The Driver Suit Blog-Texas Terry Labonte, Kellogg’s Best Driver

By David G. Firestone

After winning the 1984 Winston Cup Championship by 65 points over Harry Gant, Terry Labonte had established himself as a great driver. By the mid 1990’s, he was a consistent driver, who won a few races, but was never considered as a championship contender. That changed in 1996, where he pulled the biggest upset in Cup Series Championship history, beating Jeff Gordon by 37 points. After that, he was seen as a championship contender, until he retired from full time racing in 2004, though he raced until 2014. That same year, he was elected to the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

In 1995, Labonte’s 2nd year with Hendrick, he had a great season, with 3 wins, winning the 1995 Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond, the Winston Select 500 at Talladega, and the UAW-GM Teamwork 500 at Pocono. He had a consistent season with 14 top 5’s, and 17 top 10’s. During that season, one of his crew members wore this suit. This suit may have been worn in 1996 as well.

The suit shows use in the form of stains and there is a lot of sun fading, especially in the red.The collar is a standard collar, and has KELLOGG’S logos embroidered.The collar has a standard Simpson warranty label, a small flag indicating the suit was made in “9/95.” The collar has the initials “W.S.” embroidered into it. The inside of the collar doesn’t show the fading the outside of the collar does, as can clearly be seen in this photograph.The right chest features NASCAR WINSTON CUP SERIES and QUAKER STATE logos embroidered into it.The left chest features KELLOGG’S CORN FLAKES, FROSTED FLAKES, RAISIN BRAN, POP TARTS, FRSOTED MINI WHEATS, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, AC DELCO, and GMAC logos embroidered into it.The front torso features a giant KELLOGG’S CORN FLAKES logo on a white background.The yellow belt features a CHEVY bow-tie logo and a Goodyear logo embroidered into it.The faded red legs features KELLOGG’S logos in television position.The faded red shoulder epaulets feature KELLOGG’S logos embroidered into them. The right sleeve features a GMAC logo on the top and KELLOGG’S logos in television position on the faded red stripe. The left sleeve features a SLICK 50 logo on the top and KELLOGG’S logos in television position on the faded red stripe. The back of the suit shows some sun fading, and some light wear.The back of the neck is faded and unadorned.The back torso has a large KELLOGG’S CORN FLAKES logo embroidered.Terry Labonte is one of the most underrated drivers in NASCAR history. He was a contender for the 1979 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, but lost to Dale Earnhardt. He is the second Triple Threat, having won in all 3 national series by 1995. He is also the first to win in all 3 series in the same year. He has also class wins in the Rolex 24, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and IROC. He is a championship winning driver who could win in many different classes. He is enjoying his retirement as a hall of famer. It would be cool if he ran one more race, but sadly, it probably won’t happen.

Next week, a special project, which will be discussed on Tuesday.


The Driver Suit Blog-Where Fans Can Race For Real!

By David G. Firestone

I think it’s safe to say that every racing fan wishes they were a race car driver. That could be said for most sports fans. While many of us don’t have the skills to be professional race car drivers, many people are weekend warriors, who race for fun. In recent years, a trend has emerged, race tracks, drivers, and/or sanctioning bodies having fantasy camps, and on-track racing experiences.

In recent years, drivers like Rusty Wallace, Larry Dixon, Richard Petty, and even Mario Andretti have started their own racing experiences, where, for a price, you can climb into a race car, and take a few laps on a real speedway. Even NASCAR now has their own racing experience, the NASCAR Racing Experience. It comes with professional instruction, and, depending on what kind of option you choose, pit stops. Equipment used is often switched out after use, as exampled by this NASCAR Racing Experience Helmet.

The helmet shows some use with scuff marks and some scratches. The left side shows a few scuffs.The front has no visor, and shows a scratch, and some scuffs.The right side has some scuff marks, and a slight scratch.The back has a number of scuffs, a SNELL tag, and a size L tag.The top has a size L tag, and numerous scuffs and scratches.The inside of the helmet has tagging, has no microphone equipment, and is in decent condition.The idea of fantasy camps is not exclusive to racing. There are many sports fantasy camps, some done by leagues, some by individual teams, some by players. While these camps are not cheap, they do give the armchair athletes a chance to live as an athlete, even for only a day or two. Some are better than others, and one should do their research before booking.

Next week, an old school NASCAR pit crew suit!

