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!

Die Casts-Celebrating the Machines

100_4177 - CopyBy David G. Firestone

How I have gone as long as I have without delving into the subject of die casts? I really don’t know, but for this week’s column, we are going to discuss it. Racing as a sport is half man, half machine. When it comes to collectibles, they both get virtually equal billing. One of the biggest collectibles in racing is the legendary die cast car.

Die cast cars began as an industry in the early 20th Century, but the early cars were very basic, with a simple body design and rolling wheels. They were of very poor quality, lacked detail, and often broke for no apparent reason. An zinc-based alloy named Zamak solved this problem. In 1953 Jack Odell, co-owner of Lesney Products in England had a moment that revolutionized the industry forever. His daughter went to a school that allowed the students to bring toys, provided they were small enough to fit in a matchbox. He created a small die cast steam roller that could easily fit in a matchbox. For the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, he created a similarly sized model of her Coronation coach. After selling 1 million of these small coaches, he realized he was on to something, and thus the Matchbox line of die cast cars was born. In 1968 Mattel launched the Hot Wheels brand, which, like Matchbox created cars in 1:64 scale, or S-Scale for railroading. In 1997 after being sold numerous times, Mattel bought Matchbox and has been fostering the brand ever since.

Race cars are a popular version of die casts, as most boys who love racing will buy the die cast of their favorite driver, and play with it as if they are driving the car. I’m guilty of this, as I’m willing to bet the majority of racing fans are, if you don’t believe, check this out. In the beginning, die casts were marketed and sold to kids, but as time went on, it became clear that grown up fans liked these as well. So die cast manufacturers began to create larger “adult collectibles,” typically in either 1:18 scale, or 1:24 scale, or one of the accepted G scales. The adult die casts will feature alcohol and tobacco sponsors, and are much more accurate in design, with cloth window nets, and working hoods, decklids, and roof spoilers. As time progressed, these cars gained a very dedicated following, and have become very profitable for NASCAR, IndyCar and F1. Interesting to note that the standard size for NHRA and NASCAR die casts is 1:24 and 1:64 whereas IndyCar uses 1:18 and 1:64 and F1 use 1:18 and 1:43. NASCAR die casts can also be purchased in 1:43, 1:32, and 1:18, here is how they compare to each other:100_4177

An adult collectible die cast as mentioned above, is very accurate, such as this Jamie McMurray example from 2010. The amount of accuracy in this design is stunning! 1-mcmurray-1 1-mcmurray-2 1-mcmurray-3The window net is made of cloth,1-mcmurray-1 - doorthe contingency decals are all accurate1-mcmurray-1 - number

the roof features a place for the in car cameras, as well was a pair of functioning roof spoilers.1-mcmurray-1 - roofThe hood opens to display a very accurately recreated engine.1-mcmurray-1 - hoodWhereas this Dale Earnhardt Jr. die cast, this one a children’s toy has a plastic window net,88-earnhart-1 88-earnhart-2 88-earnhart-3the contingency decals aren’t as accurate,88-earnhart-1-doorthe roof does not feature working roof spoilers, or an in-car camera pod,88-earnhart-3 -roofand the hood doesn’t open.88-earnhart-3 - CopyIf we look at an IndyCar die cast, we see some different things. This example is an Alex Barron example from 1998, purchased because I have the matching driver suit. This particular die cast is a 1:18 scale, and features a working suspension that when you move the wheels move the steering wheel. Everything else about the car, including the helmet and driver suit are perfect as compared to the real car.36i-barron-1 36i-barron-2 36i-barron-3Everything that I just said about the Jamie McMurray die cast can also apply to this Dale Earnhardt IROC model. Again the accuracy in this design is amazing!1-earnhardt1 1-earnhardt2 1-earnhardt3 1-mcmurray-1 - de hoofOne of my personal favorie die casts is this Cruz Pedregon 1:32 die cast from 1998. The body can be removed from the rest of the car to reveal details of the car.pedregon-8 pedregon-9 pedregon-10 pedregon-1 pedregon-2 pedregon-3 pedregon-4 pedregon-5 pedregon-6 pedregon-7pedregon-11Haulers, which are used to transport cars to and from races, but they aren’t made as much today as they used to, sadly. This example is a Ricky Rudd example from the early 1990’s.rudd2 rudd1 rudd3Now we move from replica cars to the real ones as we get to…


Brad Keselowski #2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion Very solid design, the yellow works very well, and the black numbers and stripes work very well, and I can’t give it anything less than an A+

Brad Keselowski #2 Wurth Ford Fusion Another very solid design with a great color scheme that earns an A+

Dave Blaney #77 Plinker Arms Ford Fusion I would love for the side design to be more simplified. It is a decent scheme, but the door design is too busy, and it is very distracting. I give this scheme a C-, bad design, good color scheme.

Ryan Truex #83 Borla Exhaust Toyota Camry This is actually a great scheme, with the oversized exhaust design that starts on the area where the real exhaust starts, and extends to just under the numbers. The number has been redesigned since last year and they work very well. I give this scheme an A.

In Memorandum 2013 Continued.

Andy Granatelli-Former CEO of STP, partially responsible for STP’s sponsorship of Richard Petty.

Bruce Pepper-Brother of ThorSport Racing GM David Pepper.

Dennis Wood-Former owner of Phoenix International Speedway

Now comes the best news of the new year so far…THE ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA STARTS LATER TODAY!  The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship starts off the racing season later today.  Fox will carry the first part of the race starting at 2PM/1PM CST, and Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 will carry the race as well.  You had better believe I will be watching and enjoying it.