The Thrill Of Seeing New Liveries

Back in the days before the internet, it was tough for a hard-core IndyCar fan to get a glimpse of any of the new cars before the opening race. Before Racer magazine came out, about the only offseason news came from Ned Wicker’s IndyCar Racing magazine, which was published in Milwaukee and had sort of a home-spun feel to it.

I’m not sure when I started subscribing to it – probably 1989 or 1990, but I held on until those days when they changed their name to IndyCar & Championship Racing magazine. They were playing both sides of the split, which didn’t serve them well in those bitter days. Plus, the popularity of the internet was booming and subscribers found they could get their news quicker and cheaper online. ICR magazine was one of the first casualties of the internet.

But getting back to those pre-internet days; one of the many springtime rituals was to get that first glimpse of a new car. Not only to see what the new design looked like, since they changed every year in those days – but to see if there were any new liveries or paint schemes. I guess I’m easily amused, but that has always been a thrill for me since I was a kid. I’ve always paid attention to the most intricate detail of the liveries from one season to the next. It would figure that someone so superficial, like myself, would pay attention to such things.

You knew that any change to the Penske Marlboro liveries would be subtle, at best. That was fine with me. I always thought that was one of the most iconic liveries in history. It was sad to see it go after the 2009 season.


Another of my favorites was the Al Unser, Jr. Valvoline scheme he ran from 1989 through 1993, while driving for Rick Galles.


When Derrick Walker got the Valvoline sponsorship, the livery changed – and not for the better. I never knew if Walker purposely changed it or if Valvoline mandated the change. I kind of think it was the latter, because Mark Martin’s Valvoline NASCAR livery changed about the same time.


The Target cars have morphed quite a bit over the years. In fact, the first rendition that Eddie Cheever drove in 1990 was hideous.


But with Scotch Video as a co-sponsor; the look improved quite a bit from 1991 to 1995.


Then, after Scotch was off of the car,  the lightening bolt era from 1996 to 2001 arrived at Ganassi. In my opinion, it was OK, but many fans absolutely loved it. I could take it or leave it.


In 2002, the Target cars had a great deal of white on the top part. I never cared for that look.


Apparently, no one else did either because beginning in 2006, the Target cars got more and more red on them. Now there is only one Target car, that of Scott Dixon. His car was always identified by white endplates. Now that Tony Kanaan’s No.10 carries NTT Data colors, Dixon is sporting an all-red car for the first time.


Personally, I like the look. It’s understated and classic. Longtime Scott Dixon fans won’t like it because the white endplates were sort of his brand. Now they have to adjust to a slightly different look for Dixon.

The two-day test at Barber earlier this week, not only gave us a good look at the Chevy and Honda aero kits, but also at the new paint schemes that teams were sporting. Almost everyone had something new – if for no other reason than to work around the new aero pieces.

The Penske cars have a new look to them. I guess they figured their sponsors were not getting the most bang for their buck by having their names on the traditional spot – the sidepods. Depending on which pieces they had on the car, there was a good chance that a sponsor’s name on the sidepod would be partially covered up and not very visible. What was their solution? Go up high onto the cowling. Suddenly, the spot that was reserved for associate sponsors has suddenly become prime real estate for the primary sponsor. To me, this treatment harkens back to the Prost Gauloises Formula One cars of the late nineties.


Personally, I can’t say that I’m a fan of this, but I certainly understand why they are doing it. I’m probably not a big fan of the look because it’s a change – and you know how I feel about that. But it’ll probably grow on me. More than likely, it’ll grow on other sponsors, and soon. Don’t be too surprised if you suddenly see other cars sporting this look just a few races into the season.

I liked the retro-look that Graham Rahal’s car had – a nod to the McLaren cars of the seventies. Let’s hope it performs better than the McLaren cars of 2015.


I also like the fact that Rahal will be carrying another retro livery at NOLA – the bright yellow car of D-A Lubricants – a major sponsor from the fifties. I’m hoping the car will be named “The D-A Lubricant Special”. That would bring a smile to Donald Davidson’s face.

Speaking of Tony Kanaan’s new colors, this scheme looks better than the blue and white NTT Data car that Ryan Briscoe drove last year.


Of course, the cars of Dale Coyne looked the same as always. So much so, that the car that Justin Wilson drove last year was still in the old DW12 configuration.

Some cars looked the same or were just uninspiring; such as the two KV cars. The Hydroxycut car of Sébastien Bourdais looked the same as last year. Stefano Coletti was in a solid silver car with a fire-burst nose. His car also had the LED scoring lights in the roll hoop area that IndyCar is experimenting with.


None of the Andretti Autosport cars looked any different. I didn’t expect any change in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s DHL liveried car. After all, why change something that brought such good luck last May? But I was hoping that Marco’s very ordinary Snapple scheme would have gotten a facelift. Apparently not.

