I’ve discussed the currency of commerce over the last couple of weeks. This week, I’m going to discuss the currency of auto racing. That currency is speed. Every race car driver wants speed out of their car. The more speed they have, the better chance they have to win the race. Every part of the car is designed specifically to produce as much speed as possible, within the letter of the law…or as close as possible to the letter of the law.
Speeds reach new levels in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. 10,000 horsepower, nitromethane fueled cars can reach speeds well over 330 MPH in just under 4 seconds. To be the fastest in this sport, you have to have the right parts, the right crew chief, the right driver, and the right equipment. When these four come together in a run, it’s something beautiful.
Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota isn’t known as a place where records get broken. In 2015, it seemed as though there might not be an event there at all, as severe weather damaged many of the facilities on July 12. The racing community rallied around, and got the track ready for their race on the weekend of August 20-23.
The weather was really cold for August, and when the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals kicked off, the four pieces that make up the currency of racing came together, and led to some monumental runs. The first was a qualifying run which saw Driver Suit Blog favorite Fast Jack Beckman run 1000 feet in 3.901 seconds in his funny car during qualifying, then backing it up with a 3.903 the next day. In top fuel, Antron Brown ran a 3.68, and the backed it up with a 3.696. Shawn Langdon ran a 3.662, but failed to back it up, thus not setting the official record, and getting the 20 bonus championship points it brings.
The big highlight for funny car at Brainerd was Del Worsham vs. Matt Hagan in an elimination round. During that run, Hagan ran a blistering 3.879 second elapsed time. This piston head came from Hagan’s car during that historic run.The head itself is in decent condition, having some scrapes and scuffs. It also has some stuff etched into it. The number 75 is etched into both the top and bottom of the piston. Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables have signed the side of the piston, and a Mopar logo and 3.879 have been added to the top. Speed may be the currency of racing, but safety is another primary focus. Next week, the pit crew aspect of safety will be discussed. Until then, here are the record setting runs from Brainerd…
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.
Like many veterans groups, Infinite Hero uses auto racing as a way to promote their cause. But unlike most groups Infinite Hero came up with a new and unique way to raise funds. Infinite Hero uses an emblem that, according to their site, “The Infinite Hero emblem incorporates the color purple to honor those who have been wounded in battle, the Greek cross to signify aid, and the infinity symbol to represent the conviction that the sacrifices of heroes should always be remembered. The Infinite Hero Foundation thanks our founding corporate partner Oakley for their leadership and guidance in creating the Infinite Hero logo.”
In April 2014, they started sponsoring Jack Beckman’s funny car. This also began the NHRA coin program. This is a new form of racing memorabilia I have never seen before, though it’s a great idea. 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 idea of items carried in a pocket is not a new one. NASA has done this for years. Many space shuttle flights carried first day covers in the storage bay. When the shuttle landed, the covers were removed, and sold to collectors. I’m a little surprised this hasn’t been done before with auto racing, because I think that it would create a new memorabilia market.
The 2014 design is slightly bigger than a quarter, but not as big as a half-dollar. It 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 embossed Infinite Hero Foundation logo. The coin was placed in a round, flat plastic container, with black foam braces, which Jack autographed. This particular coin was used at the 2014 Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove in Reading Pennsylvania.
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 cylander 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 Infinite Hero Foundation is a worthwhile charity, designed to help our nations veterans. I fully support them, and I encourage my readers to try and buy at least one of these coins.
Every summer, I make a pilgrimage to two places, Jim’s Original and The O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. This last week, I did both. Jim’s Original is still good, and the Route 66 Nationals are always fun. This year, I went on Saturday and Sunday. Normally I would only go on Saturday, but this year I decided to double the fun. I went with Argie, a friend from work, and I spent Saturday watching racing and wandering through the pits. NHRA tickets promise that “every ticket is a pit pass” and trust me, they more than live up to that claim. You can walk around the pits and watch as the teams setup cars before races and fix cars after races. The wear and tear on nitro cars is such that the entire engine has to be disassembled, repaired, and reassembled between races, sometimes in as little as 45 minutes. Needless to say, speed is paramount.I had been fortunate enough to get a pass to the Don Schumacher Racing hospitality tent. This not only got me the tickets, but also a chance to meet Tony Schumacher, and Ron Capps. I came into the tent a little later than normal, and I got to listen Tony talk to the crowd, and take questions. I got a chance to ask him something that I have always wanted to ask a driver… “What is the weirdest thing you have ever autographed?” Having done autograph signings since I was 5, I’ve seen a lot of odd stuff get autographed over the years, and I was interested in the answer. He responded that he has signed a lot of body parts, arms, legs, etc, and that his wife hates that.
