By David G. Firestone
We are on the eve of the biggest race of the NASCAR calendar. Tomorrow at 1 PM Eastern, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 will begin. The eyes of the racing world center on a 2.5 mile super speedway in Daytona Beach Florida. 43 drivers will start the race at 1:20 ET, which will run for 200 laps, covering 500 miles.
NASCAR has implemented an aerodynamic design for restrictor plate super speedway cars, which makes it next to impossible for cars to race in a 2-car tandem, but very easy for cars to draft in packs. Personally, I liked the 2-car tandems, the high speeds and many lead changes make for an exciting race, but I am in the minority. Because of the high speeds and pack racing, there is always the threat of a large multi-car wreck referred to as “The Big One.” There is a great chance that this can happen on the final lap, as all drivers on the lead lap can win the race in this last lap. A last lap wreck in 2001 took the life of 7 time Champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. which lead to a new set of safety rules which have saved lives across the whole of auto racing.
The Daytona 500 is the most prestigious race, and there are many legendary names who have visited victory lane. Including Lee Petty, Junior Johnson, Marvin Panch, Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, Cale Yarborough, Benny Parsons, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Bill Elliot, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Bobby Labonte. There are a number of well-established drivers who never won the 500, including Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, Terry Labonte, Bobby Isaac, Alan Kulwicki, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and Rusty Wallace. Then there are the unlikely winners of the race, including Ernie Irvan, Sterling Marlin, Geoff Bodine, Michael Waltrip, Derrike Cope, Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne.
Chevy has unveiled an SS for the pace car. What I like about it is that it is the same shade of blue that Jimmie Johnson used to win the title last season. It is a great shade of blue to use, and it works very well with the simple design. I also said that about last Saturday’s car…and well…it didn’t go as planned…
The best thing about the Daytona 500 is that unlike most races for the rest of the season, all the drivers bring their A game. I hate start-and-park drivers, and when it comes to the Daytona 500, they don’t show up. All 49 drivers who tried to get it are there to win.
Here is how the drivers will officially start. I will add my paint scheme grade for each driver in order of where they start.
#1 3-Austin Dillon-While I like the color scheme and number and logo designs, the white stripe up the side kills the look. It takes an A scheme to a B+ scheme.
#2 78-Martin Truex Jr.-Nothing wrong with this scheme at all. A+
#3 20-Matt Kenseth-The design still needs some work, however the overall design is improved with the lowering of the shark fin stripes on the bottom of the car. I’ll give it a B
#4 11-Denny Hamlin-Same scheme as last year, same C+ grade.
#5 5-Kasey Kahne-Mediocre color scheme, uninspired overall design, and the huge quarterpanel numbers are awful. C-
#6 24-Jeff Gordon-Great overall design, great color scheme, though the D on the hood reversed to miror the curves of the hood looks odd. Still it’s a good scheme and Ill give it an A
#7 9-Marcos Ambrose-Though a tad over designed, the car does has a clean look, and a great color scheme, so I will give it an A-
#8 41-Kurt Busch-Great design and color scheme, A+
#9 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.-The new metallic numbers work, and the overall design is decent, since it incorporates the design used on the numbers. I’ll give it an B+
#10 27-Paul Menard-The contrasting color schemes just do not work here. It looks like they took a Peak hood, roof and decklid, and placed it on a Menard’s car. I can’t give this scheme a passing grade, so I’ll give it an F
#11 98-Josh Wise-Less is more…a lot more. A+
#12 33-Brian Scott-Though it is a tad overdesigned, the orange works here, and the logos look really good. B+
#13 43-Aric Almirola-Any car that has “Fueled By Bacon” printed on the roof is a winner for sure, and the design and color earn this car an A
#14 21-Trevor Bayne-This scheme makes it very easy to see why it earned the Paint Schemie for Best Paint Scheme Set for 2013, and took the First Ford and First Overall place in the Paint Scheme Leaderboard last year. A+
#15 47-AJ Allmendinger-Though the scheme is the same as last year, JTG Daugherty Racing has switched from Toyota to Chevy this season. That being said, I like this scheme, and I will give it an A
#16 42-Kyle Larson-The scheme looks decent, I like the white on the back, though I do not like the Target logos at the bottom. That takes a scheme that was an A grade to a B-
#17 38-David Gilliland-Good color scheme, decent design, plus unlike David Ragan, the hood decal is in the correct position, A-
#18 40-Landon Cassill-Less is more…a lot more. A+
#19 31-Ryan Newman-New season, new driver, new scheme that looks great and earns an A
#20 15-Clint Bowyer-Same scheme as last year, same B+ grade.
