The Helmet Stripe-An Unusual Place For Sponsorship

By David G. Firestone14A

Last week, I had a column run on Uni-Watch, and I delayed this article until this week.  Two weeks ago, we discussed visors, this week, we will discuss what has become known as the “helmet stripe.” Helmet stripes came from IndyCar and Formula 1 cars, which are open cockpit cars. Helmets are clearly visible to television cameras and fans. As a direct result, helmet design in Formula 1 has become its own unique art form. Helmet designs become a part of the driver identity. The other thing that these open cockpits allow is for sponsorship opportunity. As such, a small opaque stripe is used on helmet visors.lepage-3

In NASCAR, the visor was slow to arrive. This is due to two reasons, first, many drivers up until the mid 1990’s chose to wear open-faced helmets. While these helmets had a shade to help keep the sun out of a driver’s eyes. While sponsor logos do show up, they were used for the driver’s name. This Brad Noffsinger example from 1988 is an example of that.Noffsinger-4

The second reason that helmet stripes were slow to come to NASCAR is that in-car cameras, while used, were for many years positioned in such a way that the visor would not be seen. Even if helmets were painted, the visor had no stripe. When the in-car cameras were positioned to film the driver from the side and even from the front, the helmet stripe became the standard. The stripe is designed to fit over the part of the visor that overlaps the opaque part of the helmet, as this example shows.musgrave2 musgrave3

Helmet stripes have become standard. To show how it affects the overall look of the helmet, I took this Kevin Lepage helmet from 1999, and edited the pictures to show how it looks. lepage-2  lepage-4  lepage-6

Not bad, but let’s compare it side by side to the original helmet…lepage-7 lepage-8 lepage-9

Helmet stripes have become a unique way for a driver to customize a helmet, as this video shows: Facebook pages and Twitter helmets are becoming standard on these. All visors that a driver would wear on a helmet have these stripes, which is standard, as visors are changed on a regular basis, and sponsors want the advertising space that they pay for.

Paint Scheme Reviews!

Because of the Uni-Watch article last week, I didn’t get to review paint schemes.  Within the last couple of weeks there were a large number of 2014 paint schemes released. Now I know that many of these will change before the start of the 2014 season, but I will grade them anyways.

Brad Keselowski #2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion  Same scheme as this year, same grade, C

Kevin Harvick #4 Budweiser Chevy SS Same Scheme as last year, same grade, A

Kevin Harvick #4 Jimmy John’s Chevy SS  They improved one of the best schemes in NASCAR and went from an A to A+

Kevin Harvick #4 Outback Steakhouse Chevy SS The color scheme remains the same but red takes over from beige as the primary color, which gives the car a great look, and an A grade

Kasey Kahne #5 Great Clips Chevy SS Same scheme as this year, same D+ grade

Kasey Kahne #5 Pepsi Max Cheyv SS Same scheme as last year, same F grade

Marcos Ambrose #9 Stanley/DeWalt Ford Fusion Great color scheme, though the nose, and quarter panel design are over done. Even still, I give it a B-

Marcos Ambrose #9 DeWalt/Stanley Ford Fusion See Above

Tony Stewart #14 Bass Pro Shop/Mobil 1 Chevy SS I get that two companies with different desgin schemes are sharing the car, but this is just brutal to look at. The orange and camo contrast is hideous, and the overall design is overdone. C-

Tony Stewart #14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shop Chevy SS The white and black contrast just looks awful! I really hope this changes before the season starts, because this is a scheme that is painful to look at. I have to give it an F

Tony Stewart #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevy SS As bad of a color scheme as this is, it is certainly better than the other two Tony Stewart schemes are. That said, the color scheme warrants an F while the design warrants an A, so I’ll split the difference and give it a C

Greg Biffle #16 3M Ford Fusion This scheme is a MAJOR improvement over this year’s design! All of the pointless noise on the door is gone, and the car has a very smooth look because of it, and I have to give this design an A

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 Nationwide Insurance Ford Fusion Great color and design schemes, though the white on light blue lettering and logos are hard to see. Even still, I have to give it an A-

