By David G. Firestone
From 2002 to 2020, the top series in the NHRA was sponsored by The Coca Cola company. Coca Cola took over the NHRA sponsorship from Winston in 2002, calling it the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series. This lasted until 2008, when Full Throttle took over the sponsorship, becoming the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. This lasted until 2013 when Mello Yello took over, and the series became The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. This lasted until midway through the 2020 season, when Coca Cola announced they were terminating the sponsorship, and Camping World took over, thus becoming the Camping World Drag Racing Series, which it still has today.
Like any racing series, The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series issued caps to drivers. The color of the caps was directly in line with when they were issued. Green was issued to #1 Qualifiers. Yellow was issued to event winners. White was issued to season champions. Other colors were issued as interview hats or race officials. We will look at the history of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series caps, starting in 2013, and ending in 2020.
We will start with 2013, the first year of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. This yellow winner’s cap has been signed by all members of Don Schumacher Racing. The front has the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series logo, and 2013 embroidered on the bill. There is a Funny Car Winner patch on the left side, a hold over from the Full Throttle Days. The back has an NHRA logo embroidered, and normally the location of the track is embroidered in black on the Velcro strap. Finally, the right side of the cap is blank. The underside of the bill is plain too.
2014 saw some minor changes. It’s basically the same design, with a few differences. First, the black font on the brim has been replaced by white with black outlines. The phrase Go On Yello has been added to the under side of the bill, and the right side of the cap in the same font as 2014. Finally, the holes and squatchee have changed color from the color of the cap to black. This Shane Gray #1 Pro Stock is one example. The #1 Qualifier logo replaces the winner patch on the sides.
This yellow winner hat was issued to one member of Erica Enders’ crew after a win. This hat could have been worn at both Las Vegas, Houston, Bristol, Norwalk, Indianapolis, and the finals at Ponoma.
Erica would go on to win the 2014 Pro Stock Championship, and one of her crew was issued this white NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Championship cap. The cap has some changes to the formula, with the year and the side GO ON YELLO logos are in black. Erica was kind enough to autograph the cap at the Route 66 Nationals.
2015 would see some slight changes. The white with black outline font has been replaced with yellow with black outline font, as has the lettering on the Velcro strap. I think this is a better look. I got the hat autographed by a bunch of drivers over the years. This was won by Tony Schumacher at Bristol.
In 2015 the NHRA officials wore a different cap, which is a different shade of green. The left side patch has been replaced by OFFICIALS, and the under bill design has been removed.
2016 brought a lot of changes. Mello Yello got a major rebranding, and the series got a new logo, which I think was a major downgrade. The caps got changes as well. The new logo is on the front. The yellow font has changed a bit, and on the qualifier caps, the #1 has moved to the right side. Also on the qualifier caps, the category has moved to the back. This Shane Gray hat from Chicago is an example.
Ron Capps won the 2016 Funny Car Championship. The Championship cap is same as the winner caps, with black replacing yellow lettering. Ron was kind enough to autograph this for me at Route 66 a few years ago.
2017 saw very little change from 2016. This interview cap was given to drivers at the top end for interviews on television. It should be noted that after the rebrand, the only color cap issued to drivers was black. Prior, gray and orange caps were also issued.
2018 saw the second rebrand, with a new, and much better NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series logo. There weren’t many other changes. This is an officials hat, which has an NHRA SALUTES FIRST RESPONDERS logo embroidered, and OFFICIALS on the right side in yellow lettering. There is also an NHRA logo printed on the underside of the brim.
2019 caps remain largely unchanged from 2018. This Ron Capps winner hat from Brainered is an example. It should also be noted that with all the changes made to these caps over the years, the category patch has remained largely unchanged. Capps signed this hat prior to my purchasing.
2020 would be the last year of the Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series brand. As a result of world health events, Coca Cola canceled a number of products due to low demand, and canceled some sponsorships, including the NHRA. This led to a lawsuit, and Camping World took over the sponsorship of the series. The 2020 caps feature an odd change. They remain largely unchanged from 2019, with the exception of a black outline on the front of the bill. The year logo has changed as well. This #1 Qualifier cap was issued to Terry McMillian for qualifying #1 at the third Indianapolis race. This is how the Mello Yello story ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Next Friday Feature, a pit crew jacket.