#21 14-Tony Stewart -Same scheme as last year, same C- grade.
#22 1-Jamie McMurray-The design is much smoother than years past, and the new door number looks really good. A
#23 26-Cole Whitt-This is one of the few schemes that has both a classic and modern look at the same time, and paired with a great color scheme, it earns an A
#24 32-Terry Labonte-Grayscale…very bland…will give it a C+
#25 16-Greg Biffle-The sides and roof have gotten worse from last year. I have to give it an F in that respect.
#26 52-Bobby Labonte-Good color and design schemes, will give it an A
#27 10-Danica Patrick-Not only does Go Daddy continue to use the worst shade of yellow in NASCAR, they also have given the worst shade of orange a more prominent role in the car. Givng this car an F is a very fair grade.
#28 13-Casey Mears-The yellowish green they use is awful, and the side design is just too loud, I’ll give it a D
#29 23-Alex Bowman-There are two things that work with this car, first is that the car is designed exactly like the label of a bottle of Dr. Pepper. The other is that #23 represents the 23 flavors that make up Dr. Pepper. Oh and it also has a great color scheme and design and I’ll give it an A
#30 99-Carl Edwards-Same scheme as last year, same A grade
#31 55-Brian Vickers-A good scheme, and the 55 lettering looks really good here, and the gold is a nice touch. A
#32 48-Jimmie Johnson-I have to say it looks amazing, and is an A+ grade
#33 2-Brad Keselowski-Best Throwback scheme of the last 5 years A+
#34 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.-Great Color and design schemes, and it just works. A+
#35 22-Joey Logano-Same scheme as last year, same grade, D
#36 7-Michael Annett-Good color scheme, but the awful template is back for Tommy Baldwin. It is really sad, because this could be a great scheme, but the template takes it from an A to a C-
#37 18-Kyle Busch-I like this, it has a great shade of yellow, hard to find in NASCAR these days, and the peanut motif works very well. It is an original design, and I’ll give it an A
#38 4- Kevin Harvick-Same Scheme as last year, same grade, A
#39 36-Reed Sorenson-This scheme is great, with a great color and simple design schemes, and is amazing to look at. A
#41 30-Parker Kligerman-Mediocre design? Check. Color scheme that makes me want to rip my eyes out? Check. Muppet Rip-off on the hood check. F grade? Check.
#42 66-Michael Waltrip-While I like the field motif, it looks too much like the Windows XP Bliss background for me to take it seriously. I’ll give it a B-
#43 34-David Ragan-What in the hell is going on here? Why is the hood decal upside down? Why in the world would they do that? Were they drunk when they decaled the car? The only thing that I can guess is that it is designed for an in-car camera…but that makes no sense either! F-
I’ll give grades for those who Failed to Qualifty:
35-Eric McClure-Good color scheme, but the car looks over deisgned and it doesn’t look good at all. D+
77-Dave Blaney-I would love for the side design to be more simplified. It is a decent scheme, but the door design is too busy, and it is very distracting. I give this scheme a C-, bad design, good color scheme.
83-Ryan Truex-I would love for the side design to be more simplified. It is a decent scheme, but the door design is too busy, and it is very distracting. I give this scheme a C-, bad design, good color scheme.
87-Joe Nemechek-Not a bad scheme, but not a great scheme. Decent color scheme, uninspired design. C-
93-Morgan Shepherd-The scheme that swept the Paint Scheme Worst awards is back again, and earning an F again!
95-Michael McDowell-Not only is McDowell and Levine Family Racing running a better template this year, the K-Love scheme actually improves on it. I can’t give this scheme anything lower than an A
Tune in to Fox at 1 PM Eastern for the 56th Daytona 500. I will be looking forward to it, and I will enjoy watching it.