By David G. Firestone
I was going to finish this at the end of the year. I wanted to do a list of driver suit manufactures in NASCAR, the NHRA, F1, and IndyCar. Then, this last week, Paul Lukas wrote an interesting article for his ESPN page about what he has termed “logo creep.” Logo creep is when the uniform manufacturer places a small logo on said uniform in such a way that it’s clear to anyone watching the game who made the uniform.
When it comes to auto racing, the logo creep has been a part of the uniform since the 1960’s. At the tail end of 1966, Nomex was becoming the go-to material for driver suits, and the suit manufacturers wanted to put their logos on drivers, since that would increase sales. This usually was in the form of a small patch on the sleeve. This was the standard design for decades, then the shoulder epaulet became a prime spot for a sponsor logo, and that’s when driver suit manufacturers realized that they could add their logos to the epaulet. Which is the current design used today.
I’ve compiled a list of drivers in NASCAR, IndyCar, The NHRA, and Formula One, and I’m going to list them by suit manufacturer. I will also add information about the manufacturer.
You wouldn’t expect Adidas to make firesuits, but they have a racing lineage going back to 1974. According to raceboot.com: “Adi Dassler developed the very first “fireproof” race boot in 1974. Legend has it that Adi acquired a Brabham Formula 1 racing car to understand the environment in which a racing driver operates. He placed the experimental shoes in the foot well of the racing car and then set fire to it. The exercise was repeated more then 30 times to identify weaknesses and make improvements to his race boots.
During the late 1970s through to the early 90s, the Monza become the most successful race boot produced by Adidas to date . Indeed it was the choice of champions including Mario Andretti, Walter Röhrl, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.” They have also had Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski wearing Adidas branded uniform products, though at least one of Junior’s driver suits was actually made by Simpson.
The latest trend in auto racing uniforms is athletic apparel companies making auto racing uniforms. Adidas was ahead of the curve on this. It’s also interesting to note that Adi Dassler founded Adidas in Germany after a family feud which led to his older brother Rudolph leaving to found Puma in 1978. We’ll cover Puma in a few minutes.
Something that’s going to come up multiple times is how many athletic show companies that make driver suits don’t sell manufacturer direct, choosing instead to sell via third party sites. Raceboot.com is the Adidas site, and they have a lot of interesting driver uniform information. It’s worth a read.
Adidas likes to use what can be described as a strapless epaulet. There are sponsor logos in place, but no visible strap. The logo creep is in the standard place.
I’ve added the asterisk, since I have not been able to figure out if Denny’s suit is actually made by Nike, or if, like the Earnhardt suit above, it’s made by someone else, and branded as Air Jordan. I’m thinking it may be made by Simpson, for two reasons. First, the Earnhardt suit above is made by Simpson, and branded as Adidas. Second, after some looking, I’ve been able to determine that Denny’s pit crew is wearing Simpson branded suits. Furthermore, the theory that it’s a Simpson made suit makes sense, since unlike every other manufacturer, Nike doesn’t sell firesuits or auto racing gear in any capacity. Taking all of this into consideration, I’m going to say it’s most likely a Simpson made suit with Air Jordan branding.
The shoulder epaulets are standard strap design, but with no loops on the end of the epaulet, near where the arm gusset is. The logo is, instead, sewn directly into the suit, just next to the armpit.
Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen, Felipe Massa, Jolyon Palmer, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz Jr
Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Danica Patrick
Alpinestars started as a ski boot maker in 1963, but quickly realized that it would be better and more profitable to make motorcycle racing boots. After a series of successful riders had a lot of decent success in Alpinestars boots, the company shifted focus to making motorcycle racing gear. Eventually, they shifted to more forms of auto racing, including Formula One, NASCAR, and IndyCar in the late 2000’s.
Like Adidas, Alpinestars is very big on using strapless epaulets. The strap used to have some function, in that it was supposed to be used to pull an incapacitated driver out of a burning car. With the new safety features in race-cars, this risk has been significantly decreased over the years, so now epaulets are more aesthetic than functional.
