Special paint schemes on racing cars
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Special paint schemes are one-time or limited time variations on a race car's typical appearance. Their use has historically been largely confined to NASCAR stock car racing, partially due to the much larger surface area of a stock car, and longer season, but have entered the IndyCar in a limited fashion. NASCAR's increased media coverage has contributed to their popularity with both fans and sponsors.
However, some sponsors and die-cast makers have advanced the promotion to other codes of motorsport, as Red Bull Racing had a Star Wars paint scheme to promote Revenge of the Sith in Formula One and a similar Superman one to promote Superman Returns. Panther Racing in the Indy Racing League ran a Pennzoil Platinum paint scheme at selected 2005 IRL events instead of the normal yellow design.
- 1 History
- 2 Popular themes
- 3 Movie themes
- 4 Throwback themes
- 5 Military paint schemes
- 6 Differences between special and alternating paint schemes
- 7 IndyCar Series
- 8 Art cars
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
1991 Daytona 500: Winston Salutes the Troops
Special paint schemes in NASCAR date back to the 1991 Daytona 500. As part of an R. J. Reynolds promotion, five unsponsored drivers had paint schemes on their cars that paid tribute to the branches of the United States Armed Forces serving in Operation Desert Storm:
- No. 7: Alan Kulwicki – Army
- No. 18: Greg Sacks – Navy
- No. 24: Mickey Gibbs – Air Force
- No. 71: Dave Marcis – Coast Guard
- No. 88: Buddy Baker – Marines
Dale Earnhardt's "Silverwrench"
Alternate paint schemes truly gained notoriety in 1995, when Dale Earnhardt appeared at The Winston with a silver car (in tribute to Winston's silver anniversary) instead of his traditional black car. The car was nicknamed "Silverwrench" or "Silver Select". A year later, Earnhardt continued the trend at the 1996 running of The Winston with an 1996 Atlanta Olympics themed car.
Fan reaction to the paint schemes proved popular such that by the end of the decade, scarcely a race went by without one or more drivers sporting a special paint scheme. Often one-week special sponsorship deals were involved in the schemes, and other times existing sponsors chose to promote alternate products within the firm. Examples of one-week deals include promoting first run films coinciding with the particular race weekend, and promoting other simultaneous events (such as the Olympics).
Often several drivers sported related paint schemes simultaneously.
Custom paint schemes frequently feature special events, and often include the following:
- An associate sponsor becomes the primary sponsor for selected races.
- Often, if that associate sponsor is sponsoring the race, they will have primary sponsorship for that race.
- Sports teams (especially during special promotions)
- During the 2001 MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400, the MBNA-sponsored No. 18 driven by Bobby Labonte drove a special Ripken-themed Pontiac Grand Prix. The Baltimore Orioles game that night was scheduled as Ripken's last home game until games were rescheduled because of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Ripken was grand marshal, started the race, and the race winner was to attend that game.
- At the 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300, Carl Edwards used a Boston Red Sox-based car in celebration of Jack Roush partnering with Fenway Sports Group, headquartered in New England. The next year, David Ragan had a Bosox-based car.
- InBev, the sponsor of the George Gillett-owned No. 9 Ford Fusion driven by Kasey Kahne, fielded a white car with a mountainous motif featuring the Olympic rings as part of the Belgian brewer's sponsorship of the United States Olympic team at the 2010 Winter Olympics. This paint scheme was used only for the races that were held during the length of the Olympic Games.
- During the 2010 All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran a special paint scheme featuring the JR Foundation Logo on the hood, to commemorate this occasion. The design was reintroduced for the 2012 All-Star race.
- The Home Depot often fielded a Kaboom-themed car for Joey Logano and Tony Stewart during their tenures with Joe Gibbs Racing.
- Lowe's fields a "Power of Pride" car with the USO as a benefactor.
- Dale Jarrett raced a "reverse" paint scheme in 1999 where his entire car's colour scheme was reversed for breast cancer research.
- Cartoon Characters
- Rock Bands
- During the time that Chevrolet sponsored the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, some of the cars featured paint schemes based on popular rock bands.
- 3 Doors Down has also been featured on several NASCAR cars before with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008 for the NASCAR Sprint All Star Race and Tony Stewart in the Nationwide Series in 2003 for a race at Michigan International Speedway.
The use of movie-themed cars is viewed as being perfectly suited to promotion through the use of special paint schemes due to the short-term nature of a movie's box office run.
Often, a sponsor is involved in a movie, and to promote the movie, they will deal with the movie producers to have their car painted to reflect the movie. Other times, a film studio will work with a driver to have the movie theme.
