Every summer, I make a pilgrimage to two places, Jim’s Original and The O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. This last week, I did both. Jim’s Original is still good, and the Route 66 Nationals are always fun. This year, I went on Saturday and Sunday. Normally I would only go on Saturday, but this year I decided to double the fun. I went with Argie, a friend from work, and I spent Saturday watching racing and wandering through the pits. NHRA tickets promise that “every ticket is a pit pass” and trust me, they more than live up to that claim. You can walk around the pits and watch as the teams setup cars before races and fix cars after races. The wear and tear on nitro cars is such that the entire engine has to be disassembled, repaired, and reassembled between races, sometimes in as little as 45 minutes. Needless to say, speed is paramount.I had been fortunate enough to get a pass to the Don Schumacher Racing hospitality tent. This not only got me the tickets, but also a chance to meet Tony Schumacher, and Ron Capps. I came into the tent a little later than normal, and I got to listen Tony talk to the crowd, and take questions. I got a chance to ask him something that I have always wanted to ask a driver… “What is the weirdest thing you have ever autographed?” Having done autograph signings since I was 5, I’ve seen a lot of odd stuff get autographed over the years, and I was interested in the answer. He responded that he has signed a lot of body parts, arms, legs, etc, and that his wife hates that.
A few minutes later, he mentioned that he wears a 5-layer firesuit, as well as two additional layers of fire protection. That adds up to a total of 7 layers. Most NASCAR suits make up 3 layers, with an additional layer underneath. Nomex is not a lightweight material, and on days like Saturday, when it was 88 degrees outside, that can get very uncomfortable. He is also credited with the aforementioned canopy to Top Fuel dragsters.
One thing I love to do is to buy race-used equipment from dragsters, and I did so this year as well. I bought a couple of valves from Tasca Racing, one large,and one small,Both show tremendous use, and have chips missing from them. Valves like these are used for one race and then replaced. The wear they go through for one run is very evident.
It just wouldn’t be a race for me without getting some autographs. I bought a Ron Capps funny car die cast, and had his sign it in person, and it looks really good. I had a pair of gloves I wanted to get signed, and I did, by Tommy Johnson Jr. My favorite item it this brightly painted helmet. It was signed by Robby Gordon when I bought it, and I got it signed by Clay Millian, Terry McMillen, Tony Schmacher, Tommy Johnson Jr.,Ron Capps, and the legendary Shirley Muldowney.
One thing I didn’t do as much this year was take pictures. I did take some, but not as many as last year. I did make a number of videos, as shown below.
That’s all for this week, I’ll return next week with a set of paint scheme reviews, and believe me, there are a lot of them! Hope you are all having a fun summer! Happy Belated Canada Day for our friends up North, Happy Fourth of July to my readers in the USA, and to everyone else, See you soon!
While the bulk of The Driver Suit Blog is devoted to NASCAR, which, admittedly is my favorite form of auto racing, I do follow other forms of racing, and collect items from many different forms of racing. I am a fan of NHRA drag racing, and I attend races when I can. I have a decent collection of NHRA memorabilia, so this week, I’m gonna show some love for drag racing.
First, let’s get some factual history out of the way. Founded in 1951 by Wally Parks, the National Hot Rod Association or NHRA was created to act as a governing body for the sport of drag racing. Parks had previously founded Motor Trend and Hot Rod magazines, and was a racing enthusiast . The NHRA has 80,000 members, 95% of which are non-professional drivers. While there are hundreds of drag racing classes, The three most popular and well-known are top fuel, funny cars and pro stocks.