Sage Karam, Carlos Munoz
Landon Cassill, Reed Sorenson, Martin Truex Jr., Josh Wise
Jack Beckman, Antron Brown, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr., Shawn Langdon, Leah Pritchett, Tony Schumacher,
Founded by Bill Simpson after leaving Simpson Race Products following Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death in 2001, Impact has had a decent amount of drivers wearing their products. Their logo creep consists of a small logo beneath the shoulder epaulet, and a reverse Z logo on the sleeve.
Like Air Jordan, I’m not convinced it’s made by Kappa, but more likely a Simpson made suit with a Kappa branding. In this case, they don’t have their logo anywhere on the shoulders, but rather on the front, and on the neck.
Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr
Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Spencer Pigot
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Based in Genoa, Italy, OMP has been in the auto racing uniform business since 1973, having had many Formula One legends run OMP suits. It took some time for OMP to make it into American auto racing, but OMP has somewhat of a foothold in the American auto racing market. OMP uses a somewhat larger epaulet, with the logo creep designed similarly to Impact.
Lewis Hamilton, Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel
Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano
Unlike their rivals Adidas, Puma didn’t really didn’t get into the auto racing uniform market until very recently. As could be expected for a German-based team, Puma started with Formula one, and then branched out. Their logo creep is similar to Denny Hamlin’s Air Jordan suit, with the Puma logo sewn directly into the suit, instead of the epaulet. It is a simple, smooth look. I do miss the curve designs that Puma used in 2014.
Like Adidas, Puma won’t direly sell to customers, rather, they prefer to use third party websites to sell their racing gear. I’m not against that, but it doesn’t exactly send a message of confidence that you can go to Puma’s website, and buy any of their products except their auto racing gear.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS
Michael Annett, Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, Alex Bowman, Jeb Burton, Matt DiBenedetto, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, David Ragan, Tony Stewart, Cole Whitt, JJ Yeley
Brittany Force, Courtney Force, John Force, Robert Hight, Tim Wilkerson
Once the king of American auto racing uniforms, Simpson Race Products has lost a lot of their relevancy in recent years, as most of the new manufacturers enter the American market. Simpson is credited with introducing Nomex to driver suits in 1966. Their logo creep is interesting, in that they use two different logos. The older box Simpson logo is still used on the T epaulets, and on some of the newer strapless epaulets. The newer Simpson S logo is used on the strapless epaulets as well. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency between what logos are used where. I’m also noticing that unlike the other manufacturers, Simpson uses a variety of different epaulet designs as well.
Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Rio Haryanto, Pascal Wehrlein
Mikhail Aleshin, Sebastien Bourdais, Matt Brabham, Max Chilton, Scott Dixon, Jack Hawksworth, James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal
AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Brian Scott
Clearly the most popular driver suit manufacturer in the big leagues of auto racing, Sparco has been in the game since 1977. First introduced to NASCAR in 2004 by Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton, Sparco has consistently grown in both driver popularity, and expose. Sparco has used the T-shaped epaulets since the beginning, and the Sparco logo is on the front of the epaulet, next to the armpit. Their Formula One suits eschew the shoulder logos, instead choosing to place them on the legs.
Alexis DeJoria, Richie Crampton, Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas, JR Todd, Steve Torrence, Del Worsham,
Based in Dijon, France, Stand 21 was founded in 1970 by Yves Morizot. They are one of the larger custom-made suit makers in the world. Though their biggest customers are in the NHRA as of right now, they are still very well-known. They prefer to use a strapless epaulet, and a 21 logo on the shoulder epaulets.
I’ve also begun to notice a new trend in the big leagues of auto racing. Formula One aside, more and more teams are beginning to let drivers pick which driver suit manufacturer to wear. While the drivers get to choose, pit crews are assigned a specific manufacturer for their pit crew suits. Since crew members can get rotated from one team to another, this makes logistical sense.
It does seem that epaulet designs and logo creep are evolving at a much quicker pace than years back. I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for auto racing logo creep.