Joey Logano #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion Same scheme as last year, same grade, D

Joey Logano #22 AAA Insurance Ford Fusion  See Above

Jeff Gordon #24 Pepsi Max Chevy SS I gave this scheme a C-, but given the *ahem* other Pepsi Max scheme, I’ve reconsidered, and I will give this scheme a B

Ryan Newman #31 Caterpillar Chevy SS  An improvement on an already good scheme, A+

Aric Almirola #43 Smithfield Foods Ford Fusion If the hood and front were done in the stars design, and the rest of the car was red and white striped, it would look better, and I would be able to give it more than a C+

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowes Chevy SS Supposidly, this will be the main scheme for the whole season, and I have to say it looks amazing, and is an A+ grade

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowes/Kobalt Chevy SS This will be run for a few races, and it is an A+ scheme.

Carl Edwards #99 Fastenal Ford Fusion Same scheme as last year, same A grade

Carl Edwards #99 UPS Ford Fusion No redeeming features whatsoever, F-`

Now on to new 2013 paint schemes…

Jamie McMurray #1 Cessna/Auburn University Chevy SS The white hood and roof just look aukward, compared to the black covering the rest of the car.  That said, it is still a decent scheme, and I’ll give it a B

Dave Blaney #7 Breast Cancer Awareness Chevy SS Pinkwashing is an automatic F

Marcos Ambrose #9 Bostitch Ford Fusion The 2014 scheme is previewed here, and I’ll give it the same B- grade I gave the 2014 scheme.

Landon Cassill #33 T-Mone Chevy SS This is a perfect example as to why only one person should design a car.  It looks like it took at least 3 people to design the car, each with a different idea as to what the car should look like.  And in the end it is just a mess, and not even a good color scheme can give this scheme a passing grade.  F

David Ragan #34 Safercar.gov Ford Fusion  See Above. F

JJ Yeley #36 United Mining Equipment Chevy SS Even if I didn’t give pinkwashing schemes an automatic F, this scheme would get an F anyway, it just looks awful

Kyle Larson #51 Target Chevy SS Simple, yet attractive, and it earns an A

Kurt Busch #78 Wonder Bread Chevy SS  To celebrate the return of Wonder Bread, Kurt is going to channel Ricky Bobby, except for one difference…this scheme is a lot better than the Ricky Bobby Scheme.    No flames and the baloons coming from the brake duct are a great look for this car, and it earns an A

Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 Mountain Dew/Xbox 1 Chevy SS  It has a great color scheme, and that is the nicest thing I can say about it.  The design is just awful, and it looks like it will give people seizures as it drives around the track.  I give it an F

Blake Koch #95 Supportmillitary.org Ford Fusion Eww…Too much going on, with the over-sized camo in too many different colors, and the door design which is awful. F-

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The ONLY Time A Visor Looks Good!

By David G. Firestone100_4068

Some time ago, I did two posts focusing on one item, and for the next two weeks, I’ll do something similar. A part of the driver uniform that is seen by virtually everyone but not really discussed is the visor in the helmet. We see them on in-car cameras and on television, but we don’t think about them by itself that much. It seems like a minor part, but it has an interesting history.

From the 1920’s through the late 1980’s, helmets were primarily open-faced. This example is from the 1960’s, and was worn by Maine short track driver Jim McConnell.mcconnell-5 mcconnell-3 mcconnell-1 mcconnell-7 mcconnell-8

These helmets are very simple in design, they just cover the whole head, except for the face. The downside to this is that when the sun shines in the driver’s eyes, or if the car is an open-cockpit the wind can and will force the drivers eyes closed, or fumes from the car can get in a driver’s eyes. As such, these helmets were worn with goggles.100_3182

As full-faced helmets took over, the visor came attached to the helmet. The early ones were basically plexi-glass but as safety certification got more advanced, the visors were and still are fire tested. They also have to stand impact testing as well. As the helmets became more advanced over the years, so did the visors. Let’s take a look at one:100_4068