The Driver Suit Blog-Protection For The Most Dangerous Environment In Sports

By David G. Firestone

Races are won and lost on pit road. The best pit crew helps a driver to victory lane. Pit road is one of the most dangerous places in sports. Cars are driving around, the risk of fire is high, and drivers occasionally hit their crew members by accident. As such, safety on pit road should be top priority.

After an incident on pit road at Richmond in 2015, NASCAR required all crew members to

wear full-face helmets. While most crew members were already wearing them, some crew members were still wearing bicycle style helmets. Impact is a major supplier of helmets for pit crews. This is an example of a pit crew helmet used by NASCAR.

The helmet shows a lot of use, with scratches and chips. The left side shows a lot of scratches and scuffs.The front opening is very wide, and there is no visor present. There are some scratches above and below the face opening.The right side shows a lot of scratches and scuffs.The back shows a lot of wear, in the form of scratches and scuff marks.The top of the helmet has numerous scratches, scuff marks and chips.The interior of the helmet has an Impact warranty label, a small flag tag indicating the size as S, and the microphone equipment is still present.As popular as this type of helmet is, it’s not made by Impact anymore, and now has been replaced with a helmet that looks like a motorcross or BMX helmet. These have become the standard. It’s good to see that the pit crew helmet is evolving. As safety equipment evolves, it gets better.

Tailgating Time:

People love tailgating, cheese, and potatoes, so one thing to bring to a tailgating party would be Homemade Au Gratin Potatoes! It’s a bit complex, but it works very well.

Homemade Au Gratin Potatoes

6 Servings


3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/4 cup skim milk

1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic.

Fresh ground pepper to taste

3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, about 3 cups.


1-Melt butter in medium saucepan and stir in flour

2-Cook and stir over medium heat for one minute

3-Gradually stir in milk; cook and stir until thick and smooth.

4-Stir in cheese until melted.

5-Stir in onion, salt, garlic and butter.

6-Put potatoes in 2 1/2 quart baking dish or casserole.

7-Pour sauce over potatoes and toss gently to mix

8-Place in 400 degree preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.

We’re going to keep the helmet theme going next week.


The Driver Suit Blog-Reliving Colin Braun’s One NASCAR Win

By David G. Firestone

Hailing from the sleepy little town of Ovalo, Texas, Colin Braun started racing karts at age 6, and has raced all over the world, including France, Japan, Monaco, and Spain. In 2006, at 17, Braun became the youngest driver to race in a Daytona prototype in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series. He would win two races that year, the 2006 Brumos Porsche 250 and the 2006 Porsche 250 Presented by Bradley Arant. The next year, while still racing in the Rolex Sports Car Series, he made his NASCAR debut.

Braun made his Xfinity and Truck Series debut in 2007, During his NASCAR career, he raced 31 races, had 1 top 5, 6 top 10’s, and two poles. In his Truck Series career, he raced in 53 races, had 1 win, 12 top 5’s, 23 top 10’s, and 5 poles. From 2011-2013, he raced in the American Le Mans Series, having won 5 races in 22 start sand 19 podiums. In 2014, he started racing in the Weathertech SportsCar Championship, and in 41 races, had 8 wins, and 19 podiums. In 2009, at the 2009 Michigan 200, he won the race. One of his crew members wore this Conway Freight pit crew suit, and was awarded a victory lane hat.The suit shows a decent amount of use, with a number of stains.The collar is a standard collar, with CONWAY FREIGHT logos embroidered into them.The older style Simpson Warranty Tag is present, as well as a SIMPSON MTO 19 tag.The right chest features NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES, FORD RACING, VALVOLNE, ROUSH FENWAY RACING, CITI, KRAFT MACARONI AND CHEESE DINNER, COCA-COLA, and GOODYEAR logos embroidered into it.The left chest features a CONWAY FREIGHT logo, and a large amount of blank space.The front torso features a large CONWAY FREIGHT logo embroidered in blue, on the white background.The shoulder epaulets features blue CONWAY FREIGHT logos, as well as SIMPSON logos embroidered into them. The right sleeve features embroidered MAC TOOLS, SHERWIN WILLIAMS AUTOMOTIVE FINISHES, NORTHERN TOOL + EQUIPMENT, and SUNOCO logos on the upper portion, and a CONWAY FREIGHT logo in television position. The left sleeve features NASCAR, FORD RACING, ZAXBY’S, and CITI logos embroidered, and a CONWAY FREIGHT logo in television position. The back of the jacket shows some staining.The back of the jacket features the Truck Series number 6.The back torso features a ROUSH-FENWAY.COM logo, the name THOMAS, and a CONWAY FREIGHT logo embroidered into it.The pants show a lot of staining.The right leg has CONWAY FREIGHT logos embroidered into them, as well as some decorative flames. There is some staining on the white material. The left leg has CONWAY FREIGHT logos embroidered into them, as well as some decorative flames. There is some staining on the white material. The back of the pants show some stains.The back of the waist features a tag indicating the pants are for B THOMAS, and a Simpson Warranty Label.The back of the pants has the SFI certification, and the belt has a custom rubber CONWAY FREIGHT logo added to it.

