Hue Look Marvelous: The Top 15 Specialty Paint Schemes in NASCAR
It is a well known fact that NASCAR is one of the best opportunities for sponsors to promote their product.
The money that they put out to have their name on the race cars means that someone is going to see their product, and possibly buy their product in-store or online.
Since the mid-1990s, one of the more popular trends is to create paint schemes to promote some of the sponsors. Since then, many teams have created paint schemes that were to promote one of their sponsors, an event, or just because it was different.
Most specialty paint schemes are usually run in one race. Some are ran multiple times throughout the year. What ever the amount, it is something that is different for the driver, team and fans. It also means more merchandise sales for the team, and increased revenue for the sponsor.
Specialty paint schemes are unique in many ways. Some are really sharp, some are not exactly eye candy, and some make you wonder what the team was thinking.
With all the many different paint schemes, I thought I would look back at my top 15 specialty paint schemes in NASCAR. Each one unique in its own way.
No. 15: Kept Fresh-Dale Earnhardt Jr, 2004
This paint job was one that was unique both in look and the promotion. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on board when Budweiser wanted to promote their new "Born On Date" program, where Budweiser bottles show the date the beer was brewed.
For the season opening Bud Shootout and Daytona 500, the DEI crew decided to go with a red and white paint job. What was most interesting was the team decided to bring the "Born On Date" concept to the car itself.
When the car first arrived for the Bud Shootout exhibition race, the date on the hood read "07 FEB 2004". For the Gatorade duels, the date was changed to "12 FEB 2004". Finally, when it came time for the Daytona 500, the team once again changed the date to "15 FEB 2004".
The idea of keeping the car fresh seemed to work as Junior won his first Daytona 500 in only his fifth try. The following year, the team went with the same promotion. That year, the colors were reversed and the red was a deeper, more candy color.
The promotion was a success, and it started Earnhardt Jr's most successful season to date, making the first ever Chase and winning six races.
No. 14: NASCAR Racers-Jeff Gordon, 1999
I admit, this is not one of the better specialty paint jobs that Jeff Gordon has run in his career, but the idea behind it was really cool.
The new "NASCAR Racers" cartoon was set to launch in early 2000. The creators wanted to promote the series on some of the cars at the inaugural race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The drivers selected were the Labonte brothers, Terry and Bobby, Bobby Hamilton in the Andy Petree Racing No. 55, and Gordon.
Gordon's car was bright red, with a bright yellow tail and lightning bolts going across the hood, roof, and sides. It was a little different, considering his normal paint scheme at the time was a bright rainbow.
Gordon did not run well in the event, but he and the other drivers in the promotion certainly got the cartoon recognized.
No. 13: Last Call-Rusty Wallace, 2005
After the 2004 season, long-time veteran Rusty Wallace announced that the 2005 campaign would be his final season behind the wheel of the No. 2 Penske car.
Being that Wallace was sponsored by the Miller Brewing Company, he named his final season his "Last Call".
At one event, Wallace and the No. 2 Miller team decided to do a throwback to the way his car looked during the mid-1990s when his sponsor was Miller Genuine Draft.
His car went from a crystal blue and silver to a jet black with his number and stripe in a deep gold.
That paint scheme was the same one Wallace had when he finished second in the 1993 point standings behind friend and competitor, Dale Earnhardt.
It was the same paint scheme that Wallace had when I saw my first race at Pocono, a race in which he won.
Wallace would not win a race in his final season, finishing eighth in the final standings, but Wallace's "Last Call" was a fitting way to send off one of the greatest drivers of all time.
No. 12: Oh Oreo-Dale Earnhardt Jr, 2002
Following the death of Dale Earnhardt, it was unknown what Richard Childress was going to do with the No. 3. Immediately afterward, the car was stripped of its famed number, painted white, and a new driver was placed in the car.
But, Childress just couldn't go without racing the famed No. 3 at least one more time.
Enter the son, Earnhardt Jr. The two worked out a deal for Earnhardt Jr. to run two Busch Series races, Daytona and Charlotte, driving his father's number. Nabisco foods would sponsor both cars.
