The Driver Suit Blog-The End of An Era in Evanston

DSCN0972By David G. Firestone

We all have at least one place that we always remember fondly from our childhood. It could be a restaurant, a park, the home of a close friend, or family member, or a park. We all have at least one, probably many. It is always sad when one of these places goes away. Well this happened to me this last week, when an Evanston institution began the process of moving.

Tom Thumb in Downtown Evanston was a place that I and a number of my friends spent a great deal of our childhood. Some of us were skateboarders, some of us were RC car fanatics, some of us, like me were model builders and die cast collectors. It had been in the same place for 49 years, but they announced that they were going to move after a zoning decision was made to replace the current building with a two-story building for two restaurants. So, on July 12, after 49 years as an Evanston institution, it closed. I went there on the 12, and made, with a heavy heart, my last purchase.photo 2 photo 1This was a sad day because I am a huge NASCAR fan, and for many years, Tom Thumb was the only store in Evanston that sold NASCAR stuff. It was also one of, if not the oldest skate shop in the midwest. I went there, looked around the store where I spend my childhood, took it all in, and bought my last purchase, this 1997 Darrell Waltrip 25th Anniversary set.DSCN0972I bought this for two reasons. The first is that I love this set, I remember many of these schemes from races I watched in 1997. They all look really good, and they bring back memories. The second reason, and I didn’t even think about this until I started doing some work for next week. During my research, I was grumbling about how many different paint schemes each car runs every week, and it dawned on me that this might be the first example of that in the Sprint Cup Series.

You never had this much variety in paint schemes before 1997. Each team ran one scheme for the majority of the season, maybe 2 or 3 different schemes and special schemes for the All-Star race, and possibly the Busch Clash. But Darrell Waltrip ran, in total, 7 different schemes, each based on a specific era in his career. Each had Western Auto Parts America as the primary sponsor, but were based for past sponsors. He started with Gatorade, which he ran for DiGard Motorsports, from 1975-1980. He won two Coca Cola 600’s(1978, 1979) a Winston 500(1977) the Southern 500(1978,1979)as well as 22 other races during that time.DSCN0990In 1981, he left DiGard for Junior Johnson Motorsports, and was sponsored by Mountain Dew, where he won 24 races including the 1982 Winston 500, the 1981 Busch Clash, and two of his three Sprint Cup ChampionshipsDSCN0991Pepsi replaced Mountain Dew and created The Pepsi Challenger which he ran in 1983 for Junior Johnson. He won 6 races for PepsiDSCN0992After Pepsi left, Budweiser took over the sponsorship, and from 1984-1986, he won 13 races, the 1985 Winston Cup Championship, the Inagural All-Star Race in 1985, the 1985 Southern 500, and the Winston 500. I find love how they call it “Red” instead of Budweiser since this was marketed to kids at the time.DSCN0993In 1987, he made the move to Hendrick Motorsports, and picked up Tide as a sponsor. He won the 1989 Daytona 500, The 1988 and 1989 Coca Cola 600’s and 6 other races. I loved that it was identical to the scheme used by Ricky Rudd that same season.DSCN0994From 1990-1997, he raced the #17 for Hendrick Motorsports in 1990, and then founded Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, which raced this scheme from 1990 to 1997. He won 5 races, but was never to get his former glory back. Western Auto left the team after 1997, and Darrell Waltrip Motorsports shut down shortly after the start of the 1998 season.DSCN0995The last scheme is one of the most innovative schemes in the history of NASCAR. His legendary Chrome scheme.  Darrell loved chrome, using chrome numbers, and a chrome helmet.  This was supposed to be used for just a single race, but it was raced a number of times that season. Nothing like this had ever been done in NASCAR before. There had been chrome numbers, but never a chrome car. This car was so far ahead of it’s time.  Darrell even had a Chrome driver suit that he wore with this car!DSCN09961997 would be the beginning of the end for Darrell Waltrip. He shut down his Winston Cup team in 1998, and joined Dale Earnhardt Inc. midway through the season. He would race for just two more seasons before fully retiring in 2000.

