What’s the best-looking sprint car of all time? Everyone has their personal favorites, and for a variety of different reasons.
We are a spectator sport. So, teams making their race cars look good make the show better. Many fans never make it into the pits, especially casual fans. They may go the entire evening without ever seeing a driver aside from the winner on the frontstretch at the end of the night.
So, new fans pick their favorites based primarily on car graphics.
What’s your answer? Some of you might pick one the classics from the good ol’ days, like “The Black Deuce,” or possibly one of the beauties from the CRA vs. USAC days. Maybe it’s even one racing this season.
Undoubtedly, graphics have come a long way over time. The biggest reason is vinyl cutters, which eventually morphed into vinyl printers and cutters.
At one time an artist would need to spend hours, maybe days, hand-painting a number on a tail tank, and hand-lettering every car. There was the name of the car – maybe “Miracle Power Special” for example – on both sides of the hood, as well as the name of the driver (that is, for car owners who committed one specific driver), the car owner, maybe crew members’ names.
That’s now all designed on a computer screen, printed out, and then adhered to the car. It is still all an art form – from design to application – but a much more efficient one.
In the earlier days, when outlaw sprint car drivers were towing all over the country trying to figure out how to make a living off of a race car’s winnings, graphics were often at the bottom of the list of priorities. Eating or gas money to get to the next race track was more important, especially for drivers not consistently earning wins.
Buying parts was more crucial than paying someone to spruce up the graphics.
Karl and Steve Kinser won quite a few races in cars that didn’t look like they just came from a car show – sometimes with a duct tape No. 11 on the wing. And Karl, who searched for every way possible to shave weight off a sprinter, famously pointed out how much a can of paint weighs, and asked why he would add that much weight to his car.
Some folks like a basic look, and the same with midgets. The Steve Lewis midgets weren’t all that fancy, but those white cars with the distinctive red nine on the tail tank definitely stood out.
Of course, your favorite driver’s car might look better on the track to you than to someone who’s not a member of the fan club.
Like everyone else, I’ve got my favorites.
Personally, I like bright, flashy race cars. For example, Kenny Jacobs’ bright orange No. 6 was a cool car. Of course, the reason Kenny picked that color was because his father Ken’s eyesight was not very good by that time, and he chose the brightest color he could find so that Ken could pick him out when watching him race.
The bright No. 45 that Tim Shaffer piloted a few years ago was a similarly gorgeous car. And the Hoffman Racing No. 69, complete with the neon orange and green graphics, really pops.
Even though the graphics were fairly simple, I always liked Jack Elden’s Pennzoil-sponsored No. 22, driven by Jac Haudenschild. I also liked Sammy’s Channellock No. 1 and Steve Kinser’s bright green Quaker State No. 11, although every photographer despised Steve’s reflective lettering.
The Holbrook Motorsports “Gotta Race” car driven by Joe Gaerte was a great-looking car. The Frigidaire No. 1f driven by Dean Jacobs was also. The Ashworths, another Ohio-based team, had some really gorgeous sprints, some of them also driven by Dean.
Chuck “The Cobra” Hebing has driven some awesome snakeskin-themed cars. Dyer Masonry owner Walt Dyer’s “Brickmobile,” primarily associated with driver Lance Dewease, was unique, as was Gary and Dawn Pender’s “Salad Car” driven by Brian Paulus.
The version of the Mark and Karl Kinser Mopar car that featured flame graphics was awesome. As were the flames on the Two Winners team’s 104+ Octane Boost cars driven by Jeff Swindell, as well as some versions of their 7TW cars. Also, a version of Dennis Roth’s Beef Packers No. 83 driven by Danny Lasoski featured some cool flames.
I’m admittedly a fan of flame graphics (which is why I had flames on my own sprint car).
As stated earlier, I prefer brighter cars to dark ones. In fact, I believe a car that stands out helps a driver’s career, as everyone notices what they do on the track. Nonetheless, there’s no way I could leave the TMC car piloted by Sammy Swindell off my list.
I always look forward to the custom graphics that teams do for the Knoxville Nationals. Steve Kinser’s Superman car was possibly one of the coolest sprint cars of all time. His Incredible Hulk car was too.
The Tony Stewart Racing STP Mario Andretti throwback car was a great idea. And Sheldon Haudenschild’s purple NOS No. 17 car for the 2018 Nationals was badass.
If I didn’t include your car, please don’t take it personally. One thing’s for certain: as soon as this column is sent to the printer, I’ll remember several other cars I should have included.
So, what’s your favorite?