So who do I think had the best looking cars on track this week? Based on the improvement over last year and the sheer presentation (read: looks), I thought it was no contest. The Chevy cars of CFH Racing had everyone beat, hands-down. The solid green Fuzzy’s Premium Vodka car and the black and copper car of Josef Newgarden were very eye-catching – at least through photographs. I’m expecting big things out of Newgarden this season, and the sight of this new paint scheme is a nice start.


Some fans don’t give a hoot about the livery of a car. So long as they’re not all the same color, some fans are happy. Amazingly, some can’t tell the difference between two cars with obviously different liveries, as long as they are the same color. But it’s always been a big thing to me. Why else would I prefer Parnelli Jones’ Ol’ Calhoun to some of the other predominantly white roadsters of the day? Because of that magic combination of pearl white with royal blue trimmed in red, with gold leaf numbers. It makes for what I consider one of the most beautiful cars to ever race.


But to use an old cliché – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some will consider the CFH cars boring, Ol’ Calhoun to look like a relic and Marco Andretti’s car to be sexy. To each his own. We all have our opinions. But ugly or beautiful, they’ll all look good next Sunday heading into that first turn at St. Petersburg. The preliminaries of spring are almost done. It’s almost time to get serious.

George Phillips

11 Responses to “The Thrill Of Seeing New Liveries”

  1. Marco’s livery is actually quite different than 2014, granted in subtle ways.

  2. Jim Peabody, Colorado Springs Says:

    Part of the fun of a new Indycar season is to do my homework prior to the 500. Watching the races leading up to Indianapolis, learning the new liveries and who was driving what, so when I get to the speedway on race day, I can identify everyone at speed, by sight alone. Makes tracking the race much easier…….

  3. Open Wheel cars have never been a good format for sponsor placement with the exception of the rolling billboards called winged sprint cars. Small spaces and high speeds make for poor sponsor identification especially on TV. Still shots in print adds use what little advantage they have. This is the reason that long term sponsor/team relationships are so important. The Marlboro paint scheme was used across all the series in which it was involved. You didn’t need to read the lettering. The Pennzoil livery was similarly recognizable even across multiple teams. The situation today is different. There are multiple primary sponsors and liveries within teams which change from race to race. Sponsorships have recently been erratic, changing from year to year. Ride buyers bring obscure sponsors. In short, there is very little relational consistency (this goes all the way to series sponsorship). This situation is at least in part a result of weak sponsors and the tenuous nature of the series.

  4. I have to agree with George that the Marlboro Penske paint schemes were the best. I remember the red turned to more of a really bright orange (or the other way around, I can’t remember. There was nothing more cool than seeing that Marlboro name on a Penske race car. Especially when Penske designed their own chassis. I am not a smoker, never have been, but there is something about cigarette companies, beer, liquor, on race cars that just seems to fit. There is a coolness factor there that just enhances a race car. I wish there were more of them.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    I liked the original Target paint job. I also liked Christian Fittipaldi’s 1995 car, that was painted to look like a Brazilian flag from above. Kind of a neat idea, I think, painting the car to be viewed from above and then seeing the results when viewed from the side.

    I am surprised Penske was the only team to move their primary sponsors to the engine cowling, considering how much space shrunk on the Chevrolet sidepods and much space was added to the cowling area for the Hondas.

    I think Marco’s Snapple car suffers from having to follow that great RC Cola paint scheme from 2013. I miss that car.

    The Rahal team has entered cars at Indy as “specials” before (Graham 2010, Baguette 2011), so I would not be surprised to see the car called the DA Lubricant’s Special at New Orleans.

  6. I have always liked the Pennzoil liveries. I also like RHR’s current DHL livery. Must be something about yellow on the cars. However, Ol Calhoun, in my opinion, is one of the prettiest cars to ever grace the Bricks.

  7. In recent years I tend to like the solid color cars. Simon’s orange car last year comes to mind. I also miss the days of a primary sponsor “special”, such as the Bowes Seal Fast Special for example or the Blue Crown Specials. Of course I also miss much of my hair and it is not likely that either will come back any time soon so it is time to move on. Of course, sponsor money is apparently hard to come by these days, but I imagine that Dario may have privately been a bit reluctant to run around in a Huggies car.

    With today being the first day of Spring, I will begin looking forward to the Emma Dixon liveries also.

  8. This Dixon fan loves the Target 9. The white mirrors are enough white for me. I always thought it would be cool if Dixie ran an “All Black” scheme in honor of his nation’s famous rugby team. Ganassi always sold Black Target clothing.

  9. Ballyhoo Says:

    Thanks George for sharing. I like Josef’s new livery too. Nice copper highlights.
    Still cannot beat Parnelli’s. Love that blue. One more quiet weekend folks until showtime!!

  10. […] ‘Dinger wants to do Indy 500/Coke 600 double The Thrill Of Seeing New Liveries IndyCar: Leaders Circle payout […]

  11. Did anybody notice how bad are liveries on F1 cars in recent years – almost no bright colors, no yellow, green dominated liveries… mostly black, grey, black… it is hard distinguish them on TV.
    Thankfully “Indycar” is still OK in this area.

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