This visor is from the McDonald’s helmet I covered earlier in the year. It is made of a very tough, but very light clear plastic. The visor is attached to the helmet by 3 screws, two that hold the visor to the helmet and a third that guides the visor and keep it in the proper place. There was a 4th one, but it was removed at the driver’s request. The visor has some unique features. At the bottom-left side there is a small flap, which is used by the driver to open the visor. Next to the small flap is a hole for a small peg. The peg goes in the hole, and holds the visors shut, but is small enough so that if a driver wants to open the helmet, they can do so with no trouble. Drivers frequently leave the visor open slightly, so two small knobs, one on each side so the driver can open or close the visor.100_4069

Notice that it has a yellow-ish tint. This is one of 3 options for drivers, dark tint, light tint, and clear. The visor is designed to be easily changed at the drivers request. Clear visors are used for night races, and tinted ones are used for sunny races. In the event a race goes from day to night, a driver can use a tinted tear off, so that when it gets dark, they can remove the tint and have a clear visor.100_4070 100_4071

Like eyeglasses, visors get scratched over time. As such, they are changed often. Like most other items racing teams and drivers use, when they are no longed needed, they are sold to the general public. They are frequently autographed by drivers, and are a popular item to get signed by drivers. They are interesting to look at, and interesting to examine up-close. All helmet visors in this day in age have a sponsor stripe across the top, and we’ll cover that next week.

Paint Scheme Reviews

Danica Patrick #10 Go Daddy Chevy SS Pinkwashing is an automatic F

Greg Biffle #16 Sherwin Williams Ford Fusion See Above

Tony Raines #40 Moon Shine Attitude Attire Chevy SS See Above

and we have a new 2014 scheme

Kasey Kahne #5 Farmers Insurance Chevy SS It’s amazing what a different shade of paint can do to a paint scheme. This years Farmer’s scheme earned a D+ because of the primary color, this scheme earns a B+ because of the color. The design needs some work, but the whole scheme is a major improvement.

Open or Closed…Which Helmet Would You Have Chosen?

By David G. Firestone

[Editor’s Note: Originally, this week was a post dedicated to primary sponsor logos. However, I had this column on the shelf for a while, but given recent events in the NFL, which fellow uniform blogger Paul Lukas has covered in depth, I felt that this article concerning helmet safety in NASCAR would be appropriate to run this week, with the primary sponsor logo column running next week. DF]

lepagePrior to the tragic events of the 2001 Daytona 500, drivers had to make a choice that in this day in age seems absolutely absurd. From the beginning of NASCAR to that tragic day drivers had their choice of helmets, and they were open-faced,lepage94-2or full-face.lepage99-2

To examine the merits and demerits of both helmets let’s take a look at one example of each, both worn by the same driver, Kevin Lepage. First, the open-faced helmetlepage94-1 lepage94-2 lepage94-4 lepage94-3 lepage94-6 lepage94-5

Worn in the Nationwide Series in 1994 and 1995 during his rookie and sophomore seasons, this helmet bears a decal from high-end plush toy company Vermont Teddy Bears. It shows very heavy use, with scratches and scuff marks, has had the microphone equipment removed, and Lepage has signed the back of the helmet in black Sharpie.

Now let’s look at the full-face helmet,lepage99-1 lepage99-2 lepage99-3 lepage99-5 lepage99-6 lepage99-7 lepage99-8

Worn by Lepage in the 1999 Winston Cup season, this helmet was painted for the combination Primestar/TV Guide #16 Ford. Like the open-faced helmet, it shows scratches and scuff marks, and Lepage has signed the top of the helmet above the visor. Unlike the open-faced helmet, this helmet still has the microphone equipment.