List of notable movie themes
- The Passion of the Christ: An advertisement for this movie was placed on the hood of Bobby Labonte's car at the 2004 Daytona 500
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: Special paint scheme was driven once by Jamie McMurray
- Shrek (2, and The Third): For the former, special paint schemes were driven by Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart at the 2004 Coca-Cola 600. For Shrek the Third, special paint schemes were used in 2007 by David Gilliland and Tony Raines.
- Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie: Jimmie Johnson & Kyle Busch drove this scheme in a fall Busch race at Lowe's in 2004.
- I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: Kasey Kahne in the 2007 Pepsi 400
- Batman Forever: Bill Elliott drove such a promotion paint job in 1995.
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park: Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart at several 2001 races, as well as Jeff Gordon in the 1997 All-Star Race. Gordon's 1997 All-Star Race winner is known as "T-Rex" that dominated the race and was effectively banned by NASCAR afterwards.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (NASCAR and IRL special paint schemes)
- Click: Driven by Kasey Kahne to victory at Michigan in 2006.
- Herbie Fully Loaded: Special paint scheme was driven by Dale Jarrett in 2005 at Infineon.
- The Dark Knight Rises: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove and won the 2012 Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan in a car painted to promote The Dark Knight Rises.
- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith: This promotional paint job was used by Jeff Gordon at the 2005 Aaron's 499 at Talladega, which he won.
- Minions (film): In the 2015 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, Carl Edwards drove the paint scheme to promote the Despicable Me spinoff movie.
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: In the 2016 Auto Club 400, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Batman) and Jimmie Johnson (Superman) drive specially themed cars. Johnson won with his Superman theme.
Following trends in other sports, "throwback" paint schemes have also gained popularity in recent years, celebrating past accomplishments of well-known drivers.
List of notable throwback themes
- Harry Gant
- For the 1994 Hooters 500, his final race, the car was based on a 1981 paint scheme with Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham.
- Darrell Waltrip
- To celebrate 25 years since his first Winston Cup race (1972), during the 1997 season, he had cars painted to resemble different cars during his career. A special chrome car was also designed.
- Has been the subject of various throwback designs by various teams, most notably Hendrick Motorsports (the team where he won his Daytona 500), though none of the Hendrick throwbacks reflected on his time at Hendrick.
- Jeff Gordon
- In celebrating his distinguished career at Sprint All-Star Race XX, his car was painted to resemble the 1992–2000 original DuPont "Rainbow Warriors," complete with the DuPont logo and "Automotive Finishes" on the side of the car, instead of the "DUPONT" design on the sides. Axalta, the successor company to DuPont Performance Coatings (spun off in 2013), ran the same 1992-2000 livery with the current Axalta logo and text on the cars at the 2015 Irwin Tools Night Race for his final full-time season. (Gordon came out of retirement in July 2016 as a reserve driver for Hendrick Motorsports.) 
- To celebrate the debut of Pepsi Throwback, Gordon drove in a replica of Waltrip's 1983 "Pepsi Challenger" at the 2009 Aaron's 499, which was involved in an early crash on lap 8. Ironically, Waltrip did not drive the Pepsi Challenger design at that race in 1983.
- At the 2016 Darlington race, he drove a Buddy Baker "Grey Ghost" scheme.
- During Rusty Wallace's "Last Call" tour in 2005, one of his cars featured the 1991–1995 Miller Genuine Draft black and gold paint scheme, complete with graphics replete of that era.
- At the 2015 Pure Michigan 400, Team Penske had Brad Keselowski, who now drove the Miller Lite Ford, drive the car in the Miller Genuine Draft livery as part of the 25 years of Miller and Penske celebration.
- At the Rebel 500 weeks later, Keselowski's car reflected the 1983 Miller High Life Bobby Allison livery from the Southern 500 win (the last Labor Day race) and the ensuing Championship season.
- Mark Martin
- During the 2005 "Salute to You" tour, cars were painted to reflect various stages of Martin's career.
- Roush Fenway Racing has used various liveries inspired by Martin's career.
- Chevron Corporation
- Prior to pulling out in 2007, Chevron's Texaco Havoline brand had featured special schemes to celebrate the brand's past. Their most notable special scheme was the 1987 Ranier-Lundy "Battlestar" scheme of the late Davey Allison, which debuted at the 1997 Coca-Cola 600 and was later used in the DieHard 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway.
- Mountain Dew
- The 1981–82 Mountain Dew Championship Seasons of Darrell Waltrip has been used at various times for Hendrick Motorsports liveries in Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series cars.
- Richard Childress Racing
- During the 2004 UAW-GM Quality 500, to celebrate 35 years of Richard Childress Racing, the team ran three throwback schemes, with designs based on Childress schemes from the team's first win in 1983, the team's famed 1987 championship, and 1995 silver car).
