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-

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New Paint Schemes and Some IndyCar News…

We start off today with a unique story from IndyCar.  Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Izod IndyCar Series Championship last season, and as such has the right to use the number 1 on his car.  He normally used 28 as his car number, because 28 million people worldwide are affected by cancer, and his mother passed away from cancer in 2009.  So he is using a number 1 with a rather unique twist.  Also mentioned that Marco Andretti will switch to number 25 from 26 next year.

Moving on to NASCAR paint schemes, let’s look at the Nationwide Series first.  Two Chevy schemes and one Ford scheme have been released so far

Sam Hornish-#12 Alliance Ford Mustang  Could someone explain to me why in the world it has door handle decals?  And why does it have a blue line on the door that looks like race damage?  I really want to defend this scheme, but no, just no.  Final Grade: C

Kevin Harvick-#33 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevy Camaro    First off, the Camaro looks really good on its own, and this paint scheme works quite well.  The door-handle decal is visible, but not as bold as the Hornish car.  The green/white contrast works well, and the decal package on the front looks really good.  The stripes on the sides work very well, and are not as haphazard of some schemes I have seen for this season.  Final Grade: A

Dale Earnhardt Jr./Cole Whitt-#88 Tax Slayer Chevy Camaro  Decent color scheme at work here, but what is with the pink roll cage?  The red black and white scheme has a similar color in the front stripe at the nose.  It’s visually distracting, and pointless.  The powder blue/pink stripe takes away from a great scheme and takes the final grade from an A to a B-.  Get rid of the blue, and it would be an A

Now we look at the Sprint Cup Schemes

Kasey Kahne-#5 Time Warner Cable Chevy SS  Awful color scheme, check.  Door and panel design that is supposed to be edgy but is really a cliche, check.  The most unoriginal sponsor logo in NASCAR, check.  Ok, I think we’re all done here, Final Grade: D

Ryan Newman-#39 Quicken Loans Chevy SS  Want to have some fun, open the Kahne link, and this link in two different tabs, and switch back and forth to see how “original” this scheme is.   Clearly both were designed by the same person, they look almost identical, except the fronts are a little different, and the color scheme on the Newman car is much better.  Final Grade: C-

Jeff Gordon-#24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS Yuck! They took one of the best color schemes ever and ruined it!  But these shots do feature a new design that will be used in NASCAR in 2013, and that is a sponsor decal on the roof.  The close-up of the rear-end shows the decent taillight decals, and the unnecessary tailpipe decals, as well as the updated Chevy logo.  Final Grade: D-

Been a long day, will be back tomorrow.

When Using Yellow, Keep It Mellow

When Jimmie Johnson’s team unveiled the car that would race in the Shootout this year, I felt compelled to write a blog on the issue of yellow cars.  Yellow is the same as any other color, it can work very well when used properly.  The problem is that many teams won’t use it properly.  Some colors work well bold and bright, and some don’t.  So let me make the case both for and against yellow as the main paint scheme in racing…

The Case For Yellow…

Yellow in racing seems to work well if the shade used isn’t overly bright.  A perfect example is Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s Schoolbus scheme from last year. Dr. Frank W. Cyr picked school bus yellow in 1939 for its visibility, and the fact that black lettering on the shade of yellow is very visible in semi-darkness.  It also works very well on race cars.  Another example of yellow being chosen for easy visibility is the Yellow Cab Company in Chicago when president John D. Hertz chose yellow for his taxi cabs, a fact that Aric Almirola demonstrated in 2012 at New Hampshire.

One example of a longtime shade of yellow is Penzoil.  They have used the same shade of yellow for decades, and no matter what, it always looks good.  As long as the shade of yellow is not overpowering it will look good…which brings me to…

The Argument Against Yellow.

Apparently highlighter yellow is the top shade for any team that uses yellow, and it always looks bad.  Unlike red or silver when it comes to yellow, the brighter it is, the worse it looks.  If you don’t believe me look at the following examples…do I have to say anything more? I think not.  I’m shocked that more teams are not figuring this out, but it seems that every year the shades of yellow get worse.

Neon yellow is a terrible color, and it is used way to liberally in racing in this day in age.

In related news two other paint schemes were released..

Kasey Kahne #5 Quaker State Chevy SS Meh…Not bad, the door looks like a Carolina Hurricanes logo, but other than that it’s a mediocre scheme with decent color.  Final Grade: C

Carl Edwards #99 Aflac Ford Fusion I didn’t think it was possible, but we actually have a color scheme worse than the Seattle SeahawksThat shade of green is even worse than some of the shades of yellow I mentioned!  If it was silver, or for that matter any other color it would work, but this scheme gets a bad grade for a bad color…Final Grade: F!

Some Thoughts on 2013 Paint Schemes So Far

I discussed the basic design changes for the 2013 redesigned schemes.  Today, I thought I would look at some of the schemes that have been released, and give my thoughts on them. 

Let’s look at the Chevy schemes first.