A few minutes later, he mentioned that he wears a 5-layer firesuit, as well as two additional layers of fire protection. That adds up to a total of 7 layers. Most NASCAR suits make up 3 layers, with an additional layer underneath. Nomex is not a lightweight material, and on days like Saturday, when it was 88 degrees outside, that can get very uncomfortable. He is also credited with the aforementioned canopy to Top Fuel dragsters.
One thing I love to do is to buy race-used equipment from dragsters, and I did so this year as well. I bought a couple of valves from Tasca Racing, one large,and one small,Both show tremendous use, and have chips missing from them. Valves like these are used for one race and then replaced. The wear they go through for one run is very evident.
It just wouldn’t be a race for me without getting some autographs. I bought a Ron Capps funny car die cast, and had his sign it in person, and it looks really good. I had a pair of gloves I wanted to get signed, and I did, by Tommy Johnson Jr. My favorite item it this brightly painted helmet. It was signed by Robby Gordon when I bought it, and I got it signed by Clay Millian, Terry McMillen, Tony Schmacher, Tommy Johnson Jr.,Ron Capps, and the legendary Shirley Muldowney.
One thing I didn’t do as much this year was take pictures. I did take some, but not as many as last year. I did make a number of videos, as shown below.
That’s all for this week, I’ll return next week with a set of paint scheme reviews, and believe me, there are a lot of them! Hope you are all having a fun summer! Happy Belated Canada Day for our friends up North, Happy Fourth of July to my readers in the USA, and to everyone else, See you soon!
I had a post ready to go concerning collar designs, but I’ve decided to save that for next week. I’m still on vacation, and last Saturday I went to see the 16th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, in Joliet. I had the chance to get VIP tickets, so I went with Argie, a friend from work, and some of her friends, and took the chance to mix business with pleasure.
It was a mixture of Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regulars, and some minor league drivers, but it was fun. The first thing I learned was how loud these cars really are. I’ve been to NASCAR races, and I’ve heard the engines running, but NHRA engines are so much louder than I had thought. For a while, I was standing in the spectator area on track level, and as they warmed up, you felt the vibrations of the engine. I’m standing about 75 feet away from the starting line, and when they went by, you felt it in every part of your body, a split second after they passed you. Needless to say, it was AWESOME!
One thing I did enjoy was checking out the different kinds of cars, from top fuel dragsters, to super stocks,to funny cars, The scoreboard tells the fans who won, and what their times and speeds were, each side having its own scoreboard with lights around the sponsor logo to tell you who won.I also checked out the tires on these cars, and man, they are huge! They look like they are twice the size of NASCAR tires.Speaking of which, I got a chance to check out the new Gen 6 Sprint Cup car, as Clint Bowyer’s Toyota Camry show car made an appearance…it looks amazing! They even had a jet dragster, but I didn’t get to see it on the track…oh well.One of the fun things about these events is that you can check out the pit area, so I did, checked out all sorts of cars, and the various equipment and stages of preparation and equipment used in them. Impact Racing had a booth there, and they had the various designs of helmets sold for race use. Aside from NASCAR, IndyCar and motocross designs, they had drag racing helmets. Drag racing helmets feature a visor design similar to wrap-around sunglasses. Top fuel and funny cars have their own designs, with funny car having an air filer, since the nitro-methane engine sits in front of the driver, instead of behind, like in a top fuel dragster. Many of the teams sell off equipment from the cars after the various events are done, and I took full advantage, acquiring a timing belt from Bob Tasca’s Motorcraft Funny car, this one used in his first qualifying session at the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol Tennessee. This run he had a 4.15 second, 306 MPH run. This thing is HUGE, measuring over 64 inches in circumference and 3 inches across.
As well as an ignition coil and a spark plug from Morgan Lucas Racing. Ignition coils are used to turn on cars in general, but this MSD 8142 is designed to fire up these 8000 horsepower engines, which need a lot of electricity to start and operate. I was fortunate enough to have Tony Schumacher and Ron Capps autograph it in person.