On Saturday June 13, 2009, Colin Braun entered the Michicagn 200 at Michigan International Speedway. He led 26 of 100 laps, and won the race, beating Kyle Busch, who led 62 laps. B Thomas, the crew member who wore this suit, was awarded this cap for the victory. The white mesh cap is in great condition, and is a standard crew cap, though WINNER’S CIRCLE MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY 2009 has been embroidered into it. This suit is another example of the fact that no matter how great a driver is, without a crew, they are nothing. The crew is essential in helping the driver to win races and championships. The crew are in just as much danger as the driver, but they don’t get all of the glory that they deserve. Crew members are the lifeblood of racing, and are just as important as the drivers.

Next week, the pit crew theme continues with another pit crew helmet.




The Driver Suit Blog-A Piece of the On-Track Action

By David G. Firestone

Trading cards have always been a fickle business. Mostly geared towards kids, card companies slowly have begun to realize that there are adult collectors out there. In addition, the trading card boom of the late 80’s and 1990’s is now over. In the late 1980’s, card companies began producing more and more cards. They did sell, but it soon became clear that many of these cards wouldn’t have any real value, much like the comic book boom and Beanie Baby boom happening around the same time.

In order to bring buyers back, card companies started trying some interesting giveaways. Some worked, like autographs and swatch cards. Others, like the infamous Ty Cobb jersey fiasco, weren’t as successful. Starting as early as 1991, companies started putting autographed cards randomly in packs. As this proved a popular draw, this continued and expanded for many years.

Early autograph cards came in the form of standard 3½ inch by 2½ inch cards, which the subject has signed. I’ve collected a number of 1994 Finish Line Gold signed cards, pulled out of packs. The cards are signed in gold pen. These include Ricky Craven, Ray Evernham signed on a #24 car card, David Green, Dale Jarrett, Robert Presley, and a couple of Hermie Sadler signed cards. As time went on, companies began stepping up their game, and started creating special cards specific to autographs. These have also included some memorabilia swatches. An example is this 2004 Donruss card is a standard 3½ inch by 2½ inch card, with a small piece of wood inside the card, which Kiner signed. Because of the wood, the card is much thicker than normal. The card depicts Kiner in a Pirates uniform. There is a COA of sorts on the back. Standard cards that don’t have memorabilia swatches are standard thickness, and frequently have the driver sign the card directly. I have a number of these cards, including this 2004 Wheels Kyle Petty, this 2006 Press Pass Mark Martin, and this 2007 Press pass Cale Gale, Other card companies use stickers, which the player signs, and can be added to the card at a later date. This has led to controversy in the past. This Christy Hemme TriStar card from 2012 is an example of this. With the success of autographed cards, companies began making cards with swatches of game-used memorabilia inside them. This has, to a certain extent, rejuvenated the market. I used to hate these cards, but I’ve softened my stance on them. These started in the early 2000’s, as exampled by this 2003 Eclipse John Andretti/Kyle Petty race-used tire card. The most popular item to put in a card is a uniform swatch. The uniform is usually the most visible part of the player. The uniform is cut into small pieces, usually 1 inch square, and placed in special thick cards. Since these cards are thicker, packs that don’t have these cards have special piece of cardboard. Other uniform pieces, and equipment is put in these cards. Some examples include this Kasey Kahne/Brian Vickers 2005 Press Pass driver suit card, this Ryan Newman 2006 Eclipse car cover card, this 2012 Panini Limited Derrick Rose uniform card, this 2013 Carl Edwards Press Pass tire card, this 2013 Press Pass Denny Hamlin driver suit card, this 2013 Press Pass Elliott Sadler driver suit card, this 2013 Press Pass Michael Waltrip driver suit card, this 2014 Press Pass Carl Edwards driver suit card, this 2014 Press Pass Casey Mears sheet metal card, this 2014 Press Pass Brian Scott driver suit card, and this 2017 Panini Matt Kenseth driver suit card. Not all swatch cards are of athletes. Historical figures are also featured, as exampled by this large swatch 2016 Leaf Jack Ruby Wardrobe card. Sometimes the memorabilia comes from a specific event, This example is a piece of a tire from Kurt Busch’s 2014 Martinsville victory, from Press Pass. Some of the more valuable and desirable swatch cards have multiple pieces from a player. I have a few examples, including this 2013 Press Pass Greg Biffle Driver Suit/Sheet Metal card. And this 2016 Casey Mears Panini Driver Suit/Sheet Metal/Tire card. Sometimes two members of a team, and their memorabilia are featured on cards, such as this 2017 Panini Jamie McMurray/Kyle Larson driver suit card. Early on, when special inserts were still in their infancy, holograms, which were becoming more common, were placed in cards at random. Upper Deck used team logo holograms in their early baseball card series. In 1994, Finish Line Gold added a limited edition Ernie Irvan hologram card, which was limited to 5000 pieces. This example is #2201. Also in 1994, Finish Line Gold randomly inserted phone cards, numbered to 3000. Included were Jeff Gordon, #2083, Ernie Irvan, #803, and Kyle Petty #1155. One seemingly unintended side effect of these various kinds of cards being placed in boxes is the box break. What people on YouTube will do is get boxes, and open all of the packs in the box, and see what kinds of goodies are inside of the box. I’ve done a number of them. I’ve made a compilation of my box beaks:

I hope this trend continues for some time, as it is helping card sell, and the videos are fun to watch.

Tailgating Time:

I promised that I would bring back Tailgating Time, and I’m following through. This is a recipe for Chicken Parm, which is popular now, and would work well for a gathering to watch the Daytona 500!

Chicken Parmesan

8 Servings


2 pounds chicken cutlets

Garlic salt

8 ounces mushrooms(or more)

1 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1 teaspoon salad oil

1 tomato sauce

8 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese


1-Brown chicken in heavy skillet, remove to flat baking dish

2-Sprinkle with garlic salt

3-Cover with mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, top with Parmesan cheese

4-Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until tender, serve with pasta.

Next week, a race-worn pit crew suit that saw victory lane!


The Driver Suit Blog-Artifacts From Medical History

By David G. Firestone

We live in an age where medical science has extended lifespans to unheard of lengths. Many diseases that were death sentences in the past are now curable. Many sick people can get healthy with the right medical treatment. However, we had to come a long way to get where we are, and not all medical companies were on the up and up. While some of these companies have been forgotten, others have been remembered in various different ways.

Bristol-Myers Squibb was formed by Edward Squibb, when he founded a pharmaceutical company in Brooklyn, New York in 1858. Squibb was in favor of higher quality, and was a supplier to the Union Army in the Civil War.

In 1887, two friends, William Bristol and John Myers purchased the Clinton Pharmaceutical company of Clinton, New York for $5000($124,600.93 in 2017 dollars). Bristol and Myers first national product was named Sal Hepatica, a laxative mineral salt that, when dissolved in water, reproduced the taste and effects of the natural mineral waters of Bohemia. The new product, was a bestseller by 1903.

As time went on, both companies grew, both in size and in wares. Both companies acquired several smaller companies. Then, in 1989, Bristol-Myers and Squibb merged, with Bristol-Myers becoming the nominal survivor. The company renamed itself Bristol-Myers Squbb. Those two little companies founded in New York have become one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Sal Hepatica was first made in 1887, became nationally recognized in 1903, and was discontinued in 1958. The product consisted of sodium sulfate, baking soda, tartaric acid, common salt, sodium phosphate and traces of lithium carbonate and water. Supposedly, it was meant to replicate the taste and effect of “Bohemian mineral water.” It was originally marketed as a saline laxative, and an alkalinizing agent. It was also claimed it could help with gout, and other stomach, liver, and kidney disorders. This is an early example of a sample set. It was given to doctors to give to patients. It is still in good condition, and comes in an 6.5 inch by 2.5 inch tube. The set consists of a big container and five smaller containers of Sal Hepatica. There is also an information manual.The larger container of Sal Hepatica is roughly 1.5 times the size of the smaller containers. The label also contain more information, and it appears as though it was meant for the doctor to hold on to. It’s about 3 inches high by 1.5 inches across. The package comes with an information manual, containing information that doctors could use to help their patients. For many years, medical companies in the United States went unregulated. There were dozens of small, local drug companies across the country. Some were more unscrupulous than others. One such company was the Dr. E. L. Welbourn Company of Union, Indiana. Dr. E. L. Welbourn graduated college in 1866, and started his practice in 1893. He experimented with vegetable mixtures to cure aliments. In 1900, he started his own drug company. Welbourn continued the company until his death in 1926, and his son continued the company until 1973.