Oreo and Ritz would be on the car for Daytona, while Nilla Wafers and Nutter Butter would be promoted at Charlotte.
When the team arrived in Daytona in 2002, the No. 3 car was two shades of blue, with white trim simulating milk.
Right away, the garage was buzzing with anticipation. As the Busch race continued, the No. 3 car was out front, Earnhardt Jr. at the wheel. When the checkered flag fell, nearly one year to the day that his father passed away, the son rose to the challenge and put the No. 3 in victory lane.
No fan left the grandstands until they saw that car, and that number in victory lane.
It wasn't about sponsors, it wasn't about promotions, and it wasn't about advertising. That paint scheme, that number, and that name meant only one thing...vindication.
No. 11: Performance Alliance-Jeff Gordon, 2005-2007
When it comes to Jeff Gordon's sponsor, DuPont, they are always looking for small ways to promote new products in their company. Usually it is just done by changing a few decals on the car, and forgetting about it.
In 2005, DuPont and Hendrick Motorsports decided to do something really different. The Delaware-based company had begun partnering with auto body and collision repair centers to improve service and satisfaction. DuPont called the new partnership "Performance Alliance."
To launch the new partnering, Hendrick driver Jeff Gordon drove a special paint job on his car starting at the 2005 All-Star race. What Hendrick and DuPont elected to do was to reverse Gordon's regular paint scheme.
Instead of having a metallic base coat with red flames, The car had a bright red base coat, with the blue flake taking a more subtle role. The car looked literally red hot, standing out very well under the lights of Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Performance Alliance is still on the current DuPont Chevrolet, but the debut paint job of this new partnership was one that caught everyone's eye.
No. 10: It's Chrome, Baby-Darrell Waltrip, 1997
Anniversaries are a special time of celebration. In NASCAR, many drivers or teams make logos to commemorate such an occasion.
In the case of Darrell Waltrip, the 1997 season would be his 25th behind the wheel of a stock car.
For the season, the team that he owned decided to do some specialty paint schemes that were identical to cars that he ran previous seasons.
At Bristol he ran one dating back to his 1985 championship season with Budweiser. His car donned his old Mountain Dew colors for the Southern 500 at Darlington.
He went back to his Tide Ride from 1989 for two races, while he ran his classic Gatorade paint scheme at Charlotte.
But, for the season-opening Daytona 500 and the Winston All-Star race, the crew went with something that caught everyone's eye. The car had bright orange decals, but the rest of the Western Auto Parts America Chevy Monte Carlo was decked out in chrome.
In the sunlight the car glistened like a diamond, giving the fans a chance to see their own face in the paint scheme.
Under the lights in Charlotte, the reflective surface took on a darker tint, but it set off the bright orange on the car. It was unique in that he was the only driver to ever consider doing a chrome car.
Waltrip ran the paint scheme one final time in his career at the 2000 Winston All-Star race. It was no question it was one of the brightest and most popular paint schemes of all time.
No. 9: Outdoor Type-Dale Earnhardt, 1998
Dale Earnhardt was considered the pioneer for specialty paint schemes.
When he drove the "Silver Bullet" at the 1995 Winston Select, it was something completely against what every fan and competitor knew. His car wasn't black, it was bright silver for R.J. Reynold's 25th year as lead sponsor of NASCAR.
Through the following five years, Earnhardt would forego his usual black GM Goodwrench Chevrolet for something unique at the All-Star Race.
One of my personal favorites was in 1998.
It was no secret that Earnhardt was an avid outdoorsman, enjoying his time hunting and fishing when he wasn't at the track. One of the sponsors that he acquired for the season was Bass Pro Shops, a line of outdoor sportsman stores.
At the All-Star race, Earnhardt's car was decked in a sharp black and gold scheme. One of the most popular cars on the track for sure. Unfortunately, Earnhardt would wreck during the race, putting an end to his night.
The pioneer in specialty paint never failed to surprise the fans. This was just one of many great looks for the Intimidator.