Now on to the comparison…

Looking at the helmets from the inside, there was no real difference between the two. Both are the same basic design, with the same inner liner and filler.lepage7

The left sides of the helmets differ greatly. Notice that there is a hose attachment near the Ford logo on the full-faced helmet. This is to accommodate the “hotbox” attachment. Hotboxes are designed to force air into the driver’s face to help keep them cool. This is not a luxury, as driver compartments can reach as high as 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and drivers typically wear 3-4 layers of Nomex during a race. Keep in mind that in-car drinking systems are not standard as of 2000, and the hotbox is a great tool for driver comfort.lepage5

Microphone equipment is added to the helmet on the right side. The only difference between these two helmets is that the microphone has been removed on the open-faced helmet.lepage1

The back of the helmets are virtually identical except for the paint schemes and the liability tag present.lepage6

The front of the helmet is the key to making the decision. Everything else thus far is a minor issue. The question was asked then, and is asked now, why were these helmets legal for as long as they were? These pictures should answer that question:lepage3 lepage4

The bottom of the helmet underneath the visor gives an extra bit of safety in case of fire, BUT takes away about 2-3 inches of visibility. That 3 inches might not seem like that much, but in a race car, trying to keep situational awareness of what the car is doing, those 3 inches are as critical as you can imagine. NASCAR at the time had the opinion that if they had the restriction in place, that the obstruction could cause a driver to lose that situational awareness, and lead to a wreck. NASCAR felt that any rule that could cause a wreck is a bad idea, and rightfully so. How often in the wake and investigation of accidents does it reveal that a rule, regulation, or guideline cause an accident? It happens quite often. NASCAR at the time felt that imposing a rule that all helmets should be full-faced that is could very easily lead to an accident, and as such, allowed open-faced helmets to avoid that from happening.

It was a rule that was easy to understand, but would lead to tragedy. It led to this design, which itself is now becoming obsolete:mcdonalds-1 mcdonalds-6 mcdonalds-7 mcdonalds-4 mcdonalds-3 mcdonalds-9 mcdonalds-10 mcdonalds-12Now, even the best full-faced helmet designs from the 1990’s are now a distant memory and the current helmet design has taken over. It might seem like unfair, but if these rules were in place at the 2001 Daytona 500, we would have never lost a true legend.

Paint Scheme Reviews!

Jamie McMurray #1 Linksys Chevy SS Clean lines and a great color scheme make for an A+ scheme!

Matt Kenseth #20 Husky/500th Start Toyota Camry The gray-scale design does not work here at all. The rest of the car looks very good, but the black and dark gray color scheme needs work. If the Husky red is where the gray is, it would work better, but the best grade I can give is a C-

Michael McDowell #51 SEM Chevy SS Classic design with a great color scheme, A+

And we have a 2014 leak…

Austin Dillon #3 Cheerios Chevy SS This is the best Cheerios scheme I have ever seen! The goofy bagel design is gone, and has been replaced with a couple of racing stripes. I also love the black around the #3. If this is the final design, it will be a great car, and I give it an A+!

Aspects of the Current Helmet Design

By David Firestone

As I mentioned in the last post, the SFI/FIA Certifications on current helmets are located on the HANS anchors. I also discussed the advancements in helmets over the last 12 years in my post on the evolution of helmets. But what makes the current helmet design so effective? Let’s take a look at one.mcdonalds-1

This example is an Impact! Air Vapor helmet worn by either Regan Smith in 2005 or Jason Keller in 2006. It was used in the Nationwide Series for Team Rensi Motorsports, founded by former McDonald’s Executive Sam Rensi. It carried a McDonald’s sponsorship.mcdonalds-4

It was made by Impact! Race Products in Brownsburg, Indiana. Impact has a unique history. After Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death in 2001, Bill Simpson, who had founded Simpson Race Products resigned after NASCAR had blamed Earnhardt’s death partially on a seat belt failure. He had a one year non-compete contract with Simpson, and after that expired, he went to found Impact. Because Bill Simpson was a race driver, he understood the needs of drivers, and both Simpson and Impact followed that philosophy. Let’s take a closer look at some of the features of this helmet.

