Special Liveries of the 2021 Indianapolis 500

One of the many good things about the Indianapolis 500 is that it brings a lot of special liveries for the Month of May. A couple of years ago, Marco Andretti ran a special commemorative livery for the fiftieth anniversary of his grandfather’s win in the 1969 Indianapolis 500, that fans seemed to love. Unfortunately that car did not perform well at all in the race, but that’s another story.

Many sponsors choose to run special liveries in May, just to celebrate the Indianapolis 500. Most sponsors choose to run what they’ve got, because they think their livery is already just fine. Then there are the one-offs that are running the Indianapolis 500 only, so the Month of May is the one and only time we’ll see their liveries.

If I’m being honest, I don’t care for the majority of the special liveries that will be running in this year’s Indianapolis 500. Part of it is because I’m old and don’t have the same taste (or lack thereof) that some younger fans have. Another part is that they are just plain ugly.

As I go through some of the photos on my phone from this past weekend, I’ll pick out some random shots and put them in the Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down category, with commentary.

Keep in mind, these are only special liveries for May. I won’t comment on liveries we see during the rest of the season, no matter how much I dislike the ROKiT car of Sébastien Bourdais or the matte black finish on Will Power’s car.

Thumbs Up

RC Enerson: Although the Top Gun car didn’t even make the race, most are in agreement that this was a very good looking car. Since they were busy trying to massage more speed out of the car back in the garage area, this was my only shot of the car for the entire weekend.


While it was a good-looking car, other than being blue with lightning bolts on it – it did not really evoke images of the Johnny Lightning Specials of 1970-71. I was there to witness Al Unser win in those cars, and you really have to stretch your imagination to call it a throwback. But I do give the livery effort a thumbs-up.

Tony Kanaan: I think the American Legion car of Tony Kanaan is one of the better looking cars he has been in since his 7-Eleven days. My only complaint is the writing on the sidepods needs to be bigger. The sidepods look almost blank white, when it goes by you at speed. The writing is also hard to see on Television. But overall high marks for this paint scheme.


Takuma Sato: The reigning Indianapolis 500 champ may be driving the best looking special livery in the field. If you’ve only seen it on television, you may have overlooked it. In fact, I thought it was black with yellow trim when I saw it on television. This weekend, I realized it is a beautiful deep blue with burnt orange trim that really pops in person. They have really done a nice job with this car.


Simona De Silvestro: Overall, I like the look of Simona’s car. It’s tasteful with clean trim lines, and highlights the sponsor’s name and logo well. But points need to be subtracted by the odd font of the number on the front of the car. The “16” looks too big for the car and appears to just flop all over the place. The wide “6” just doesn’t go with anything else on the car. Have I been married to a graphic design artist too long?


Thumbs Down

Juan Montoya: The livery itself is not bad. It’s a bit boring, but not bad. My problem with it is that it is supposed to celebrate the pole-wining car of McLaren’s Peter Revson from fifty years ago. If that was their goal, why so much white on the car? Simply make it all papaya orange, like the 1971 car was. Don’t try to pass this off as a throwback. It’s not. The only thing similar between the two cars is the car number.



Rinus VeeKay: The Sonax car that Rinus VeeKay won the GMR Grand Prix in was a very nice looking livery. For the Indianapolis 500, the Sonax car goes to the boss (Ed Carpenter) and VeeKay gets handed the Bitcoin livery. I realize I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t like this car at all. At speed, it looks like a pair of polka-dotted boxer shorts. Could they not come up with anything better than this?


Santino Ferrucci: Put me in the camp that really likes Santino Ferrucci. But count me as one that really dislikes the look of his car. I’ve seen some on social media that think this is the best looking car on the grid. Seriously? If not for one more car, I’m thinking it could be the worst. I am assuming the sponsor(s) came up with this scheme. It looks like two cars merged together in a bad way. When Ferrucci crashed this car on Thursday, it was hard to tell where the crash damage was in the rear of the car. The whole Mountain Dew section looks like crash damage, and that should never be a good thing. It sort of looks like Ferrucci stood up to get out of the car, turned around and barfed all over the cowling. I’m thinking some high-ranking executive told their four year-old kid to design a livery and no one had the guts to tell the exec that it was awful. How else could you explain running this abomination on the track?


Felix Rosenqvist: The only reason I didn’t rank the HyVee car of Ferrucci as the ugliest car in the race, is only because that title belongs to the car of Felix Rosenqvist. My friend, Paul Dalbey, noted last weekend that the Rosenqvist car looks like scrambled eggs. Maybe it should be called the Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast Special.


