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Should NASCAR Drivers Run Permanent Paint Schemes?

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Joshua Lipowski

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In NASCAR, most drivers seem to run different paint schemes every week. There are some exceptions including Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott most notably, but, generally speaking, drivers tend to run multiple different colored cars with different sponsors every week. Why is this the case, why do some people not like it, and could there be a better solution to either alternative?

Why Do Cars Run So Many Different Schemes?

The simple reason why cars run so many different paint schemes is that it’s becoming rarer and rarer for drivers and teams to have season-long sponsorship deals. It used to be that race teams and drivers would gain one primary sponsor that would sponsor the team throughout the entire season. That is not the case anymore for a few reasons.

First off, it is a major investment for a sponsor to sponsor a Cup Series or Xfinity Series or Truck Series car for a full season. It takes a lot of money, and some do not see the value or return on investment they’re looking for from it. However, there are other reasons for this as well.

Bringing in multiple sponsors may take a lot of selling and a lot of effort, but it provides some insurance for race teams. If a sponsor like STP were to leave Petty Enterprises in the 1970s, that would mean the full sponsorship for the season would be gone. Under the current model, if a sponsor like Lenovo were to leave RCR and Kyle Busch, that’s only a few races that they need to sell to sponsor the car.

On top of that, teams can offer full price for each race instead of potentially trying to discount each race slightly to sell a full season. Therefore, teams can make more money this way. On top of that, it just means more partners for a race team, which can be a major selling point.

These last few reasons are not necessarily bad things. More money, more partners, and better revenue are all good things for NASCAR and race teams. So, why would fans not like this current model of multiple paint schemes?

Why Do Some Not Like This?

Paint schemes are the easiest way to recognize cars out on the race track. When people think of the STP 43 car, they immediately think of Richard Petty. When they think of the Goodwrench 3 car, they think of Dale Earnhardt.

Seeing multiple drivers run multiple different paint schemes every week feels to an extent like watching your favorite sports team wear a different uniform every game. Imagine if the New York Yankees wore the iconic pinstripes on Mondays, but they wore green on Tuesdays, black on Wednesdays, etc. It can be harder for fans to connect with drivers that have multiple paint schemes.

On top of that, a new fan may struggle to follow a driver with a different paint scheme on a weekly basis. They like a driver that runs one paint scheme in one race, then that new fan tunes in next week and that driver runs something different. It can be tough to follow, and it is different from years past when drivers ran the same or similar paint schemes every week.

Is There a Solution?

Is there a way to combine the benefits of drivers running the same paint scheme along with the benefits of multiple sponsors? Well, maybe teams could implement something where they run the same template or base on the car, but they change the logos. One example is Dale Earnahrdt Jr.’s 2008 primary paint schemes for Amp Energy and National Guard on the left side of this picture.

It’s also possible that sponsors of similar colors could combine their sponsorship on one race car. An example of this is Tony Stewart’s 2009 Old Spice/Office Depot paint scheme.

However, sponsors are the ones paying the teams at the end of the day. They need to make sure that their brands are represented in the way that they want. These solutions could provide that, but the sponsorships have to be close enough in branding to allow for this to happen.

On top of that, putting paint scheme designs in too tight of a template could take away from some creativity as well. Instead of creating the ideal sponsor paint scheme, it’s the sponsor paint scheme within the limitations of a specific template.

There is a lot to factor in when thinking about paint schemes. There are benefits and detractors to either end of the spectrum. Should there be a switch?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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