Dr. E. L. Welbourn’s biggest product was Sweet Bugle Elixir was made from Bugle Weed, and was used for teething, colic, diarrhea, bloody flux, cholera, morbus, and burns. This is a small brass printing plate used for a bottle of Sweet Bugle Elixir. I have a number of printing plates from the Dr. E. L. Welbourn Company. This is another Sweet Bugle Elixir label printing plate, this one a slightly larger, and newer. Note the fact that the alcohol content is 28%, or 56 proof. Another Sweet Bugle printing plate, this one is much larger, and has a lot more information than the smaller ones. This printing plate is for a different product, used to treat “lung, fever, pleurisy, coughs, whooping cough, mumps, and measles. The name plate fell off. It is also an older plate where part of it had to be made by hand, one letter at a time. These next two plates are squares printing plate with Dr. E. L. Welbourn’s picture, which was used for advertising materials. This is a bottle label with the product name and symptoms not present. This particular product has 31% ABV or 62 proof. These are printing plates for Dr. E. L. Welbourn’s Queen of the Meadow Tonic. It is meant to treat kidney, stomach, and liver diseases, dropsy, and general debility. It has 34% ABV or 68 proof. Another bottle label printing plate, this time for Rheumatic Aegis, used to treat Rheumatism, Scrotula, Cancer, and all Blood and Kidney diseases. Another unknown product printing plate, presumably for Sweet Bugle Elixir. In addition to teething, colic, diarrhea, bloody flux, cholera, morbus, and burns, this also treats “Infantum, Heart Failure, Cramps, Spasms, Dog, Cat or Rat bites, Sting or bite of any poisonous insect. It also has 28% ABV or 56 proof.(Editors note, these things are a pain in the neck to try to read.)

Another Sweet Bugle printing plate, this one is much larger, and has a lot more information than the smaller ones. Dr. EL Welbourn also produced pills in addition to tonics. These were his “Anti-Bilious Pills,” which were used to treat “Liver and stomach troubles, and were “Warranted Purely Vegetable.” This is for an advertising brochure that was used to promote the product. The Dr. E. L. Welbourn company also produced ointments, such as Dr. E. L. Welbourn’s Pile Ointment, used to treat “piles,” commonly known as hemorrhoids, and Ringworm, Tetter, and Trysipelas. This is a printing plate for a receipt from the Dr. E. L. Welbourn Medicine Company, which has all of their wares listed, and spaces for numbers and prices. This is a printing plate for a label or a box of Dr E. L. Welbourn’s Lung Syrup, which treats “Lung Fever, Pleurisy, Whooping Cough, Coughs, and Colds.” It has 33% ABV or 66 proof. This is a printing plate for either a newspaper ad or a handbill for Dr E. L. Welbourn’s Malarial Fever and Blood Pills. It is large, and has a lot of text about what the pills treat, and why you should buy them. Similar to the previous plate, this is an advertising plate for Dr. E. L. Welbourn’s Anti-Bilious Pills. Yet another advertising printing plate, this one for “Elixir Sweet Bugle.” The last advertising printing plate lists the names and information for all of the products of the Dr. E. L. Welbourn company. The last printing plate is a full box printing plate for bottles of Queen of the Meadow Tonic, which is the largest of the plates, and contains a lot of information about the product.

Since the days where Dr. Welbourn was making tonics and pills that could cure anything, we now live in an age where medical science is taken much more seriously, and standards are much higher. One of the most prolific companies is Bayer AG. Though they will be forever known for selling medicinal heroin, they are also a major seller of aspirin, at one point, holding the trade mark on the word aspirin, until the seizure of German assets by the Allies in World War I.