This is an Air Vapor helmet, used by a number of drivers on the NASCAR circuit. It is made out of a carbon composite material, which is both lightweight and very durable. It has been custom painted with McDonald’s colors and some very cool “ghost skulls.” The helmet has a number of unique curves, and grooves designed to help air flow around the helmet and keep the visor fog-free.mcdonalds-6

The visor is much narrower than older Simpson models, and the gold tint is shading for the visor. The Impact strip across the top does not obstruct the driver’s vision at all, as it covers the area of the visor over the opaque section of the helmet.mcdonalds-10 mcdonalds-12 mcdonalds-8

The Microphone equipment is still present and in good condition. The microphone is one of the most critical safety features, as spotters are mandatory at every race, and they tell the driver everything going on around them. The driver can also tell the crew chief what, if anything, needs to be done to the car during pit stops. The telephone cord-style cable plugs into the seat, and the seat is connected to the electrical system in the car.

Finally, the ventilation intake is located on the top of the helmet. This is connected to a hose, which in turn is connected to a “hot box” mounted in a window behind the driver. The hot box has a gas scrubber on it, which cleans up the air, and cools it before blowing it on the driver. Considering that the driver compartment can reach temperatures of over 160 degrees Fahrenheit, this is a critical piece of equipment. Older models, like this Ted Musgrave model from 1996, have the intake located on the side. However, since the HANS device became mandatory, the intake has moved to the top to accommodate the device.musgrave4

mcdonalds-4

Now on to paint schemes…

Nationwide Series schemes first…

Ryan Reed #16 Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford Mustang Good color scheme, red white and black is always a good choice, but the design on the side is confusing to look at. If the design next to the front wheels is removed, I could give it a better grade, but with that design it gets a C.

Kyle Busch #54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry I like matte black, and simple designs in race cars, so this design is one of my favorites. I can’t give this scheme anything less than an A

Steven Wallace #66 Richard Tocado Ford Mustang Great scheme…only way this could be any better is if the lettering, numbers and stripes were in gold, like Rusty’s 1990’s MGD scheme…A grade.

Johanna Long #70 Foretravel Motor coaches Chevy Camaro A very solid scheme with a great color scheme, great design, and an A grade…very solid!

Now on to the Sprint Cup Schemes

Dave Blaney #7 Florida Lottery Chevy SS The color scheme is mediocre, with too many light colors and not enough dark. The lettering is just awful, and the car number looks like something that a small town driver would use, not a Sprint Cup driver would. I’ll be generous and give this scheme a D+

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 NOS Energy/Valvoline NextGen Ford Fusion I love this scheme. Orange and blue is a great scheme to work with, there is not a lot of needless design on the sides, the lettering and numbers look good. So this scheme gets an A. Ricky’s Valvoline NextGen scheme is the same as the Nationwide Series car Trevor Bayne drives, and it gets the same A grade.

Kevin Harvick #29 Rheem Chevy SS Yet more proof that red white and black is a great color scheme. I’m not a fan of the curvy design on the nose that leads to the stripes, but as good as this scheme is, it is a flaw I will overlook. Though I’m not a fan of the ads on the roof, again I’ll overlook that. The black on white numbers are a unique twist, that gives the car a cleaner look. Final Grade: A

Terry Labonte #32 C&J Energy Sources Ford Fusion If there were no contingency decals present, I would think this is just a black and white picture. Silver is a great color for cars, and the black white and silver scheme works well in most applications, but this scheme just falls flat. Final Grade C-…just too meh to be good.

JJ Yeley #36 Accell Construction/Golden Corral/United Mining Equipment Chevy SS Three schemes here, first the Accell Construction scheme, which uses a great color scheme, but the side design is just brutal to look at. The Golden Corral scheme is great, with a great color and simple design schemes, and is amazing to look at. The United Mining Equipment scheme has a good color scheme. The stripes are bad, but I like the coal design on the doors and roof. Accell Construction gets an F, Golden Corral gets an A, and United Mining Equipment gets a B

David Ragan #38 Love’s Truck Stops Ford Fusion The only bad thing I can say about this scheme is I don’t like the back bumper design. Other than that, great color scheme and reasonably simple design. Final Grade: B+

Carl Edwards #99 Subway/Kelloggs Ford Fusion The green stripes look more like seaweed, and ruin what could have been a great scheme. The Kellogg’s/Cheez It’s scheme is way too cartoonish to be taken seriously, so both schemes get an F grade.