Perhaps this is punishment for Rosenqvist scoring only seventy-one points all season and sitting in eighteenth place in points. I don’t know who thought this was going to be a good-looking car, but there seems to be no variance of opinions on this car. It seems to be universally disliked by all fans. When was the last time you saw IndyCar fans in agreement about something? On this, they can unite.

What are your thoughts on this? Am I way off base, or do I just sound like an angry old man yelling at a cloud? Where is Little Al’s Valvoline livery from the early nineties, when we need it?

George Phillips

Please Note: Today (Tue May 25) is the last day to turn in your answers to this year’s trivia contest. I now have several entries. The current leader has missed only four. Can you do better than that? Entries are due today at 6:00 pm EDT. The answers and the winner will be announced tomorrow. – GP

9 Responses to “Special Liveries of the 2021 Indianapolis 500”

  1. Mostly agree with you George. The paint on the Top Gun car is nice but their logo? Looks like it was made using $10 clip art in my opinion. I’ve always thought that US race car lettering and design is great but this one misses the mark for me.

  2. I like most of these, even the disliked schemes you mentioned. Seems orange is the cool color these days, where Pink had been in the last few years. Overall though, I just like when I can tell a car apart from others. Seems like we’ve had a run of white based with red or the kind of played out blue, white, red look. Ed, Sato, Rahal, Newgarden and Wilson’s schemes were kinda blah to me.

  3. Spot on George. I am also not a fan of Will Power’s livery. i don’t like the 5G on the side and matte black cars do nothing for me.

  4. Race car liveries are always an interesting topic . I have to believe a lot of time and thought goes into the design before the wrap or paint goes on however there seem to be more misses than hits for me this year . Why would MSR have two cars that look almost indistinguishable at speed ? Agree the Hyvee / Mountain Dew combo is just bad. I don’t mind Montoya’s car but agree should have just painted it all papaya. Will resist going on and on. I personally like cars that pop and are easily identifiable at speed , such as the Menards and Pennzoil yellows . I understand mostly monochromatic may be to old school but you remember the dayglow STP and Foyt orange cars to this day . As I said a good topic for discussion as there is no right or wrong answer just personal preference

  5. I don’t mind Ferruccis’ at all. I love a good mix of liveries on the grid. Cars with white as the main color come off as uninspired to me. I realized that may be sponsor driven but give me colors, LOTS of colors!

  6. well, the kids like the “weird” ones a lot better. maybe one day,
    with the advancement in composites, the cars will change
    colors/logos just like scoreboards and adboards at ball games.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Ferrucci’s and Rosenqvist’s cars have a very late 90s look, where designers used a lot of smearing paints and sloshy liquids in their paint schemes because for the first time in history they could put something so busy and detailed on a race car (and lots of sponsors sell liquids: beer, soda, oil, gas…). It’s funny how dated something that would have been shockingly modern 25 years ago looks now, where most company’s scramble to simplify their logos and designs or revert to pre-90s ones in an effort to match things like the iPhone interface’s recent flat aesthetic.

    Top Gun’s car looked great, when don’t lightning bolts work on a car? The Al Unser Johnny Lightning inspiration seems limited largely to the way they painted the number on the nose, with the lightning bolts trailing off of the white number field, but a nice effort still. With no sponsor they may as well have duplicated Unser’s side numbers too.

    JR Hildebrand’s ABC Supply car is probably the best roadster tribute paint scheme ever done on a modern winged car, and I believe that deserves kudos.

    I do like how Rahal’s car evokes Buddy Rice’s 2004 winner without being a straight up copy, though I liked the Rahal team’s use of the late 90s Miller paint scheme at earlier races better.

    VeeKay’s Bitcoin car is silly looking, of course, though the dots do kind of call to mind the delightfully-painted Rigling and Henning Wonder Bread Special of the early 30s.

    I thought Power’s black car was a big improvement over his silver one.

  8. Talon De Brea Says:

    I ‘m (even) older than George, and I’ve long missed the simpler “mono” colors that show off a car’s lines and make them look FAST. I get sponsors’ desire to “camo” a car in marketing words and images — but when you can’t immediately tell from a still photo what the sponsor is selling, an opportunity is being lost.

    The technology of graphics-heavy “wraps” is great, but just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD … or at least not in excess. A Boyle Maserati, Ferrari 512 in red (or Penske’s Sunoco blue), a Richard Petty electric blue Plymouth, a DayGlo red STP turbine, the Yellow Submarine — less can be more and can make for vivid, identifiable images on the track, in screens, and in our minds’ eyes.

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