The Driver Suit Blog..The SFI and FIA patches…Why they are as critical as they are.

fia 1By David Firestone

Many race fans have seen these small patches on driver suits, and may have wondered what they are. What many do not realize is that these small patches have a very critical role in driver safety. These small patches are the safety certification patches. These small patches state that this uniform part has been examined by one of the two groups, and determined to meet the standards set by the group. For North American made equipment that group is SFI.

sfiAccording to their website, SFI was founded in 1963 as part of Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association or SEMA, as a safety group. Back then, the safety culture wasn’t as rigorous as it is today, and there were not many standards in place. SEMA started the safety certification with SFI or SEMA Foundation, Inc certification. If the equipment didn’t meet SFI standards, the participant could be denied entrance to the event. Eventually, SFI left SEMA and became its own independent group.

Since then, SFI has certified safety equipment, and their certification is the standard in North America. This small patch is usually sewn into the inside wrist area on the left sleeve. This example, from a Terry Labonte suit from 2008, indicates that the suit meets “3.2A/5” standards. According to their site, this certification is standard for driver suits, and this suit would need re-certification in the next 5 years, or 2013. This certification is standard for many NASCAR suits, as shown below.12-stremme-sfi36-said-sfi

10-labonte-sfi 12-miller-sfiFor suits made internationally, the certification comes from a different group, the FIA Institute. Like SFI, the FIA Institute has the exact same goal, to make sure auto racing is safe, and that the equipment that drivers wear is as safe as possible. Unlike SFI however, FIA certification ends up in one of two places, either on the back of the neck,36-barron-neckor inside the belt,

9-kahne-fiaBoth certifications serve the same purpose and both are mandated in racing today. These certifications also appear on driver gloves,90-stricklingloves-ltagand even helmets, usually on the HANS anchormcdonalds-2 - CopyMoving on to more 2013 paint schemes…

Trevor Bayne #6 Valvoline Ford Mustang Love this scheme! This brings back some fond memories of Mark Martin behind the wheel back in the 1990’s. The color and design scheme are amazing, so it gets an A

Regan Smith #7 Tax Slayer/Hellman’s Chevy Camaro Same as the 5 and 88, so nothing really to say here…

Brad Keselowski #22 Hertz Ford Mustang Only Penske can ruin one of the best color schemes with an awful design. Seriously what is the design on the front? It kills this scheme. Final Grade: D

Travis Pastrana #60 Ford Mustang What the Hell? Did Lisa Frank design this car? I’d love to comment on the color scheme, but just looking at the picture is enough! I didn’t think it was possible to make a scheme worse than the Kyle Bush Sponsafier car, but here we are! Final Grade: F’

By the way, I never thought I would reference Lisa Frank in this blog…

Jamie McMurray #1 Cessna Chevy SS Cessna has figured out the way to a good paint scheme, simple colors and simple design. It works very well and earns an A grade.

Casey Mears #13 Geico Ford Fusion Eww…just eww. The color scheme is dreadfull, and the designs on the side are painful to look at. It passed because of the logo and number design. Final Grade: D-

Kyle Busch #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry Great color scheme, and good basic design, but there is something with this car I find annoying. The driver’s name is on the windshield and above the door, so why is it on the top of the hood? Not just on the top of the hood, but UPSIDE DOWN as well? Seriously? It makes no sense, and takes the final grade down to a B

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The Driver Suit Blog-NASCAR Helmets Over The Years

By David G. Firestonemcconnell-5The 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-5The 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-1This 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.musgrave1The 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 - CopyThese 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 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-

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts on the 2013 Daytona Testing So Far…

This video displays some of the things I have noticed from Preseason Thunder…Aside from the fact that the new cars look good, and that there is still some work to do, here are my thoughts from Preseason Thunder at Daytona…

The roof ads are next to invisible when viewed from the standard TV cameras.  They may look better from in-car cameras, but until I see them, I’ll reserve my judgement…

The radio antennas are much larger than last year, and are much more visible than last year.  This may just be the setup for testing, but it looks really ugly.

The names on the windshield need to be in bigger lettering.  At speed, these names are very hard to read.

It turns out that Ford is running tailpipe decals, but they are much less predominant that their Chevy counterparts.

The yellow Dollar General scheme with the orange Home Depot rear looks much MUCH worse at speed.

Many of the cars are running a matte black design, with numbers and sponsor decals…and it is amazing how this improves the look of many of the cars.

and finally…Daytona has a very nice checkerboard design in the front infield.

Now let’s discuss paint schemes…we have a lot of ground to cover.

