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…

PAINT SCHEME REVIEWS!

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!

Paint Scheme Leaderboard Part 4-The Grand Finale

By David G. Firestone

The focus group of one has had its meetings, and has made its decisions.  Here are all 50 teams that ran the Sprint Cup this year ranked first to last on their paint schemes:

#1-Wood Brothers #21-A classic design scheme that just seems to get better with age. The Henry Ford design combines classic and modern elements for an amazing look.

#2-Hendrick Motorsports #48 Jimmie Johnson went with a very classic look, with a day scheme and a night scheme, which worked very well. Johnson did not have a bad look all year.

#3-Michael Waltrip Racing #55 Simple traditional designs. That is the secret to their success on the leaderboard. Color schemes are great as well. Nothing wrong with these schemes.

#4-Furniture Row Racing #78 When it came down to picking a number 1 for Chevy, for both the Paint Schemie and the Leaderboard, I had to flip a coin to pick a number 1, and Johnson won. Kurt Busch ran a series of very solid schemes, not a lot to comment on and it always looks good.

#5-Joe Gibbs Racing #18 Like Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch on the Chevy side, the Toyota winner for both the Paint Schemie and Leaderboard was decided by a coin flip. More modern than the 55, all these schemes are good, with amazing paint schemes and really good design.

#6-Richard Petty Motorsports #43 This team combines classic and modern looks, and uses Petty Blue very effectively. The Transportation Impact scheme was not good at all, and kept the 43 team out of the top spot.  Extra Credit for the Maurice Petty Tribute Scheme.

#7-BK Racing #83 Great designs all around, but the hood needs work. Why is it black when the rest of the car is red?

#8-BK Racing #93 See Above, but the Old Dominion scheme drags it down.

#9-Penske Racing #12-Though only raced for one race, the SKF design worked very well. A great color and great design scheme. If this had been raced for multiple races, I would have ranked it higher, but it is still a solid scheme.

#10-Richard Childress Racing #29 The Bad Boy Buggies scheme is bad, and the Rheem/Budweiser combo scheme is awful, but aside from those, Kevin Harvick has had a very good season, paint scheme wise

#11-Earnhardt Ganassi Racing #42 Get rid of the Axe Apollo scheme and the Camouflage scheme, and Juan Pablo Montoya would have the top spot.

#12-Richard Petty Motorsports #9 This set earned a place in the top 5 because it improved by a lot over the course of the season. It has a great color scheme, but the early schemes were not great, but since Stanley redesigned their logo, and made some changes to the car, it is a very nice set.

#13-Phoenix Racing/Turner Scott #51 Guy Roofing and Hendrick Cars are hideous, but apart from that, they have run a great set of paint schemes. Bonus points given for the Neil Bonnett throwback scheme.

#14-Michael Waltrip Racing #56 The Get Back and Give Back scheme is horrid, but the rest of the schemes are really good.

#15-JTG Daugherty Racing #47 Most of what they ran this year was great, but the Bushes Baked Beans car has an odd overall design, and a weird color scheme. The Clorox scheme has a bad color scheme, as does the Charter scheme, as does the Wounded Warrior Project scheme.

#16-Roush Fenway Racing #17 A pinkwashing scheme as well as the Valvoline NexGen scheme kick Ricky Stenhouse Jr. out of the top spot. Sad thing too, as Ricky had a very solid year when it comes to paint schemes

#17-Joe Gibbs Racing #81 Alert Energy is awful. Double Mint is awesome.

#18-Penske Racing #2 While I miss the beer colored wheels from last year, Keselowski has had a decent year, the color scheme is great, though there is too much white on the car. The Redd’s Apple Ale scheme was great, but the Fan Mosaic and Patriotic schemes need some work.

#19-Roush Fenway Racing #16 Greg Biffle had a lot of great schemes, but he had a number of awful ones , including a pinkwashing scheme as well. Get rid of the pinkwashing scheme, the Scotchguard, give blood, and Megulars schemes, and he would be in the top 5.

#20-Richard Childress Racing #27 The yellow is too bright, but other than that, the schemes are really good.

#21-Stewart Haas Racing #14 Some of these schemes are good, others not so much.

#22Hendrick Motorsports #88 Dale Jr. runs good schemes most of the time, but Soldiers of Steel, Orange Amp Energy, and Camouflage are just brutal. Additional points lost for a pinkwashing scheme.

#23-Joe Gibbs Racing #20 If the Dollar General was more plain, and did not have the orange back, I would love to give Matt Kenseth a higher spot, and a pinkwashing scheme does not help.

#24-Earnhardt Ganassi Racing #1 Bad Boy Buggies is even worse here, and the Bass Pro Shop schemes are awful. A number of good schemes here as well.

#25-FAS Lane Racing #32 The Oxy Water scheme, and the gray scale C&J Energy Services schemes do not work, but the rest of the schemes they ran do

#26-Front Row Motorsports #38 The template they run works very well when the color scheme matches that of the sponsor. When it doesn’t match, it looks awful.

#27-Front Row Motorsports #35, See above

#28-Front Row Motorsports #34, See above, aside from the CSX scheme, which looks great, and the Peanut Patch scheme which looks awful.

#29-Tommy Baldwin Racing #36 This team looks better without a primary sponsor than they do with one.

#30-Max Q Motorsports #37 Simple, yet attractive. Would be higher if they ran more races.

#31-Joe Gibbs Racing #11 The Jason Leffler tribute scheme and the FedEx delivery manager schemes are great, but the rest are just awful. I miss the Gen 5 schemes

#32-Nemco Racing #87 The word that can best describe this set is dull. Not bad, but not spectacular.

