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.

Advertisements

Every Great Outfit Needs Gloves and Shoes to Match!

10-riggsshoes - CopyBy David G. Firestone

Since the fire risk in racing is as high as it is, it makes sense that driver uniform includes fire retardant shoes and gloves to go along with it. Although they are frequently overlooked by many fans, they are just as critical to driver safety and comfort as the suit and helmet. Gloves and shoes have, like the suit and helmet, become fashion forward in recent years.

Let’s look at the gloves first. Gloves in racing are typically made of multiple layers of Nomex, and feature a textured layer on the palm, which is designed to help the driver grip the steering wheel. Gloves may be waterproofed for open cockpit racing, where rain and other inclement weather may not impede the race. The gloves give the same amount of protection that the suit does, roughly 30 seconds, and are certified by FIA and SFI. This example, worn by Hut Stricklin in 2000 shows the basics..90-stricklingloves

 

The textured palm…90-stricklingloves-rglovb 90-stricklingloves-gloveb

 

The thickness…90-stricklingloves-rsize 90-stricklingloves-lsize

 

as well as the liability tag and the safety certification…90-stricklingloves-ltag 90-stricklingloves-rtag

As I mentioned above, gloves have evolved to be more visible on in-car cameras. These examples, worn by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson show how these new customizations can take a simple safety equipment item, and add some visual appeal to it. A search on eBay reveals that these items do wind up for sale after they are used.

Next, let’s discuss the shoes.

Shoes are as important as gloves in terms of fire protection. Those 30 seconds of fire protection are critical for the driver to get out of a burning car. The basic design of the shoes are meant to help the driver, well, drive. Some drivers in years past have opted for nontraditional racing shoes, such as Dave Marcus who was well-known for wearing wingtips while racing.

Typical racing shoes consist of a rubber, fire retardant sole, with triple-layer Nomex material covering the foot. The tongue, and shoe laces are fire retardant as well. Velcro straps are frequently employed to secure the shoe as extra protection. Let’s look at a race-worn pair, this pair worn by Scott Riggs in the early 2000’s.10-riggsshoes

These shoes show the sole design,10-riggsshoes-bottom

Main design, with the reflective layer adding some extra protection…10-riggsshoes-rshoe2 10-riggsshoes-rshoe1 10-riggsshoes-lshoe2 10-riggsshoes-lsig

and thickness…10-riggsshoes-ltop

 

While the design of the gloves are fashion forward, the shoes are more utilitarian than anything else. But they do wind up on eBay sometimes…

Jamie McMurray #1 Bell Helicopters Chevy SS Love the simplicity in the design and color scheme, as well as Bell’s great logo! It is simple, yet elegant, and earns an A grade

Kasey Kahne #5 Farmer’s Insurance 85th Anniversary Chevy SS It’s amazing how a color change can affect a scheme. I graded the standard scheme at a D+ earlier this year, and with the black red and tan color change it takes it from a D+ to an A-. Notice that there is no real difference between the two schemes except the colors and the new one is so much better!

Kevin Harvick #29 Bad Boy Buggies Chevy SS I like this scheme for the same reasons as the Jamie McMurray Bell scheme, and it gets the same A grade!

David Stremme #30 Window Wax Toyota Camry  The best way I can describe this scheme is that there is nothing good about it.  Anything they could have messed up with this scheme, they did.  It gets an F-

David Stremme #30 Lean 1 Toyota Camry See Above

Landon Cassill #33 Justin Workboots Chevy SS I like the design scheme except for the primary sponsor logo is a completly different color than the rest of the car.  The thing is that the two color schemes work very well by themselves, but the combo of the two just makes no sense.  It takes an A scheme and brings it down to a C…PICK A COLOR SCHEME!