Our season finale will be this Shea Holbrook driver suit.
For our season 12 finale, we will examine a Bobby Hamilton Tide driver suit circa 2004-2005.
A uniquly designed Jody Miller Toyota Tundra race worn driver suit from 2005 will be examined this week.
Kenny Wallace is in the spotlight this week, as we look at a race-worn driver suit circa 1999-2000, which he has boldly autographed across the front.
By David G. Firestone
When it comes to driver suits, I normally focus on race-worn items, but this week I’m going to shift gears, and focus on another kind of suit…and yes, pun intended. This example is a suit used by the Richard Petty Driving Experience. What the RPDE does is give die hard fans the ability to get in a stock car and either be driven around a track for a few laps, or drive the car around the track after some instruction. The cars are almost identical to Gen 4 cars, but have two seats and are scaled down to 600 horsepower from the over 800 currently run in NASCAR.
It looks similar in design to suits that Richard Petty wore during his racing days. Interestingly, there is no Petty blue, but a darker blue similar to the blue used in STP logos. There are no logos of any kind present, not even of the suit manufacturer, a company called Westex. I find it odd that at that time, the Richard Petty Driving Experience logo wasn’t used. There is no indication it was ever present on the suit to begin with. The legs are cuffed, as opposed to the boot cut that most NASCAR drivers like to use. Arm gussets, which give drivers better freedom of movement, are not here either. Later suits have some of these features.
Now even though the cars are either driven by professionals, or by drivers who have had lessons, the risk of crash and fire is present. As such, the fans are issued driver suits. This is an early version of the suit issued to them. What strikes me about this suit is that it is a single-layer suit with no epaulets. The epaulet is critical here because they are specifically designed for pulling an unconscious driver from a burning car in the event of a wreck. The fact that is is a single-layer suit is an issue here because in racing, redundancy is safety. NASCAR drivers wear double or triple-layer suits as well as fireproof long johns that give them 30 seconds of fire protection. I would be shocked if this suit would give 10 seconds.
I should also mention at this point that the suit does not have any SFI or FIA certification. When you are driving fans around a track with the ever present risk of fire, having a suit that can withstand the worst case scenario is a plus. SFI certification is designed to do just that, insure that the person wearing the suit will be able to be protected in the worst case scenario, so I do not get the logic of having uncertified suit for use.
All that said, now let’s discuss the basics.
The collar is a Velcro-shut design.
The tag is custom for the RPDE and has some things written and crossed out in Sharpie.
The sleeves are plain.
There is an unadorned belt.
The front torso shows some stains.
It should be noted that these suits are no longer used, and now Simpson SFI certified suits are currently in use. And while the suit has its short comings it is still a very attractive item. I plan on doing the RPDE in the very near future.
I’ve gone at length to discuss the FIA certification which is frequently sewn into the back of the neck. This is a prominent feature in Formula 1 and IndyCar. That is standard issue, so no real need to comment on it any more.
It’s the little things that make a suit personal, and these are some of those little things. Who says a driver suit can’t be fun.
Jamie McMurray #1 Cessna Patriotic Chevy SS Pretty good scheme here, red white and blue is always a solid scheme, but the one gripe I have is the pointless circle around the door number. While it gives the car a vintage look, it is just out of place here. Even still, this scheme is a solid A-
Brad Keselowski #2 Miller Lite Patriotic Ford Fusion Solid scheme, nothing to complain about, A+
Kasey Kahne #5 Hendrick Cars Chevy SS Red white and black is a very solid color scheme, and the design, while a bit convoluted looks really good. It has a hurricane-esquire design that looks really good. A-
Danica Patrick #10 Go Daddy .US Chevy SS The simple design of this scheme looks really good…but what is going on with the colors? Why is the car painted in Russian dressing green? Russian dressing is good, but not as a color scheme. The red white and blue designs clash, and it just looks awful. D-
Clint Bowyer #15 Peak Blue DEF Toyota Camry I gave this scheme a B grade, and the logo change on the hood does nothing to either add or subtract for this grade. B
Greg Biffle #16 3M Statue Of Liberty Ford Fusion Amazing how a better color scheme, as well as the Statue of Liberty design take a C grade and bring it up to a B
Kyle Busch #18 Interstate Batteries All Battery Center Toyota Camry Now THIS is what an Interstate Batteries scheme should be! The classic dark green, gold and white color scheme is amazing, and the design is simple yet very attractive. Giving this scheme an A+ is not saying enough about how great this scheme is!
Jeff Gordon #24 Axalta Standox Chevy SS White flames on a blue background? Seriously? I could forgive it if it was blue flames on a white background, blue flames look really good. But white flames? This design ruins a great color scheme AND a great design scheme TOGETHER! Now that is impressive! F-
Kevin Harvick #29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevy SS The Patriotic schemes worked quite well this year, and this is another example of that. A-
Jeff Burton #31 Quikset Chevy SS Decent color scheme but the design needs a little work. If the red was on the hood, roof and deck-lid and the black was on the sides, I would give it an A, but the shark-fin design is brutal on the eyes, and serves no real purpose. As such, I can only give it a C-
JJ Yeley #36 Golden Coral Patriotic Chevy SS Another A grade Patriotic scheme.
AJ Allmendinger #51 Neil Bonnett Throwback Chevy SS While I like most throwback schemes, this one, while accurate, has the worst color scheme I have ever seen. It just screams 1980’s. Hot pink and neon yellow really stands out, and not in a good way. Still, I do miss Neil, and they were pretty accurate, so I will give this scheme a B
Carl Edwards #99 Subway Ahhvocado Ford Fusion Good color scheme and a simple design. I’m not a fan of avocados on sandwiches, but this is a good solid A scheme.
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:
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:
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…
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.
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.