color and design, but I still don’t understand why Jimmy Johns sponsors Harvick instead of Jimmie Johnson…still a solid A scheme

Jeff Burton #31 Qwik-Set Chevy SS Grey…so much grey…so bland…so boring…C-

Josh Wise #35 Blockbuster Ford Fusion Didn’t Blockbuster go bankrupt? Apparently they have enough money for a one race deal…though the color scheme of the logos, and the car are different…C-

Scott Riggs No Label Watches Ford Fusion A great color scheme ruined by awful number design and medicore car design. C-

Michael Waltrip Aarons/Alabama Crimsion Tide Toyota Camry Decent color scheme and a simple, yet elegant design that works for both the car, and Alabama. It earns a solid B+