My VIP ticket got me into the Don Schumacher Racing hospitality area. That was a lot of fun. We got to watch his car get prepared. Since the U.S. Army is his primary sponsor, DSR had some Army recruiters and soldiers speak. Though speaking to a crowd is not always easy when you have 2 8000 horsepower cars racing nearby. Then Tony Schumacher got up and gave a speech, and discussed his helmet, which prompted this question from me:
Afterwards, I was able to get a photo with him,and got to watch the engine test. This video looks tame, but unless you see it in person, you don’t have any idea how loud it really is, and I was 15 feet away when I shot that video!
In other news, I went back to the Museum of Science and Industry, and I went to the Jeff Gordon suit exhibit, and was shocked to see this:THE ENTIRE DISPLAY had been emptied out of the display case. At first I didn’t know what had happened, so I asked at the information desk. They, in turn, told me that pipes located above the display had been leaking, and that the items had been removed. I hope that when the display is fixed, the issues I discussed in a previous blog will have been fixed, I will keep you posted.
And since I’m here, Let’s talk paint schemes…shall we?
Jamie McMurray #1 Hellmann’s 100th Anniversary Chevy SS The yellow or green on the contingency decals is pointless, and it takes away from what is a very solid scheme, with simple design and great color. I give it a B+, almost an A, just not enough.
Casey Mears #13 Valvoline Next Gen Ford Fusion Not bad, not bad at all. I like the color scheme, which has both earth and motor oil tones in it, and the overall design is great. A+
Tony Stewart #14 Ducks Unlimited Chevy SS Although it is just his normal scheme with DUCKS UNLIMITED instead of MOBIL 1 on the quarter panel, I hate his new look. The black scheme from before Kansas was really good, but this is just horrible. Too much orange, not enough black or camo. F
Clint Bowyer #15 Toyota Camry 30th Anniversary Toyota Camry Ok, so is this a red car, a black car, or a silver car…I’m really lost here. The nose and front panels look red, but the hood and back quarter panels look black, and the roof is silver. They took one of the best color schemes in racing, and made it horrible! The only thing giving this scheme a passing grade is the color scheme, but even that can’t keep it above a D-
Aric Almirola #43 Go Bowling Ford Fusion I love what they did here. The bowling ball nose and pin design give a great impression, and the color scheme works very well here. A+
AJ Allmendinger #47 Scotts Toyota Camry Simple and attractive, with a very nice simple color scheme…But could someone explain to me why in this rendering the windshield decal reads AJ ALLMENDINGER instead of just ALLMENDINGER? The only time a first name is on the windshield is in the case of Kurt and Kyle Busch. There is no other Allmendinger racing in the Sprint Cup. That said, this scheme earns an A
Brian Vickers #55 Aaron’s/Louisville Cardinals Toyota Camry The color scheme is amazing, and the basic simple design of the car works well. The hood has some needless design, which does affect the grade, but even so, it still earns an A-
Martin Truex Jr. #56 NAPA Batteries/Get Back and Give Back Toyota Camry Another example of why most teams only USE ONE COLOR AND DESIGN SCHEME! The nose features BDU digital camouflage in light and dark green, which works well. The doors feature Truex’s normal scheme, again good color and design, and the back features a blue/black digital camouflage, again which would work well by itself. The problem is that the combination of the three make for an awful look. This scheme is one of the worst so far this year, and it earns the F- grade it deserves. I fully support our Armed Forces, but this scheme is horrible!
Carl Edwards #99 UPS Ford Fusion I know I covered this scheme in a previous post, but this photo illustrates why I hate UPS as a car sponsor. No matter what, UPS cars have one thing in common, and that is that the driver suit can look really good, whereas the car will look awful. In this case, the car has pointless designs and needlessly added colors, whereas the driver suit is simple and attractive. So my previous grade of D- still applies.
And finally, while I don’t normally do Nationwide paint schemes anymore, I had to do this one. Kurt Busch has had a throwback at Talladega reminiscent of Neil Bonnett’s Country Time scheme from the 1980’s, and last night, he had had an amazing scheme taken from Days of Thunder…I love that scheme because I love the movie. The boxy design of the Camaro works well with the scheme, as it is much similar to the design of the Lumina. Keep it up Kurt!