Jamie McMurray  The basic scheme is solid here.  The Bass Pro Shop “lightning bolt” used in last year’s scheme is gone, and a single Golden Arch has taken its place.  The car has a cleaner look as a result.  I like the design of the car number here as well, and the goldenrod yellow works rather well.  Final Grade: A-

Kasey Kahne  I really hope this is a prototype design,,,the color scheme is all wrong, there are too many light colors, and the door design is just brutal.  The tailpipe decals which are already bad have a silver border around them, which just makes them stand out even more. Of the Chevy schemes released, this is the worst.  Final Grade: D+  

Danica Patrick  Last year Danica’s car was painful to look at.  However if this is the final design for Danica, I like it.  The yellow is much more subdued, giving it an overall better appearance.  Also the orange and black stripes at the bottom give it a bolder look as well.  The numbers need work though, as the generic racing font doesn’t do the car any favors.  Final Grade: B+

Tony Stewart  Both of Tony Stewart’s paint schemes leave something to be desired.  The Bass Pro Shop scheme is the better of the two.  The total lack of white on the Bass Pro Shop scheme give the car a good look, and the stripes give a cleaner line.  The orange on the bottom needs to be a little darker, but it;s a great scheme.  Mobil 1 on the other hand has too much white, an awful set of stripes that seem to be non-sequitur with each other.  The overall color scheme is all over the place and is very confusing to look at.  In addition, the white on the back doesn’t help.  Final Grade: C+

Jeff Gordon Are you kidding?  Black flames on a car that is totally black outline in blue?  Pepsi has a great shade of blue and a great logo and yet they manage to screw it up by trying the Pepsi Max design to be edgy.  I’m a fan of black cars, but this just falls flat. Final Grade: C- 

Kevin Harvick  Ok, let’s make this clear:  This is what a Budweiser scheme should look like, this is not.  This is one of my favorite schemes so far, it looks like a Budweiser car should look like, so my Final Grade: A

Jeff Burton From what I’ve seen the Cat car looks about the same as it did last year which is actually a good thing, because the scheme is solid, has good colors, great number designs and a good pattern used.  Final Grade: A

Juan Pablo Montoya Great color, great number design, and the pattern used is a lot more sublte than last year’s scheme.  The quarter-panels have too many associate sponsors and looks too cluttered, keeping the Final Grade at a B.

Jimmie Johnson  Less is more and this paint scheme proves that.  The Z-28 stripes, good color scheme, and clean design gives the Lowes car a simple yet elegant design that just works.  The Jimmie Johnson Foundation scheme is a little cluttered, but it still works.  Final Grade: A

Dale Earnhardt Jr.  The Diet Dew scheme isn’t great, the design is pointlessly complex, and the red on green number design is just brutal.  If you look at this picture of the National Guard scheme you will see that one of the major changes to Chevy’s driver suits is the full Chevy logo, as opposed to just a red bow tie like last year.  This design was used in IndyCar last year and looks better than the old design.

Moving on to Ford…

Brad Keselowski  The scheme is decent, but the dark red lettering on the dark blue background is very hard to see.  Miller needs to rethink that part of the design, but other than that it’s a good scheme…though I still miss the beer-colored wheels from last year!  Final Grade is a C

Marcos Ambrose  Is it normal to get seasick while looking at a paint scheme?  The Petty Blue just does not work here, and the oval around the letters is pointless.  The car looks awful even though it has a great color scheme and great sponsor logos.  Final Grade: D

Greg Biffle  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, so I’ll give it a C

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  The Best Buy scheme looks good.  The number design, color scheme, and simplistic design give the car a good look.  The Zest scheme on the other hand has an awful scheme, and like Kasey Kahne’s scheme, has too many light colors and not enough dark to make the scheme work.  The Final grade is a C overall, an A for Best Buy and a D for Zest.

Trevor Bayne Timeless, plain and simple.  This scheme works well, and if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  Final Grade: A

Joey Logano This scheme could very easily be mistaken for McDonald’s.  The red wheels don’t do it any favors, and the Penzoil scheme is too simplistic.  Sometimes less is more when it comes to car design.  Final grade: D-

Carl Edwards  The stripes work well here, and the color scheme is good.  Unlike the Zest scheme, this scheme uses enough dark blue to make it work.  The UPS scheme however is a disaster.  The dark brown really works, but the various shades of gold, orange and red make the design look like a sad rainbow.  The white numbers don’t help that much either.  Final Grade is a C, A for Fastenal, D for UPS

And finally a look at Toyota’s schemes thusfar

Matt Kensith  This Dollar General scheme could be good if some of the black stripes go, and what is up with the DG design on the bottom of the quarter-panels?  The yellow-to-orange fade on the back doesn’t work either.  Final Grade: D

Clint Bowyer  The dual blue and white scheme is popular this year, and this scheme is one example.  The basic design would work better without some of the stripes on the front.  Otherwise it’s a solid scheme with a B grade.

and last but not least, Martin Truex Jr.  Simple, elegant with a great color scheme, great logos and great number design.  Final Grade: A

I will add more input when more schemes are released.