No. 8: Old School's Cool-Dale Earnhardt Jr, 2008
Retro paint schemes have always been cool, because it's taking a new car and honoring racing's past.
For Dale Earnhardt Jr, he was given the opportunity to be part of Mountain Dew's "Old School-New School" promotion starting last year. At Darlington, the No. 88 Chevrolet was painted like the old Mountain Dew car that Darrell Waltrip won two championships in.
The promotion went spectacular and fans really got into this idea and the car had a spectacular look. Junior ran up front all night, giving the Pepsi-based brand a lot of exposure.
The promotion came full circle this year as the No. 88 car had the new Mountain Dew, or as the logo says, Mtn. Dew. However, the throwback look for the car was definitely cool.
No. 7: Mopar-Kasey Kahne, 2005-2007
Before Kasey Kahne became Budweiser's new spokesman in the Sprint Cup, his No. 9 car was sponsored by Dodge.
But, for one race each year between 2005 and 2007, the familiar red and white colors were replaced with black and blue. At the fall race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Kahne's car showcased Dodge's parts company, Mopar.
Known from years past as part of the muscle car era, Mopar has become iconic for performance parts. The paint scheme that Evernham Motorsports put on the car reflected the colors that the Mopar logo was known for. With a black and deep blue look with hints of white, the car was sharp and looked mean.
Kahne put the Mopar Dodge in victory lane for the first, and only, time in 2006 as he swept the races at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Kahne had a lot of muscle behind the wheel of that car that night. I could only sum up the victory with three words...I love Mopar!
No. 6: Scent of Confidence-Tony Stewart, 2009
Long before Tony Stewart started his own team, he was sponsored by Old Spice. During his days with Joe Gibbs racing, Stewart even had his late model dirt car sponsored by Old Spice for his "Prelude to the Dream" at Eldora Speedway.
When Stewart started his own team, Old Spice was the first sponsor that came on to give him the backing.
To help promote Old Spice's new fragrance, Swagger, Tony Stewart's car got a makeover for the second race at Pocono.
Instead of having a bright red and silver car, Stewart's car came to the track in a deep shade of red, with candy red fades and deep maroon shadows. The hood and front end had silver pin-striping, as did the sides.
His No. 14 Chevrolet looked like it was painted for a hotrod show instead of a Sprint Cup race.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, Stewart wrecked his primary car in practice, and had to get out the backup. Not one to disappoint, the Stewart-Haas crew painted his backup car the same way, keeping the hotrod theme alive.
Stewart went on to finish in the top ten, showing that he definitely had some swagger on that day.
No. 5: What Color Is It?-Jeff Gordon, 1998
For Jeff Gordon, his time in NASCAR's top series has been spent with only one primary sponsor, DuPont. The company used Gordon's car as a way to present new products and services to the viewing public.
In 1998, DuPont wanted to promote their newest line in automotive paint. For the Winston, Gordon's car lost it's familiar rainbow scheme for one that was bright gold.
Wait, make that a bright copper car. I'm sorry, it was a deep purple.
Gold, purple, copper...what color was it? DuPont created a paint that shifted colors under different lighting and different views. It was named Chromalusion.
The car was definitely popular, and one of the hardest to get used to. During the race broadcast I remember Buddy Baker stating "There's Gordon leading in his gold car. No, that's a purple car. No it's a brown car."
During one of the intermissions he then said, "Folks don't adjust your television, Jeff Gordon's car is changing colors."
Action-Performance, now known as Motorsports Authentics, had to use the same paint on the die-casts as they did on the real car. That is saying something about DuPont when they created that line of colors.
Gordon ran three more cars over the next few years that included one of the colors offered in the Chromalusion line. But, the first one for sure got the most attention.
No. 4: Salute To You-Mark Martin, 2005
When Mark Martin announced his retirement prior to the 2005 season, he declared that his last run in the Cup Series was not going to be for him. He was doing it for his fans.
So, in honor, his 2005 campaign was declared the "Salute to You" Tour.
