[Editor's Note: Today we have a guest-written column from David Firestone, who's following up on a column he'd penned for Uni Watch earlier this year. Enjoy. — Phil]
Drivers Start Your Engines
By David Firestone
In my last column, I focused on the driver suit, but the other uniform items that driver and pit crews wear in racing are just as important, not just for aesthetics, but for safety as well. I felt that these items should be analyzed.
First, let’s take a look at racing helmets. The helmets that racing drivers and pit crews wear are just as critical to safety as fire suits. Helmets have been a required safety feature in racing for decades, but rules on what kinds of helmets can and cannot be worn were rather lax, until Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500. Prior to the 2001 Daytona 500, Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin Jr., and Tony Roper had died in racing incidents where, at the time it was thought that even the best-designed helmet by itself would not have prevented the death in the incident. Earnhardt was known for being one of the few drivers to wear “open-face” helmets, similar to this Brad Noffsinger example from 1988. These helmets were commonplace in the 1980’s but by 2001, only a few drivers chose to wear them. These helmets had the advantage of extra visibility, but were less protective in the event of a fire. NASCAR was reluctant to regulate these helmets because at that time, they did not want to cause an accident because the driver’s view was restricted by a full-face helmet. A full-face helmet prior to 2001, such as this Kevin Lepage example from 1999.
After Earnhardt’s death, a new piece of equipment, the HANS or Head And Neck Support device was introduced. NASCAR mandated that all driver had to wear this new device, and the results have spoken for themselves. Here is a rundown on how the HANS device works, the device is worn on the shoulders, and hooks onto the helmet using a pair of straps which protects the neck, while giving the driver the ability to turn their head. The seat belt is placed over the device, and pulled as tight as possible. This is done to protect the driver in the event of a sudden head-on accident, it keeps the driver’s head and neck safe from the sudden deceleration, preventing death from a broken neck or basilar skull fracture. If Earnhardt, Petty, Roper, or Irwin had been wearing this device, their deaths could and would have been avoided.
The standard issue HANS-ready helmet is designed for driver safety, and is regulated by SFI or FIA. In addition to providing protection, the helmet has a couple of other features. In NASCAR, the most current helmets have the air intake attachment located on the top. This critical design feature helps keep the driver comfortable, by taking air from the outside of the car, cooling it, and blowing it into the helmet. Older helmets feature the air intake located on the left side of the helmet, so that the hose could be easily attached. The driver compartments in NASCAR can reach temperatures of over 150 degrees, and wearing 4 layers of fire protection doesn’t help things, so the air intake is a very necessary feature.
The visor on NASCAR helmets is a very durable clear plastic, that can be changed from clear to dark, depending on what time of day the race is. When the race will include a day-to-night transition, a dark film tear off is worn on a clear visor, so that it can be quickly removed and disposed of. The top of the visor features the helmet stripe. It is a good place for sponsorship placement, as the driver does not see out of this area anyway. One very critical piece found in every racing helmet is a microphone system. Drivers, crew chiefs, and strategists need to be able to communicate with each other, the rules mandate it. A custom paint job is always present on these helmets. Drivers also frequently wear two different helmets, one for race day and one for qualifying.
IndyCar and F1 helmets are designed for the open driver compartments the cars feature, and have special modifications to enhance driver comfort and even the performance of the car, including air boxes, and drinking hoses for the driver. The design of the helmet also has a unique significance. In IndyCar and F1, the appearance of the helmet is a part of a driver’s identity. Ayrton Senna for example, wore a helmet for much of his career that was sunburst yellow background with a light green stripe that surrounded the upper visor and a light metallic blue stripe surrounding the lower visor. Lewis Hamilton wore for a number of years a helmet with a very similar design to honor Senna who was his hero. These designs did not change even when the sponsorship they had contrasted the helmet design a bit. Sebastian Vettel on the other hand wears a helmet design heavily influenced by Red Bull, his primary sponsor. These helmets are worn by the driver with a Nomex balaclava that covers the entire face except the eyes. As the driver compartments are open, this provides extra facial protection. In many instances, the sock is attached to the bottom of the helmet.
Looking at racing gloves and shoes, the focus is primarily on safety as opposed to appearance, but sponsor logos and car numbers frequently appear on gloves. The gloves, such as these Hut Stricklin examples from 2000 are worn for fire protection and to give the driver extra grip on the steering wheel. IndyCar and F1 drivers can wear special “rain gloves” which have a rubber coating to keep the driver’s hands dry. Gloves are long so that they can be pulled over the cuffs of the driver suit as some extra protection for this area.