Clint Boywer #15 5 Hour Energy Toyota Camry   Basically the same scheme as last year, nothing really wrong, but nothing really right with this scheme…final grade C

Ryan Newman #39 Outback Steakhouse Chevy SS   A decent scheme ruined by a bland color scheme.  The mountain stripes look good, but the beige background just makes it bland.  Is the Australian Outback dealing with smog?  A sky blue would work much better here.   Final Grade: C

Bobby Labonte #47 Bushes Baked Beans/Charter/Clorox/Kingsford/Scott Toyota Camry   The Final Grades for the Bushes, Clorox, Kingsford and Scott schemes are all A…Nothing wrong with them.  The Charter scheme is ruined by a really mediocre color scheme, and earns a C.

Kurt Busch #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevy SS Not much here, but I love the matte black, simple logo and number design and the complete lack of stripes or other designs, and it warrants an A…simple yet elegant.

Moving on to the new schemes in the Nationwide Series

Brian Scott #2 Shore Lodge Chevy Camaro Richard Childress is the only owner who can use the black/white/silver combo effectivey, which is what this scheme does. The stripe pattern needs work, but the logos are very visible, and the lettering is good.  Final Grade B+

Elliot Sadler #11 One Main Financial Toyota Camry Great color scheme, logo, number design, and all-around simple yet bold paint scheme that earns a final grade of an A

Eric McClure #14 Hefty Toyota Camry  Not a big fan of this color scheme. The stripes on the quarter panels are dreadful. The numbers and logos are good, and boost the scheme to a C grade.

The Driver Suit Blog-The Epaulet…What It Was, and What It Is

12-miller-rshoulder - CopyThe mighty epaulet, every racing fan has seen them, but few understand what they are for. They are now mostly for fashion and sponsor exposure, but epaulets have a more interesting history than one might think.12-miller-lshoulderBack in the 1950′s and 60′s, racing suits were supposed to provide fire protection, but early versions of the suit were very unreliable. Many drivers perished in fires, and sometimes, drivers were trapped within the car, unable to escape the raging inferno within their car. The solution? The epaulet. Mounted on both shoulders, epaulets were reinforced strips of fabric specifically designed to help pull an injured or unconscious driver from a burning car. Epaulets quickly became an integral part of the driver suit.10-labonte-rshoulder

As racing technology became more advanced, the need for epaulets for safety began to decrease, but this was happening at a time when coverage was increasing and sponsorship was rising. It did not take that long for sponsors to realize that they could slap a logo on the epaulet and get the company name more visible on pictures and TV interviews. As such the epaulet made the successful transition from safety feature to fashion accessory.

10-labonte-lshoulderAs in-car cameras began to become commonplace across racing, epaulets evolved with them. I mentioned in a previous post that Christian Fittipaldi favored epaulet styles used in F1 and IndyCar. When Sparco first came to NASCAR in the early 2000′s, they brought their epaulet style with them, and it quickly became the standard for NASCAR epaulet style. Most driver suits worn in NASCAR today involve some variation of the Sparco epaulet. They have evolved very well over the years, and are a familiar part of the driver suit

Moving on to paint schemes…

First the NASCAR Camping Word Truck Series

Ty Dillon #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevy Silverado Bass Pro Shops has a great scheme this year, both in the Cup series, and this scheme is just good. Nothing wrong, everything right, Final grade: A+

Brendan Gaughn #62 South Point Hotel and Casino Chevy Silverardo This scheme is very simple, and looks really good. The color scheme is solid, and brings back memories of Rusty Wallace driving for Miller Genuine Draft. The lettering is easy to read, and stands out. Final Grade: A

Now on to the Sprint cup Series…

Trevor Bayne #21 Ford Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion I think this is a prototype, but that said, this is still a classic scheme. It has a great color scheme, number design, and is just a solid scheme all around. Final Grade A+

Jeff Burton #31 Cheerios Chevy SS This scheme is rather under designed for my taste. The color scheme is decent, but the gray Cheerio design is hard to see, and looks more like soda carbonation rather than breakfast cereal. Final Grade C+   On a related note some more pics from the Caterpillar scheme have been released, and they are still using the same scheme from last year.  It is pretty good, so my final grade will not change.

Austin Dillon #33 Honey Honey Nut Cheerios Chevy SS Now this is just awful. The color scheme is bad, and the HONEY NUT CHEERIOS lettering is nearly invisible. The bright blue Kroger logo looks out of place, and the tailpipe decals with rookie stripe just takes more away from an already bad scheme. Final Grade F-