Car owner Jack Roush got to see his driver drive many cars that were reminiscent of his time with the company. No paint scheme was more popular than his Viagra Ford Taurus for the All-Star Race.
The paint was going back to his days of former sponsor Valvoline, who he had on his car from 1993 through 2000. The paint scheme chosen was on Mark's car from 1993-1995.
The fans were into the old look for the car, but they were even more joyous at the end of the night. It was Martin putting his throwback look at the front of the pack and winning the All-Star race, pocketing $1 million.
Shortly after receiving the checkered flag and going on his victory lap, the FOX broadcast team began asking if he'd come back the following year. As the winner, Martin was automatically in the following year's event.
It didn't take long for an answer, and it came directly from the driver himself. Mark keyed the radio, with Roush himself listening, and gave him a quick decision.
"If you get me a ride, I'll be here next year."
That was all he needed to hear, as Martin came back the next year...and the next...and the next.
Now, he's back full time and battling for a chance to win the championship. That is a great way for Martin to salute his fans.
No. 3: Take the Challenge-Jeff Gordon, 2009
Since 1999, Gordon has done a specialty paint scheme for sponsor Pepsi.
Sometimes it was as part of a movie promotion, celebrating Independence Day, or as part of the "Win a Billion" contest that was run in 2003 and 2004.
In 2009, Pepsi approached Gordon with their newest promotion, which was the release of "Pepsi Throwback," sweetened w/ natural sugar, as it was in years gone by.
To go along with the throwback theme, Gordon's car had a special paint scheme for the April race at Talladega.
The car was painted to match Darrell Waltrip's "Pepsi Challenger" that he ran in 1983 following his two seasons with Mountain Dew.
Gordon's uniform had the same colors as the car, plus hats, t-shirts, and die-casts were created for the race. The car was just cool and "refreshingly retro" as was quoted for Pepsi.
For Gordon, the race did not go as planned as the Pepsi Challenger was taken out early in a big wreck. It wasn't exactly how Pepsi wanted to promote their retro Pepsi, but it was a cool promotion and an even cooler looking car on the track.
No. 2: Honor Thy Father-Dale Earnhardt Jr, 2006
In 2006, Dale Earnhardt was officially inducted into the Alabama Motorsports Hall of Fame. For having ten wins at the Talladega Superspeedway, he was definitely the king of restrictor-plate racing.
To honor the occasion, every Dale Earnhardt Inc. car, both Cup and Nationwide, was fitted with a special paint scheme. However, it wasn't just any paint scheme.
Every car was painted just like Earnhardt's.
While every car looked cool, the obvious one that got the attention was Earnhardt Jr's Budweiser car. Having his father's paint scheme on his car was something that fans couldn't wait to see.
The car looked sharp, and just like his father, ran very well on the high banks of Talladega. Junior unfortunately got caught up in a wreck, forcing him to retire from the event.
With the black car back on the track, the Earnhardt name above the window, and it being Talladega, there was nothing more appropriate.
No. 1: American Pride-Ken Schrader, 2001
Without question, there is no sport more American than NASCAR. The sport started in this country and has grown in volumes.
When the events of September 11, 2001, happened, every sport halted. No baseball games, no action on the gridiron, and no racing on a Sunday afternoon.
When NASCAR returned to action the following week at Dover, every car had some type of tribute to America. Whether it was slogans of "God Bless America" and "United We Stand" or American flags taking the place of sponsors, each car did something unique.
But no one went to the lengths of Ken Schrader and his MB2 Motorsports team. After talking to lead sponsor M&M's and with NASCAR officials, the team set out to show the most pride of any team.
On the car, there were only eight sponsor decals, and each were the sponsors that NASCAR required on the car. Every associate sponsor, team name, and primary sponsor M&M's were omitted.
What the team did was take the entire car and paint it as the American Flag. In a way, his car was sponsored by the United States of America, a very fitting and emotional tribute to those lost on that day.
It was unprecedented, but unforgettable. It was by far, the most fitting specialty paint scheme that has ever been done in NASCAR.