While Bayer Aspirin was sold in the US, it was actually made by Sterling Drugs, which acquired the license to sell aspirin in 1918. They manufactured and sold Bayer Aspirin from 1918 until 1994, when Eastman Kodak bought the company. Bayer would purchase back the rights for Bayer Aspirin in the US later that year. There are a lot of Bayer factories in Pennsylvania, and this is from one factory. It is a small display featuring some of the first pills that factory made, on September 14, 1964. They are in a small case, with a printed label indicating that. As a people, we are healthier. We have medical science to thank for that. Can we cure everything? No, but we can cure a lot of things that were once death sentences.

Next week, the topic of swatch cards!


The Driver Suit Blog-An Interview with Cruz Pedregon

By David G. Firestone

When “Flaming” Frank Pedregon passed away in 1981, he had no idea his sons would become some of the most respected drivers in Funny Car. Fast forward to 2016, and one son Tony has 43 event wins, third on the all time win list, and two championships, and the other Cruz has 33, and two championships, including the only Funny Car championship not won by John Force. The Pedregons have gone down as one the greatest families in the history of drag racing.

The first brother to have real success in Funny Car was Cruz. He started racing in 1987 in a top alcohol dragster, moved to top alcohol funny car, then to top fuel in 1991, and in 1992 won the Funny Car championship. The biggest rivalry in drag racing in the 1990’s was John Force vs. Cruz Pedregon.

Cruz retired in 2001, and served as a color commentator for ESPN’s NHRA telecasts. In 2002, he returned to the track as an owner/driver, driving the Advance Auto Parts Pontiac Firebird. After switching to Chevy with some success, he started driving a Toyota in 2008. That was the same year that the race distance was shortened to 1000 feet. Cruz would win the last three races of the season, and won his second NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car Championship. In 2011, Cruz picked up Snap On Tools as a sponsor, which he still carries today.

I had the chance to interview Cruz about his racing uniform.

DGF-From a driver’s perspective, how would you like your suit to fit?

Cruz-Well let me put it to you this way, I’m a proponent of comfort, and suits are not meant to look good walking around. Suits are meant to be comfortable while you are in the car, assuming the position so to speak. I’m a believer in having a looser fitting suit, while you are in the car. I’m a fan of loose fitting clothes in general, I wear my pants loose, everything loose, you know what I mean? A lot of people get caught up in how it looks walking around, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to have it comfortable in the tight confines of a race car, where there is little to no movement. There is probably less movement in a funny car than any other kind of race car. We’re not asked to “saw the wheel” as they say, we have a very limited space. Every inch is taken up, and there is very little space to fit the driver.

DGF-How do you rotate suits, helmets, shoes, gloves, etc over a race weekend?

Cruz-Well, the environment we drive in, we get clutch dust, which comes out of the clutch bell housing, and it causes a dark smoke that comes out of the bell housing, and in turn, gets on our suits so it looks like we were in a chimney. On a day when the car is really thundering down the track, we’re going to get a lot of clutch dust. Generally, I’ll wear my backup suit for qualifying, and my primary suit on race day. Sometimes I’ll wear the same suit for the event, it depends on the comfort of it. Both suits are usually identical, but if they’re not, I’ll favor one of the other

As far as helmets, I’ll go with the paint scheme, or whatever I feel is right. I have half a dozen helmets that I carry with me, different designs, whatever the scheme calls for, whatever I feel like. Let’s say we’re in a part of the country, where there are some Raider fans or anti-Raider fans, in Denver, I’ll bust out my Raiders silver and black helmet, at those events. Bell does a great job with my helmets, they are all identical. I’ll switch them, and can’t tell I’m wearing a different helmet.

As far as accessories, as they need to be cleaned, I’ll riffle through them. When it comes to my gloves and fire boots, I’ll wear them for two races, and then get them dry cleaned. If we are in a three race stretch, I’ll go to my spares.

DGF-You mentioned your Raiders helmet. As we know, the NFL is very protective of their trademarks. Have you had to deal with issues from the NFL?

Cruz-No I haven’t, and I’m very aware of that. Dealing with sponsors through the years, they are protective of that. I was with McDonald’s for seven years, and there is probably no corporation that protects the arch like that company does. I’m aware of it, and thankfully so. I’m a Raiders fan, and I know some of the Raiders, I know some of the people in the organization. So I do have a connection with them. I visit them every year.

