Driver Suit Blog…The Origins

cropped-dsbgrahpic.jpgBy David G. Firestone

The Driver Suit Blog is my favorite project I have ever undertaken. I’ve gotten a few people who ask about the origins of The Driver Suit Blog, and so this week, we will start with how it came to be. The origins are rooted in my game-used memorabilia collection. I started in hockey, and looked at the various game wear patterns on jerseys. I then would get into other forms of memorabilia, and would analyze them for an old website. In 2008, I went to the National Sports Collector’s Convention in Rosemont, and came away with a late 1960’s Oakland A’s jersey. As fate would have it, when I got home, I was looking for something on my computer and found Windows Movie Maker on my XP based hard drive. I decided on a whim to make a video about it, and with that Introduction to Sports Memorabilia was born.

I started into driver suits in 2010, and researched the suits the same way I research every other game-used item. I had a lot of trouble finding information for a collector about the various aspects of driver suits and race-worn memorabilia. So I just did what I could, research wise. In 2012, I asked Paul Lukas if I could guest write a column for Uni-Watch. Now the blog was never a thought prior to this article, but as work progressed, it dawned on me that I could start a blog for driver suit and racing memorabilia collectors. So in January 2013, The Driver Suit Blog was born.

The paint scheme grading was born out of frustration. I had been working on a Christian Fittipaldi article, and it wasn’t long enough, so I started grading paint schemes to fill some extra space. I kept doing it, and it has become a part of the blog. The same can be said for Tailgating Time, which was also based on a Uni-Watch feature known as Cuilinary Corner. Tailgating Time was designed for tailgaters, to give them recipies that can be cooked on a grill or hot plate at a track, but are something more than just burgers and hot dogs.

Where will the blog go from here? I will continue my work for driver suit collectors, giving them tips on how to analyze driver suits. Tailgating Time will return, but I can’t say for sure when this will happen. I have a lot of stuff planned so stay tuned.

I also want to take a moment to thank my readers. Without you guys, this would have never taken off, and I just want to say thanks. I also owe a huge debt to Paul Lukas. Without him, the Driver Suit Blog would have never been created. Paul, next time you are in Evanston, hit me up, we’ll go out for a beer!

Next week, we will go behind the scenes and examine how a Driver Suit Blog article comes to be.  One other thing that I will start in a couple of weeks is I will do more Wheel Reviews for The Driver Suit Blog, but for now, we conclude with

PAINT SCHEME REVIEWS!

Ryan Blaney #12 SKF Ford Fusion I gave this exact same scheme an A last year, and it earned 9th place on the Paint Scheme Leaderboard as well. This scheme still earns an A+

Clint Bowyer #15 Cherry 5-hour ENERGY benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation Toyota Camry Well we have a new winner for longest sponsor name, and we have a new high score for Clint Bowyer with a solid B+ scheme. It has a smooth look, and an overall great design. The sides are a bit overdesigned, which took down the grade.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 Building For America’s Bravest Ford Fusion Much too overdesigned, and another example of why camoflage on race cars NEVER WORKS! The only thing keeping this design above water is a great color scheme. C-

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 Eco Power Rerefined Oil Ford Fusion I’m not a fan of green on race cars, it often does not work, but this scheme is really good. I love the light to dark fade, and the overall design is great. A+

Kyle Busch #18 M&M’s Peanut Toyota Camry Another great M&M’s scheme, great color and design schemes, A+

Kyle Busch #18 Snickers Toyota Camry Great color scheme, and a decent design scheme. It has a look similar to the Stavloa Brothers design from the early 1990’s.

Cole Whitt #26 Iowa Chop House Toyota Camry When it comes to great paint schemes for the #26, BK Racing picked up where Swan Racing left off. Great color and design schemes, A+

Cole Whitt #26 Scorp’d Crossbows Toyota Camry See Above A+

AJ Allmedinger #47 Hungry Jack Toyota Camry What is this new deal with diagonal curved stripes across the side? It just looks awkward. It has a great color scheme, but the design just looks bad. C-

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowes/Valspar Chevy SS Jimmy’s same great classic design with a very nice red rear end. I love a great shade of red on a race car, and this is a great shade of red. A+

My Day at the NHRA in Joliet

100_3559I 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, 100_3531 100_3532to super stocks,100_3543to funny cars, 100_3545 100_3546 100_3547 100_3552The 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.100_3544I also checked out the tires on these cars, and man, they are huge! They look like they are twice the size of NASCAR tires.100_3550Speaking 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!100_3535 100_3534 100_3533 100_3537 100_3536 100_3538 100_3539They even had a jet dragster, but I didn’t get to see it on the track…oh well.100_3560One 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.   100_3540 100_3541 100_3553 100_3554 100_3555 100_3557Impact 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. 100_3548 100_3549Many 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. tasca-belt1 tasca-belt2

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. mlr-coil1 mlr-coil2 mlr-coil3 mlr-coil4 mlr-coil5 mlr-coil6 mlr-coil7

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,100_3556and 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!