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
- Earnhardt raced two throwbacks in 2006, one dedicated to his father, using a black paint scheme reminiscent of his father's Busch cars, and a second using a cream-colored design, similar to his late grandfather Ralph's 1956 Sportsman championship. That car has authentic-looking "#8" graphics from 1956, and Dale Jr's sponsor Budweiser added 1956-era Budweiser logos.
- During Sprint All-Star Race XXIV, Earnhardt raced a car painted similar to Buddy Baker's "Grey Ghost" Oldsmobile 442 that won the 1980 Daytona 500 and set a race record that still stands.
- Various regular schemes during Earnhardt's career at Hendrick Motorsports have influence from past cars. A later-era Baker Oldsmobile 88 scheme (Crisco) was flipped for his 2014-15 Nationwide livery, while the vertical stripes on a 1981 Wrangler scheme from his father are featured in the Windows 10 design in 2015. TaxSlayer (his father's Wrangler, 1986-87) and Axalta (Xfinity Oreo) all will have influence from past cars in 2016.
- During the August 2007 Nextel Cup weekend at Michigan International Speedway, the cars of 11 Team Chevy drivers were decorated with special paint schemes commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Chevrolet. The cars driven by Ward Burton, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Tony Raines, Martin Truex, Jr., Scott Wimmer and J.J. Yeley all sported cues from the '57 Chevy's memorable design while J.J. Yeley's No. 18 Monte Carlo SS displayed a throwback Interstate Batteries logo.
- Darlington Raceway
- The Rebel 500 moved from its traditional spring date to September, where the fall race (the Southern 500; note that the history of the current Darlington race dates to the lineage of the 1957 Rebel 300) was held from 1950-2003 until it moved to November in 2004 and eliminated as a result of the Ferko lawsuit, replaced by the AAA Texas 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway a year. Various teams unveiled throwback and special paint schemes as part of a promotion with the track. The weekend has become an annual throwback weekend.
- Some NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers have had multiple schemes from their career influence multiple drivers in the same race. Two teams -- Wood Brothers (1976 NASCAR season) and Hendrick Motorsports (1979 Talladega 500), for example, in 2016 use David Pearson liveries on their cars.
Response to throwback themes
After Ernie Irvan put the throwback "Battlestar" on the pole at the 1997 DieHard 500, fan reaction forced Robert Yates Racing to consider having the "Battlestar" design at Talladega for the rest of the team's association with Texaco. When Chevron (who had bought Texaco) switched to Chip Ganassi Racing, fan reaction forced the sponsor to revert to the old Yates-era 1994-2000 design after Chevron changed the paint scheme in 2001.
Liz Allison (Davey's widow) told the media in announcing the 2003 Battlestar old fans would be cheering heavily when they see the classic design returning for the race, and warned Ganassi driver Jamie McMurray that if he won the race in the Battlestar, "You better bar the door because the Allisons are taking over. We're really excited and very touched (by Chevron's generosity in remembering a legend)."
Military paint schemes
New variations on the military paint schemes have also been used throughout the years. The United States Army began sponsoring the No. 01 car owned by MB2 Motorsports full-time in 2003. For major anniversaries, the cars used a special camouflage design. The Army then went to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. for two seasons before joining Stewart Haas Racing in 2009 and was the primary sponsor of Ryan Newman's No. 39 until 2012.
Often die-cast replicas of the paint scheme cars are produced for the collector market.
Differences between special and alternating paint schemes
With the economics of the sport dictating higher expenses, some sponsors have decided to share sponsor space with other sponsors, leading to two "regular" designs which alternate, such as Richard Childress Racing, where all three teams have multiple alternating primary sponsors. In 2009, the No. 29 team had Shell and Hershey, while the No. 31 had Caterpillar, AstraZeneca, and Lenox Industrial Tools, and the #07 has Jack Daniel's, DirecTV, and BB&T as their three sponsors. Other sponsors have decided to promote different products with their sponsor dollars, such as Mars (M&M's, Snickers, Skittles, Wrigley's, Pedigree, Banfield Pet Hospitals), Lowe's (two schemes, one standard which can be configured to promote professional services or have the regular logo, and one Kobalt Tools), and Kellogg's with the standard Kellogg's and Cheez-It snacks (a Kellogg's product) schemes, and FedEx, which uses five different schemes with color differences to promote four different brands—Express, Ground, Freight, and Kinko's. (A fifth scheme was used in 2005 at Darlington, and is a special scheme, to promote the St. Jude Hospital they support in Memphis.) Those are not "special" schemes, but are co-primary schemes to promote various products by a sponsor who may be willing to use the broadcasts to promote their wide variety of products.