NASCAR Helmets Over The Years

By David G. Firestonemcconnell-5

The evolution of the racing helmet in NASCAR for the most part was slow, in the beginning. NASCAR was officially founded in 1947, two years after World War II ended. Many of the helmets worn during the 1940’s and 1950’s were little more than repainted army and air force helmets. These helmets were basic at best, and as protection for the dangers of racing, these helmets were inadequate at best. During the 1950’s, many drivers switched from military headgear to motorcycle helmets. In the 1960’s, motorcycle-style helmets became the norm.mcconnell-5

The above helmet was worn by Jim McConnell, who raced and promoted races in Maine, and went on to found Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine. This is a racing helmet, but it looks more like Wyatt’s Captain America helmet from Easy Rider, in its basic design. It has an open face, no microphone equipment, and is rather thin. Although there would be advancements in helmet technology, the open-face design would remain popular until the 1980’s.Noffsinger-1

This helmet was worn by Brad Noffsinger in 1988, it is the same general design, though it is much thicker, has some advancements in visor technology, and had some microphone technology in it as well. Although these helmets have since been banned, they remained legal for as long as they did for one simple reason: Advanced visibility. NASCAR did not want to have a crash caused by decreased visibility due to a rule mandating full-face helmets.musgrave1

The Ted Musgrave helmet mentioned in a previous post is a perfect example. The bottom part covering the chin does to a certain extent reduce visibility for a driver. The logic makes sense, in that if there was a crash caused by reduced visibility, so for the 1990’s and 2000, the open-face was legal…then came the 2001 Daytona 500. That race saw the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. from a Basilar skull fracture, which as tragic as it was, wasn’t the first death due to sub-par safety equipment. John Nemechek, Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin Jr., and Tony Roper had all been killed in similar accidents. Only after Earnhardt’s death, did the HANS device come to light, and eventually became mandatory in NASCAR, and eventually, across the board in racing. Now the helmets used in NASCAR look like this:mcdonalds-1This is a helmet worn between 2004 and 2005 by either Regan Smith or Jason Keller. As you can see, it has a number of advancements, including the visor, and air intakes, but the biggest advancement is these small bolts towards the back.mcdonalds-2 - Copy

These are where the HANS device connects to the helmet. The HANS device was mandated after the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. to prevent Basilar skull fracture deaths. This device has worked very well. The HANS device works by attaching the device to the helmet, and then being secured by the shoulder straps, as seen below:

As advanced as this helmet is, there is always room for improvement. What new form will the racing helmet of tomorrow take? Only time will tell.

On to Paint Schemes, we have a lot of ground to cover today…

First in the Camping World Truck Series

Chris Cockrum #07 Accu-Tech/Homesmart Toyota Tundra Decent color scheme, good stripe pattern, logos are easy to see. Solid A grade.

Sean Coor #82 Warriors in the Workplace Ford F-Series Simple yet bold. Great use of matte black, great number design and color scheme. The logo is easy to see and stands out. No distracting stripes or patterns. Solid A grade.

Next up, the Nationwide Series

Sam Hornish Jr. #12 Wurth Tools Ford Mustang The doors look like they have race damage on them already, which is not a good sign. The color scheme is decent, but the Pennzoil stripes just kill it. The logos are easy to see, but the stripes are just awful. Final grade C+

Matt Kenseth #18 Reser’s Foods Toyota Camry. Numbers are great, color scheme is good, logos are easy to see, and the background design is visible, but not overpowering. The only thing keeping this scheme from a higher grade is the picture of the package on the side of the car. That drags the grade down to a B+ from an A

Now moving on to the Sprint Cup Series

Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Toyota Camry There are a total of 4 variations of the FedEx scheme, Express, Freight, Ground and Office. Right off the bat, the front nose design and stripes are awful. The color schemes are great, as are the logos and numbers, but the stripes kill it. The best grade I can give is a C+ across the board.

Paul Menard #27 Menard’s Chevy SS Not the worst I have ever seen, but the yellow is way too bright, and the massive collection of sponsor stickers on the quarter panel is just ugly. Final Grade C-