Racing shoes such as these Scott Riggs examples from 2004 are designed for fire protection and heat resistance, but also for durability and aesthetics. Like every other product that drivers wear, gloves and shoes are rated by SFI for safety. IndyCar and F1 drivers can wear rubber coated rain shoes for road races in the rain to keep their feet dry. Additional equipment may be used by the driver in order to keep their feet cool during the race. They are designed to match whatever color the driver’s suit is, but sponsor logos for the manufacturer can appear here as well. These shoes require special fire resistant shoe laces.
Driver Vs. Pit Crew equipment:The risk that the drivers take is very obvious, but pit road is a very dangerous place. The racing leagues do what they can to keep pit road safe, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. It is sad to say but pit crew members have been seriously injured and killed on pit road. It might seem crazy, but it was not all that long ago that pit crew members worked around very fast-moving cars, wearing little more than a custom-designed polo and pair of work pants. Now, rules mandate that pit crew members wear the same protection as drivers, including fire suits, helmets, gloves, shoes and undergarments.
There are really very few differences between driver suits and pit crew suits. The only real differences are that while drivers wear one piece suits with their name on the belt, pit crews can wear one or two-piece suits with their names on the back, in the same place as NFL jerseys. The two piece suit is to accommodate the work that pit crews do, giving them the same level of protection that the driver have, but without restricting movement. Fires on pit road are a frightening reality, whether from spilled fuel during a stop, or for the occasional crash on pit road. The crew member handling fueling equipment, the so-called gas man, typically wears a one-piece suit, racing shoes, as opposed to pit crew shoes, a full-face helmet, and an aluminiumized-fiberglass apron that reflects heat, and does not absorb moisture.
The helmets that pit crews wear are vastly different than driver helmets. Each crew member wears a helmet designed for his position. Jack men and tire changers wear open-faced helmets with large sun brims that have LED lights for extra visibility in night races. All involved have radio equipment built in.
The gloves and shoes that pit crews wear are designed with two goals in mind. The goals are to protect the crew member from the obvious risk of fire, while at the same time allowing them to preform the task they are required.
Thanks, David. Nice writeup!
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
Like the colorizations, I’m going to run these as inline pics — click on each one to enlarge.
And so, lets begin:
We begin today with Wes Peters, who has a bunch (9 to be precise) of new looks for the Iowa State Cyclone football team:
I had some downtime at work last week and decided to make some tweaks to the Iowa State football uniform. What started out as a tweak with the addition of white turned into several combinations. My personal favorites are the uniforms that use a white helmet and white pants. I don’t know if you guys think they’re good enough to make the cut on Uni-Watch but I thought I’d submit them anyway.
Iowa State Graphic Designer
Next up is Roger Morrow, with four new looks for the Atlanta Braves:
Here is my concept for the Atlanta Braves. I went with a throwback style look with removing the Native American aspect to the uniform. I decided that they can change the meaning of the name by adding sleeve patches for the police dept and fire dept for the City of Atlanta and Fulton County.
We close today with Paul Lee has a kind of a new look for the Lakers:
I can’t remember if I’ve submitted this before, so here it goes again.
And that’s it for today. Back with more next time.
Guess The Game…From The Scoreboard
OK, readers — you know the drill (and if you don’t it’s quite simple) — you simply need to figure out what game is being played using the clues found on the scoreboard. I’m not sure if this one is particularly easy or particularly difficult. Obviously there are enough clues right on the scoreboard that if you have enough time, you can get it. Or can you?
If you solve it, as a courtesy to other readers, simply LINK (go to Baseball Reference) to the game and post that link in your comment — feel free to describe HOW you solved it, using any clues you may have gleaned from the Scoreboard.
OK? OK! Post your answer (in link form) in the comments section below. Good luck.
Last week’s scoreboard/answer (a few of you got it, others had the wrong guess): October 11, 1977.
U.W.F.F.L. Week 6 Update
By Rob Holecko
Here’s what’s going on in the UWFFL this week: Atlanta (4-1) and Minnesota (5-0) face off in a early season battle for big league supremacy, and while the NFL is going pink telling everyone about one particular kind of popular cancer, teams all across the UWFFL are wearing special colors and ribbons to bring awareness to many different kinds of cancers and diseases. In the minors, Sacramento and Dallas meet in a key battle out West, while Kansas City plays the first international UWFFL game ever as they face the… Barcelona Dragons of the La Lega Internazionale di Uni Watchers Fantacalcio? All this and much, much more! Check it out and vote on the uniform matchups at www.uwfantasyfootballleague.com.