#33-Circle Team Sport #40 Interstate Moving is really good. Moon Shine Attitude Attire is really awful, and their pinkwashing scheme is even worse.

#34-Roush Fenway Racing #99 Geek Squad and Fastenal work well, the rest…not so much.

#35-Richard Childress Racing #31 A few good schemes but most of them are mediocre at best.

#36-Hendrick Motorsports #24 See Above

#37-Stewart Haas Racing #10 Worst shades of yellow in NASCAR, and the pinkwashing scheme is so much worse.

#38-Michael Waltrip Racing #15 Clint has consistently run cars with great color schemes, but awful designs. Except for Duck Dynasty, and pinkwashing, which are just hideous.

#39-Humphrey Smith Racing #19 Another car that just looks better without a primary sponsor.

#40-Germain Racing #13 Nothing really wrong, but nothing really right with these schemes.

#41-Penske Racing #22 Red and yellow is a really great color scheme, but the design is all wrong. This design gets even worse with the AAA scheme, which has an even better color scheme. The Pennzoil scheme is good, but not good enough to save the set.

#42-Stewart Haas Racing #39 I have to give them credit, their schemes are mostly awful, but at least they are creative.

#43-Tommy Baldwin Racing #7 Worst. Door. Number. Ever. The rest of the car isn’t good either, and a pinkwashing scheme doesn’t help.

#44-Phil Parsons Racing# 98 The schemes come in one of two food groups, bland or awful. Great colors, but the designs are horrid.

#45-Levine Family Racing #95 Worst template in NASCAR.

#46-Hendrick Motorsports #5 Innovation can be a bad thing. This, for example is what happens when you let Karl Benjamin design your cars.

#47-Circle Sport/RCR #33 It amazes me how two different teams can use the same car number, and both can put awful designs on their cars. Special credit for the Honey Nut Cheerios scheme, which is just horrific.

#48-Xxxtreme Motorsports #44 Yuck.

#49-Hamilton-Means Racing #52 Paulie Harraka had a great scheme, but Brian Keselowski…not so much.

#50-Swan Racing #30/26 Please tell me this is an experiment on how to make the worst paint scheme in history? Is Swan Racing competing with Travis Pastrana for the most obnoxious paint scheme in NASCAR?

Paint Scheme Leaderboard Part 1-Ford

By David G. Firestone

I started ranking all the teams last week, with the Paint Schemie Awards, and I figured I would continue this week with the Paint Scheme Leaderboard. The concept is that over the next 4 weeks, I will rank all the drivers by team. The rules are the same as the Paint Schemies, and I will rank the teams, first by Manufacturer, and then by all the teams running the Sprint Cup Series. A random drawing has Ford going first, followed by Chevy next week, and then Toyota the following week. The last week, will be all 50 teams that ran in the Sprint Cup Series this year.

So, without further ado, let’s look at how Ford’s NASCAR teams fared in the paint scheme world this year:

#1-Wood Brothers #21-A classic design scheme that just seems to get better with age. The Henry Ford design combines classic and modern elements for an amazing look.

#2-Richard Petty Motorsports #43 This team combines classic and modern looks, and uses Petty Blue very effectively. The Transportation Impact scheme was not good at all, and kept the 43 team out of the top spot.  Extra Credit for the Maurice Petty Tribute Scheme.

#3 Penske Racing #12-Though only raced for one race, the SKF design worked very well. A great color and great design scheme. If this had been raced for multiple races, I would have ranked it higher, but it is still a solid scheme.

#4 Richard Petty Motorsports #9 This set earned a place in the top 5 because it improved by a lot over the course of the season. It has a great color scheme, but the early schemes were not great, but since Stanley redesigned their logo, and made some changes to the car, it is a very nice set.

#5 Roush Fenway Racing #17 A pinkwashing scheme as well as the Valvoline NexGen scheme kick Ricky Stenhouse Jr. out of the top spot. Sad thing too, as Ricky had a very solid year when it comes to paint schemes.

#6 Penske Racing #2 While I miss the beer colored wheels from last year, Keselowski has had a decent year, the color scheme is great, though there is too much white on the car. The Redd’s Apple Ale scheme was great, but the Fan Mosaic, pinkwashing, and Patriotic schemes need some work.

#7 Roush Fenway Racing #16 Greg Biffle had a lot of great schemes, but he had a number of awful ones as well. Get rid of the pinkwashing scheme, the Scotchguard, give blood, and Megulars schemes, and he would be in the top 5.

#8 FAS Lane Racing #32 The Oxy Water scheme, and the gray scale C&J Energy Services schemes do not work, but the rest of the schemes they ran do.

#9 Front Row Motorsports #38 The template they run works very well when the color scheme matches that of the sponsor. When it doesn’t match, it looks awful.

#10 Front Row Motorsports #35, See above

#11 Front Row Motorsports #34, See above, aside from the CSX scheme, which looks great, and the Peanut Patch scheme which looks awful.

#12 Roush Fenway Racing #99 Geek Squad and Fastenal work well, the rest…not so much.

#13 Germain Racing #13 Nothing really wrong, but nothing really right with these schemes.

#14 Penske Racing #22 Red and yellow is a really great color scheme, but the design is all wrong. This design gets even worse with the AAA scheme, which has an even better color scheme. The Pennzoil scheme is good, but not good enough to save the set.

#15 Phil Parsons Racing# 98 The schemes come in one of two food groups, bland or awful. Great colors, but the designs are horrid.

#16 Levine Family Racing #95 Worst template in NASCAR.

#17 Xxxtreme Motorsports #44 Yuck.

Next Week, the Chevy Leaderboard!

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.