Then I had dinner,100_3558and called it a day. I had a great time, and I will go back any chance I get!

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:100_3811THE 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!

Arm Gussets…Comfortable AND Safe!

By David G. Firestone

We’ve all seen them in telecasts and photos, but what many of us do not realize is what they are and what they do. I am talking about the arm gusset. Arm gussets are seen at the top of the sleeve on a driver suit, under the shoulder. They are a flexible piece of Nomex specifically designed to do two things. One is protect the driver, the other is give the driver some freedom of movement.10-labonte-rshoulder 10-labonte-lshoulder

Arm Gussets are almost always present on race-worn driver suits. Anyone who has worn a one-piece full body jumpsuit can attest to the fact that it restricts freedom of body movement. The gusset takes some of that restriction away. This is important when it comes to driving, because it gives the driver one less thing to concentrate on, and in the worst case scenario, can help a driver escape a burning vehicle much quicker.36-said-rshoulder 36-said-lshoulder

Gussets have very little variation, though I have seen one unusual one. In this Ricky Craven suit from 1996, the front of the sleeves look like they are attached to the body, whereas the back has a gusset in it. This would be done for driver preference of course, bur I have never seen a half gusset before or since.100_3458 100_3457 100_3456

This Lake Speed suit from 1997 is store bought, as opposed to custom designed, and it has no gussets. This suit would have some restriction of movement. Again this can come down to driver choice.9-speed-rshoulder 9-speed-lshoulder

The need for protection vs. the need for driver comfort is a major conflict in the world of racing safety. The gusset is a major meeting point between the two sides involved, and the drivers love them.

RIP Jason Leffler…you will be missed.

Now on to paint schemes.

Jame McMurray #1 Parade Magazine Chevy SS-Great color scheme, great design, nothing wrong at all, A+

Jame McMurray #1 Banana Boat Chevy SS-A scheme that could be a B+ is ruined by an awful color scheme. That orange is the worst I have ever seen on a race car. It takes this scheme and takes to a D-

Jamie McMurray #1 Bad Boy Buggies Chevy SS-An attempt to be innovative with design fails horribly here. The color scheme is decent, but the design is awful.

Marcos Ambrose #9 Stanley/DeWalt Racing for a Miracle Ford Fusion-This is a major improvement over what they currently run. This just works! A+

Denny Hamlin #11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry-Seriously? Why does it look like a sperm is painted in red on the side of the car? The red/white/black color scheme works, but the door design is just awful! D-

Denny Hamlin #11 Fedex/Autism Speaks Toyota Camry-Much better! The puzzle design, and solid color scheme look really good here. The red 11 is amazing too! Can’t give this anything but an A+

Tony Stewart #14 Code 3 Chevy SS-Love the scheme, love the simple design and great color scheme.  Works very well and earns an A+

Clint Bowyer #15 5-Hour Energy Patriotic Toyota Camry-How is this patriotic? Oh….I get it…the stars….just one problem…THE COLOR SCHEME IS WRONG! If it was red white and blue I would like this, but this is just awful! You want to honor America, but can’t get the color scheme right? F-

Greg Biffle #16 Fastenal Ford Fusion-Since minor variations of this scheme were run by Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse, and Carl Edwards with minor variations between them, I will grade them all here. Solid scheme, good color scheme, A+ for all 3.

Greg Biffle #16 3M/Ace/Rite Aid Ford Fusion-The color scheme is good, but the door design is too busy. If it was one single color, it would work quite well, but being a mix of black, blue, red, and white it just looks confusing. It works, but not as well as it could, and earns a C+

Jeff Gordon #24 Axalta Chevy SS-Another DuPont scheme with different logos that works very well. Good color scheme and design. A+

Paul Menard #27 Menard’s/Libman Chevy SS-The Libman green hood design just looks horrible on the yellow background of the car. The green is too light, and if it were darker it might work, but this scheme earns a D

Kevin Harvick #29 Budweiser Patriotic Chevy SS-This is another patriotic scheme that works very well with a good design. A+

J.J. Yeley #36 Click it or Ticket Chevy SS-Good design, but awful color scheme. The green and blue is just horrible. If one or the other was used it might work, but this is horrific. F

Ryan Newman #39 Quicken Loans Patriotic Chevy SS-Meh.  The design needs work.  Too much going on with the front of the car to earn anything above a C

Aric Almirola #43 Air Force Ford Fusion-Great design, simple design with a great color scheme. A+

Bobby Labonte #47 Bush’s Grilling Beans Toyota Camry-The overall design and color scheme is good, but the major flaw here is that the quarter panel has 5 different logos, most of which clash with the Bush’s scheme. It takes an A scheme and drags it down to a C

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowes Patriotic Chevy SS-The only bad thing I can say about this is that the red should be a little darker. Other than that, this scheme earns an A

Jimmie Johnson #48 Monsters University Chevy SS-If the blue was darker, I would like it more, but the blue is too light. Other than that, this is a solid scheme. B+

Martin Truex Jr. #56 Napa Patriotic Toyota Camry-Perfect…that is all I can say. A+