The idea of 7 different schemes seems like standard opperating procedure today, but back in 1997, this was revolutionary. This was unheard of. These schemes were all good, and they worked well, but this surprised some fans. 17 years later, this is the norm rather than the exception. If I did the paint scheme reveiws back in 1997, I would write one article at the beginning of the season, one before the all-star race, and maybe one midway through the season. There were no changes to paint scheme, or if there were, they were very rare.

Tom Thumb will reopen eventually. But whavever the new location, it will never have the same feel as the decades old building were it was once housed. I will miss it. I really will. But I find a bit of irony in that I bought the beginning of an era at the end of another era. I will visit Tom Thumb when they reopen, and I wish them the best of luck. From the residents of Evanston to Tom Thumb, we will miss you, and we wish you the best of luck in your new location!

We also have a paint scheme related news item to discuss.  This last week, NASCAR announced that the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup would have some new features on their cars.  Specifically,  all Chase contenders will have a yellow splitter cover, a yellow window stripe with black letters, yellow roof numbers, and a special Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup decal.  I’ve been speculalting that this might come to be, and now I have proof.  I am not going to discuss how I think it will look, until I have a good idea as to who is in the Chase, and how it will look on their cars.  Here is an illustration of how it looks.

With that out of the way, we move on to…

PAINT SCHEME REVIEWS

Kasey Kahne #5 Great Clips/Shark Week Chevy SS Another case where it looks like two different designers created the car without speaking to each other. It looks awful. The color scheme is good, so it passes, though just bearly with a D-

Tony Stewart #14 Bass Pro Shops/Ducks Unlimited Chevy SS For a Bass Pro Shops scheme it looks really good. It isn’t over designed, has a nice patriotic touch, and has a good color scheme. A+

Clint Bowyer #15 RK Motors Charlotte Toyota Camry Clint’s C scheme but with an even worse color scheme ends in a D-

Greg Biffle #16 3M Throwback Ford Fusions Greg Biffle is holding a contest to pick a throwback sheme for his race at Pocono in August. I would normally grade all four of these seperatley, however they all have the same traits, so I will grade them at once. All four have really good color schemes, and really nice logos, but they are all plagues with modern car numbers as well as modern designs. They simply look awful. I will vote for none of these schemes and give them all an F-

Trevor Bayne #21 QuickLane Ford Fusion A really good design with a really good color scheme. It works very well, A+

Cole Whitt #26 Scorpion Window Film Toyota Camry Good color scheme, good design, though the silver stripe on the bottom is a bit much. A-

Paul Menard #27 Menards/Splash Chevy SS The Splash logo looks really good, and I’ll give it a B+

Joe Nemechek #29 Toyota Cares Toyota Camry Great color scheme, awful design, they average out to a C-

Morgan Shepherd #33 ThunderCoal Chevy SS I liked the other ThunderCoal scheme, but this is just awful. Too many neon colors, and it is needlessly overdesigned. I give it an F

Alex Kennedy #33 MediaCAST Chevy SS Awful color scheme and way too over designed. F

Landon Cassill #40 Gallery Furniture Chevy SS Great color scheme, great simple design, though the 40 could be brighter. A

Kyle Larson #42 Cottonelle Chevy SS Great color scheme, great design A+

Michael Waltrip #66 Royal Teak Toyota Camry Good color scheme, great simple design, A+

Martin Truex Jr. #78 Worldvision Chevy SS Great color scheme, great design, I love that fade, looks great. A+

Ryan Truex #83 Voodoo/Armed Forces Motorsports Toyota Camry A D+ scheme with a new hood logo is still a D+ scheme.

Michael McDowell #95 JPO Absorbents Ford Fusion Another great Levine Family Racing scheme. It is hard to believe how bad they were last year. Great color and design scheme equals an A+ scheme.

Carl Edwards #99 UPS Ford Fusion They took a D- scheme, and made it worse. Awful color scheme, awful design, F-

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1 Comment

  1. I share your sense of loss about Tom Thumb. Just think of the generations of parents who browsed through those interesting aisles for holiday and birthday gifts! — Mom


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