Top fuel dragsters are 25 feet long, have the engine mounted behind the driver to provide weight to the rear tires, which are 36 inches high by 17 inches wide. They run on a 90/10 fuel mix, 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol.Funny cars are designed with a frame, engine, suspension and cockpit with a fiberglass body that raises up to allow access to the car. The name “funny car” came to be because the early models in the 1960’s had the rear wheel base moved forward, and huge rear tires. They didn’t look “stock” so they were called “funny.”Pro stocks are an interesting design. Whereas top fuel and funny cars use nitro burning supercharged V8’s, by rule, pro stocks can’t use superchargers, turbochargers, or nitrous oxide. They also run on 118 octane racing fuel. Little consideration is given aerodynamically, and the cars can be hard to handle.
In regards to race-used equipment, I have this 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. 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.
One thing I wanted was a race-used piston. I recently got one, but it is in two different pieces. The piston rod itself was used and autographed by top fuel driver Bob Vandergriff, and the piston head was used and autographed by Brandon Bernstein, son of drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein. The piston head is 3 inches in diameter, and the piston rod is almost a foot long!
One of the more oddball items I have is this 1987 Budweiser/NHRA driver suit. Here is what I can say definitively about this suit: It was made in 1987, shows a lot of use, is not safety certified, and shows the Simpson open-wheel tag. Other than that, I don’t know much about this suit and I’m still working on it. Now we move on to die-casts. In my die cast article, I mentioned that I have a 1:32 Cruz Pedregon 1998 die cast from his days with Joe Gibbs Racing.
During my recent vacation, I found myself at a baseball card store. I bought a bunch of NASCAR die casts, as well as a Darrell Alderman 1:24 pro stock from 1997, where the doors open, and the hood comes off. Also from 1997, this Tony Pedregon 1:24 funny car die cast, with a body that is removable My personal favorite die cast is this Bob Vandergriff 1:24 top fuel die cast.
Now we move from NHRA to NASCAR with…
PAINT SCHEME REVIEWS
Jamie McMurray #1 Cessna Chevy SS Not the worst patriotic scheme I have seen, but it it a bit overdone. Giving it a C+
Kevin Harvick #4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevy SS It’s a bit overdesigned, but the green looks good(I hate most shades of green used in NASCAR) and it earns a C
Danica Patrick # 10 GoDaddy Chevy SS I didn’t think this was possible, but they took one of the ugliest schemes in racing and found a way to make it worse…the hood speaks for itself, and it says “I’m getting an F-!”
Greg Biffle 3M Window Film Ford Fusion What in the blue Hell is going on here? This is the worst Greg Biffle scheme I have seen this year and considering how bad his schemes have been that is saying a lot. F-
Travis Kvapil #32 Keen Parts Ford Fusion Awful color scheme, and the goofy pyscadelic side design just looks awful. I’m also laughing at corvetteparts.net painted on the side of a FORD! F-
David Ragan #34 KFC Ford Fusion Great color choice, smooth look, great all around design, I will give them an A+
Landon Cassill #40 Atlantic Plumbing and Utilities Chevy SS Good color scheme, and the simple yet attractive design works well. A
Kurt Busch #41 Haas Made in America Chevy SS When it comes to patriotic schemes, it is hit or miss, and this is a hit. The stars and stripes look good, and the overall design is solid enough to earn an A.
Josh Wise #98 DogeCoin Ford Fusion Such colors! Very design! So good! A+
Before I go I need to cover an update to a story I discussed last week. I had discussed Swan Racing going under due to lack of sponsorship. I did not get a chance to discuss that Swan Racing has gone under, but the two cars, #26 and #30 have found new homes. BK Racing is now the new home for the #26, and XXXtreme Motorsports is home for the #30, though it will change to #44, and keep the current owner points. It is always sad when a team has to close, but at least the equipment did not go to waste. Sadly, Parker Kligerman is now out of a ride for the foreseeable future.
I 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, to super stocks,to funny cars, The 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.I also checked out the tires on these cars, and man, they are huge! They look like they are twice the size of NASCAR tires.Speaking 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! They even had a jet dragster, but I didn’t get to see it on the track…oh well.One 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. Impact 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. Many 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.
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.
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,and 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!
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:THE 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!