A Star is … Livestreamed
Uni Watch reader (and all-around good dude) Jason Bernard is about to get his 15 minutes…or something. And you can see him do his thing while you’re watching the next few Monday Night Football broadcasts. I’ll let him explain…
Hey Uni Watch-
During the next three Monday Night Football games (October 14, 21 and 28) I will be featured in a live streaming promotion for Bud Light on espn.com, as part of Bud Light’s “It’s Only Weird if it Doesn’t Work” campaign. Essentially, some friends and I take sides and discuss the game action, as well as superstitions, pop culture and whatever else we can think of for three and a half hours. It’s interactive – you have the opportunity to vote for each of us (which directly controls a wacky “luck” machine), you can Tweet input at us (@BudLight) or you can just sit and enjoy our nonsense. To view:
1. DURING the MNF game, Go to espn.com
2. Click the NFL tab
3. A Bud Light popup will appear – click the button to “Join the Show”
This is only live DURING the game. These are great guys, so it will be fun and entertaining. I’ll do my best to weave in uni-centric detail. Vote for ME!
Thanks, JB. Aight, Uni Watchers, do a brother a solid and check him out, throw him a vote. OK? OK!
Alex Rocklein’s MLB Uni Playoff Tracker
Well, the divisional series’ are now over, and we’re into the games they play for the Pennant. Last night, we had lots of free baseball with the Dodgers and Cardinals playing into the wee hours of the morning (at least on the East Coast). Those two will be back at it again this afternoon (with a 4:00 pm “start” time in the ETZ), and the Red Sox will host the Tigers in the late game. For those who went to bed before the game ended, here’s a hint how this one ended. Thirteen innings. Beltran drove home all three Cardinal runs.
For those who were rooting for lots of ‘colorful’ games with softball tops, well, you’re all shit out of luck. Three of the teams don’t even have a colored alt top (although the Cards do have an alternate cream-colored uniform with a “St. Louis” script they have worn every home Saturday game — so I expect they’ll bust those out today), and the Red Sox (who have a red and blue top) rarely wear those. Since the Sawks only wear the red tops on home Fridays and blue tops on road Fridays (and no games are scheduled between the Tigers and Sox on a Friday), we won’t see those. It’s basically white vs. gray the whole way (as the uniform gods intended it).
But the Divisional series, as you’ll note from Alex’ tracker, were full of softball tops. The Pirates, who lost a heartbreaking five-game series to the Cardinals, wore their black tops every day (considering them “lucky”). They even eschewed protocol by wearing the black tops at home on Sunday, when they had been wearing their 1970s throwbacks for most of the season. The Braves, who lost to the Dodgers in four, did break out their navy softball tops once, only to wear their beautiful gray tops for the series clincher.
In the junior circuit, you’ll see the A’s never once wore a gray or white top, instead going with the green tops once at home and twice on the road, and wore their gold tops for two of their three home games. If there is one team I don’t have a problem with wearing the alternate top, it’s the A’s — and seeing them in the green and gold tops brought back memories of their 1972-74 run of three straight World Series victories. I grew up with them in colorful tops, and it seems much less of a cynical, money-generating ploy than other teams. I was also pulling for them to meet the Pirates in the Series, but that won’t be happening. In the other series, the Rays and Red Sox both wore softball tops for their Friday night opener, but then went white/gray the rest of the way.
But now that we have four teams pretty much guaranteed to go white/gray (or possibly cream/gray today). Folks like Jim Vilk and THE Jeff may not be pleased, but the uni gods have spoken. For those of us who are fond of classic, traditional teams (and traditional-looking teams), the rest of the way will be uniform nirvana. For those who are easily bored by the white/gray parade…well, you have College Football to whet your appetites today, and plenty of pink from the NFL Sunday and Monday night.
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Baseball News: St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz said the National League Championship Series is a match-up of the most beautiful uniforms in Major League Baseball (thanks to Riley Swinford). … That submission reminded me of another nice take on the NLCS by the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner, who notes (among other things) the Dodgers and the Cardinals are two of the three N.L. teams (the Phillies are the other) that never wear a colored jersey. … Of course, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe will tell you Boston vs. Detroit is a pretty old-school uni-matchup as well.
NFL News: Looks like Jay Cutler wore two different shoes in Thursday night’s game against the Giants, judging by the Nike swooshes (good spot by Adam Grad). … Pretty sure we’ve addressed this before, but Andrew Cosentino noticed in this photo of the Peyton Manning goodbye presser that “the Colts helmet is the wrong color. Keep in mind that they have worn navy helmets before.” … The shoes Brandon Marshall was wearing on Thursday evening for Mental Health Awareness were actually soccer cleats, says Archie Troxel. “I know kickers typically wear soccer boots, but I’m not sure if I’ve seen a non-kicker do that before,” notes Archie. This was also noted by Elliott Bueler, who asks, “Seeing as how Brandon Marshall doesn’t typically wear soccer cleats, why couldn’t he have secured some football-specific cleats along the lines of the garish green offerings some of the Seattle Seahawks’ players have sported this year?” … Sports Illustrated has compiled a list of the eight best NFL throwback uniforms; sadly, some we’ll never see again (unless the ‘one-helmet-per-team’ rule is lifted, which is unlikely). … How does Green Bay’s ‘Frozen Tundra’ stay so green, even in January? Here’s how (from Dave Rakowski). … This has probably been covered before (by Paul) but one more look couldn’t hurt: The Bears wore a commemorative patch for Mike Singletary’s last home game ever, in 1992 against the Steelers (good find by Jeff Flynn, Jr.).