The sheer number of special paint schemes has led to criticism that they are no longer "special" at all. However, it should be differentiated between alternating sponsors, different products on cars (especially promotions for special products), and the true special paint schemes, which promote special events.
Though not as widespread as NASCAR, cars in the IndyCar Series have also participated in special paint schemes. Most that have been used have featured a "retro" or tribute paint scheme, depicting a notable car from the past. In most cases, the sponsors are not the same but carry the current sponsors' decals on the classic liveries.
- 1987–1991: Vince Granatelli and later UNO/Granatelli entries sported a "throwback" paint scheme which featured a day-glow orange, similar to that of the STP Turbine cars of the late 60s, and other Andy Granatelli entries of the early 1970s.
- 2000 Indianapolis 500: Hometown rookie driver and co-owner Andy Hillenburg fielded a "throwback" entry named the Sumar Special, a gesture to the car driven by Pat O'Connor which won the pole position in 1957.
- 2001 Indianapolis 500: Billy Boat fielded a "throwback" paint scheme that resembled "Calhoun," the car driven by 1962 pole position winner Parnelli Jones. Boat's car was nicknamed "Calhoun II."
- 2007 Indianapolis 500: Ryan Briscoe's entry at Luczo Dragon Racing was painted in a "retro" paint schemes to resemble Rick Mears' 1988 Indy 500 winning car. It was the first of a small trend of similar instances.
- 2008 Indianapolis 500: Marco Andretti's car was painted to promote the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and his racing suit was designed to resemble Indiana Jones's outfit.
- 2009 Indianapolis 500: Rahal Letterman Racing's DAFCA Special for driver Oriol Servià was painted to resemble Dan Gurney's 1968 Olsonite Eagle, which finished second in the 1968 Indianapolis 500.
- 2009 Edmonton Indy: Will Power drove a Penske Racing Verizon entry with the retro Penske Truck Rental paint job, resembling Al Unser's 1987 Indy 500 livery.
- 2010 Cafes do Brasil 300 (Homestead): Sarah Fisher drove in her final INDYCAR race a special Komen pink Dollar General car (as opposed to the normal yellow and black), in a partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to promote Breast Cancer awareness month.
- 2011: Helio Castroneves AAA-sponsored car resembled the classic "Gould Charge" paint scheme fielded by Rick Mears in the early 1980s. It also resembled Paul Tracy's 1992 Mobil 1-sponsored machine.
German manufacturer BMW has a tradition of competing with arts cars which started in the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans. Artists such as David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol have contributed to the project. Other teams have done similar liveries, such as Aston Martin Racing and OAK Racing in the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- Listing with photographs of all special paint schemes used in NASCAR
- Dale Earnhardt Jr Foundation 2010 special paint scheme
- "SPORTS PEOPLE: AUTO RACING; Daytona War Tribute". The New York Times. 1991-02-08. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "1995 Winston Select". The Dale Earnhardt Collection. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "1996 Winston Select". The Dale Earnhardt Collection. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- Petraglia, Mike (2007-06-28). "Edwards to drive Sox-themed car". Boston Red Sox. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- DiMauro, Mike (2008-06-24). "Boston Red Sox to Support David Ragan's Car". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "Budweiser, driver Kasey Kahne to celebrate Team USA with Olympic Paint Scheme". Team USA. 2009-10-16. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
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- "2002 Winston Cup 'MUPPET' Schemes". Jayski's Silly Season Site. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
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- Glenesk, Matthew (2011-07-26). "3 Doors Down guitarist jams on sports". ESPN. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- Associated Press (2004-02-11). "NASCAR blurs lines between racing and religion". ESPN. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- Glick, Shav (2004-02-12). "A Paint Job With a Purpose". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- Rose, Shannon (2004-02-12). "Bobby Labonte Plans To Ride With `Passion' For The 500". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "Special Paint Schemes". Gordon Online. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- Jenkins, Chris (2004-04-06). "Gordon's car to don rainbow colors for all-star race". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- Iacobelli, Pete (August 26, 2015). "Darlington's iconic Southern 500 to feature throwback paint schemes". Kingsport Times-News. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
- "U.S. Army won't return as sponsor for Ryan Newman, Stewart-Haas team". Sporting News. 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "The Sept. 23, 2001 "MBNA Cal Ripken, Jr. 400″ NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race remembered". Dover International Speedway. 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
- "IndyCar Driver Marco Andretti To Run 'Indiana Jones' Livery For Indy 500". PaddockTalk.com. 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2008-05-06.