For 2018, Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) worked with Dodge and Mopar® to unveil a striking black and red design for both Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett. This design is the primary for both drivers in 2018 with additional designs slated for select races with additional team partners. So the question is, how does the team develop and coordinate those designs with all of the other elements that go with the racecar (crew wear, driver suits, race hauler, etc.)?
Don Schumacher Racing designer Aaron Holland is an in-house designer for the team who works across all of the DSR teams to develop a branding strategy for the various teams and their sponsors. “I spend a lot of time doing research of the companies that are partners of DSR,” said Holland. “I work with the partners to understand what is important to feature on the car. Typically, I will design 5-10 concepts before getting a final version that goes on the car.”
There are many partners who have been with the DSR team for over ten years. Some of these partners, such as the U.S. Army, who is the primary sponsor for Tony Schumacher, update the design for Tony’s car every year. Other partners will only update the design every few years. Then, there are programs such as Matt and Leah’s, where there are multiple primary sponsors who rotate throughout the season. This variety keeps Aaron and DSR busy coordinating new ideas and then implementing into each team.
For the Dodge/Mopar 2018 design, the process was a little bit unique. “When we started working on the 2018 design for Dodge/Mopar, I was sent an image someone had done online of a Dodge Charger with red scallops as accents on a black car,” said Holland. “With this direction, I took the concept and adopted it to the Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster.
Obviously, the Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster have dimensions that mean we have to try to adapt the location of accents like the red scallops. I think the final version on both cars looks great and is certainly eye-catching on the track!”
Many years ago, race teams began to use printed vinyl instead of paint to brand their racecars and haulers. The process was cheaper and meant that if a change occurred, updated branding could be done in a few days. Currently, Don Schumacher Racing has some cars that are painted and some that are wrapped with vinyl. For Dodge and Mopar® in 2018, these racecars and haulers are a wrap — as the car changes design regularly — this is the preferred method.
Once the racecar design is approved, Holland can then move into other areas of design that need attention. Step two in the process is to design the crew shirts. The crew shirts are created using a process called “dye sublimation”. This process (similar to screen printing), allows Holland to easily adapt the car design into the crew shirts.
Then, they must design the driver suit. Due to the five layer suit constraints, the branding on the suits needs to be embroidered. This limits the ability to replicate the car design. However, race suit companies work with the designer to get as close as possible to the vehicle.
Finally, if the car design is the primary design for the season, then the team’s hauler will also be “wrapped” to match the racecar. The wrap process on the hauler can go many different directions. They are all the maximum length allowed of 53 feet, which gives teams a large billboard to use to brand the hauler. Some teams will create a graphic of the side profile on the side. Others will take the design and attempt to mimic it as close to the racecar as possible. These haulers always make a very bold statement of their purpose: to support the race team while transporting the car and all other items to the racetrack!
As you can see, creating the identity for a race team has many steps. It also includes a number of people and vendors who participate in the process. The next time you see the Dodge/Mopar Don Schumacher Racing team on track, you’ll know what went into coordinating the team look from their vehicles to their uniforms.