You know, it all started with Joe Gibbs, the three time Super Bowl winning coach. I forget the exact program, but we had different helmets from the NFL. We had all authentic stickers and everything. My teammate Corey Mac [McClenathan] had a Vikings helmet. So I chose to stick with the Raiders, I never had anything else painted. My painter painted, and they provided me with the helmet stickers, and the center stripe, in a thick guage plastic vinyl. This was back in the mid-90’s. Ever since then, I’ve felt like I had a connection with the Raiders. I’m still friends with Joe Gibbs to this day. Those are my colors, and if they tell me not to have it, it’ll still be silver and black.

DGF-Some drivers black out parts of their helmet visor to cut down on distraction, which Jack Beckman referred to as “the Clydesdale effect.” I have noticed that you prefer to have your whole visor clear, have you tried the Clydesdale effect?

Cruz-I did, but honestly, to me, if your susceptible to that, you probably have something else going on. Part of your God given ability to focus, to me should be, even if something is in your vision, your focus should be the thing you are focused on, not things on the outside. I did try that at one time, and all it did was verify that I’m really screwed up.

DGF-When the HANS device first became mandatory, how hard was it adjusting to it?

Cruz-It was awkward at first. Then I remember thinking put it on and take it off out of the car. The design of them, especially the latest greatest one, called an “R3,” Simpson makes it, and it straps to your body. The original HANS was the one that they stuck on your neck, and the straps of your shoulder harness went over it, so when you took your harness off, it came off too. The one I like, and I’ve been using for years has its own independent straps, and I can get out of the car. It still straps to the harness, and tethers to your helmet. I forgot it one time, and I felt completely naked. I got out of the car, and I thought “I’m missing something.” It took six months, but now it’s a part of the uniform.

DGF-You used to wear a helmet that had respirators in them, why did you make the change to standard helmets?

Cruz-The change was made for me, due to the lack of availability of that helmet. The respirator concept is one that I would like to pursue in the future. For my application for the Nitro Funny Cars, that environment requires a respirator system of some sort in there. I just haven’t gotten around to talking and working with Bell. That was something that Impact did for us back in the day. It had no fire restraint qualities to it whatsoever. It was like a paint mask, which was good for the fumes, that the Nitro puts out, but it never had any safety qualities to it. When I switched from Impact to Bell, I never pursued it. Maybe the firefighting industry has something that could work. It’s probably the last thing I would need to feel `100% safe. The fire danger is an element we have in our type of racing, more than any other auto sport.

DGF-You also race dirt track, what is the difference in SFI ratings for a Funny Car and a dirt track firesuit?

Cruz-From my understanding, there’s quite a bit. My Funny Car suit is 5 layer. My dirt track is of the 2 layer variety. Less is more, it’s so much more comfortable. It’s like putting on a pair of sweats. When I went dirt track racing, thin suit, no respirator, different type of car, different dangers.

DGF-Do you keep any memorabilia from your career?

Cruz-I have quite a bit of boxes, one day I’ll get around to building a room. I have literally pallets of it, stored away, some of it is in the office, some of it is in the shop. The main thing for me is helmets. I’ve always had a thing for helmets, and I’ve sold more than I want to admit through the years. I’ve sold 20-25 helmets, and I have just as many or more, 20-25, and that number grows every year. I’ve never been one to have a single design, like F1 guys, if it’s their country or whatever. It’s kind of a cool idea, but I’ve always felt like, either something that matches the car, or something that represents something important to me.

DGF-What is the strangest thing you have every autographed, or been asked to autograph?

Cruz-Everytime I think of one, it gets outdone at the next event I go to. I signed a bowling pin once. Another time, a guy took his aritifical leg off, leaned on the trailer, handed it to me to sign.

While Cruz is still a full-time owner driver, he is also a dirt track racer in his spare time. He’s also a huge boxing fan, and lists Muhammad Ali as one of his idols. He also has his own brand of habanero hot sauce, Cruz Pedregon’s El Cucuy Hot Sauce. He is a die hard Oakland Raiders fan, and uses Raiders imagery in his uniforms and cars. At an age where many drivers hang their helmets on the mantle, Cruz is still tearing up the NHRA, and shows no signs of stopping soon.

Next week, some medical memorabilia.