College Football News: Eastern Michigan will be wearing new helmets today when they face Army. … In news we couldn’t live without: Oregon’s cheerleaders got custom “O” contacts for today’s game against the Washington Huskies (found by Paulie Sumner). … Here’s a nifty slideshow of Oregon vs. Washington football unis through the years. … Paul Stave thinks that since UW is joining “the New Helmet per Week club, they may want to consider this version from the brief Jim Lambright era.”
NBA News: The snippet about the Chargers legends jerseys in Friday’s ticker made Taylor Berthelson think of a Utah Jazz Gordon Hayward jersey from the old mountain jersey era. Taylor also asks, “How did you not know about the Jazz Bear! The fact that he was inducted to the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006 says alot!
Hockey News: Alabama-Huntsville opened its season last night at Northeastern. The Chargers are in their first season as a WCHA member. Here’s what the new road jersey looks like. Nice! (great find by Michael Napier). … Last night, the Florida Panthers opened up at home. Aside from the Dos Equis patch, the Panthers would have worn throwbacks. According to this Miami Herald article, the league has intervened and they could no longer wear the throwbacks. Submitter Alexander Collazo asks, “Any reason as to why this happened?” … Hmmm, looks like even minor leagues are doing teasers for their warm-up jerseys (good find by Adam Walter).
Soccer News: Temple women’s soccer went bfbs last night at UConn. “Ugh,” intones submitter Gregory Koch.
College Hoops News: Looks like Valparaiso Men’s basketball will be getting new uniforms this season (thanks to Joel Mathwig), which he says are “So much better than last season.” I’d agree. … The University of California has new hoops unis for the 2013-14 season. … New hoops unis for South Carolina, with digi-camo. Here’s video (thanks to Joel Mathwig). … More uni-unveilings yesterday, with 3 new ones from Penn State.
Grab Bag: Here’s a jersey that will be worn at the Asian Gaelic Games (Hurling, *Camogie & Gaelic Football) this weekend. O’Neill’s is an Irish company that supplies the vast majority of clothing and equipment for these sports (thanks to Michael Clary). … If you scroll down in this article, to the section entitled “North Allegeheny 1982,” you’ll see this photo with the following note: “North Hills finished 6-4 in the regular season but went on to win the WPIAL championship with a victory over Butler at Pitt Stadium. During the magical playoff run, North Hills coach Jack McCurry wore a New York Yankees batting helmet. He viewed himself as the bad guy and he thought most people hated the Yankees. So why not?” (thanks to Doug Keklak). … Li’l help? Chris Castoldi writes, “I think you guys might be the only ones that could help me with a project. I have an old Pitt Panthers helmet chair. I know the helmets from this time period had Panther stickers on them for good plays. I know they’ve had several panther head logos and I’m unsure of which one to use. Any help would be greatly appreciated!” … We’ve explored many of these, but here are some neat hidden messages inside logos on the Mental Floss site (nice find by Jason Hillyer). … Nice find from Raymie Humbert on teams that wear others’ unis: This week, Florence High School in Florence, Arizona was stunned when news broke that their 38-year-old head coach Stephen McKane had died of a heart attack,” writes Raymie. “His father Bill, who had been helping coach the team, has taken over as interim head coach. Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley, which is in the same district, has announced that it (would wear) Florence’s uniforms for (last) night’s game in a show of solidarity for the team.” … Andrew Schmitt saw this on Jalopnik, an exhaustive look at every livery for every team back to the 50’s and wanted to share. … “Even the middle schoolers,” writes Eric Bangeman, who “stopped by a park in my Chicago suburb and saw both teams wearing magenta socks.
And that’s a wrap. Another full post, but there was lots to cover. My thanks to David for the lede article, and of course, the concepters, Rob, Alex, and all the ticker submitters.
Don’t forget to vote for Jason on MNF!
You guys enjoy a great holiday Saturday, with the playoffs and a bunch of great NCAA football to boot. I’ll catch you tomorrow with the full Sunday Morning Uni Watch rundown.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“The Chargers alt is in no way a ‘throwback’ – it’s the same hideous modern uniform in a different color.”