Journal: Remember When Drivers Only Had To Thank A Single Sponsor?

Remember When Drivers Only Had To Thank A Single Sponsor?

By Joel Clark
April 18, 2016
8 comments

Surely one of the most famous and recognisable partnerships in motorsport is that of STP Motor Oil and Richard “The King” Petty. I was somewhat smacked in the face once I realized I hadn’t featured this simple-yet-striking livery from what many consider to be the golden years of Nascar racing, specifically because it’s one of the most tasteful paint jobs ever applied to a stock car.

The Scientifically Treated Petroleum company leapt to worldwide fame, when it began its affiliation with Richard Petty in 1972—a relationship that endured to become the second longest in motor racing history. The ’72 Dodge Charger Daytona was the car that kicked off this record-shattering love story, though it wasn’t love at first sight…in fact, it was far from it.’

As far as the livery was concerned, the whole thing almost didn’t happen at all—and this strikes a chord with many experiences of mine, particularly with my experience as an art director. Andy Granatelli, the CEO of STP, insisted the car be painted in Day-Glo Red, but Richard Petty, naturally, wanted it in Petty Blue.

First: the idea that a driver can stand his ground and demand the color of the car above his title sponsor seems insane, but this is The King, after all. With neither side backing down, there was only one solution: each got half. The results of the now-unmistakable two-tone design speaks for itself, and it’s a rare case of two wrongs making a right.

Once this decision was finally made, the designers looked to have had some fun with the brief. The two-tone color scheme could all so easily have been a simple split down the line; of a red top, blue bottom (or the other way ’round—see how arguments start?)

Instead, they make what is almost always a cardinal sin in vehicle graphics: the shape of the red side-panel sits well within the car’s actual lines and shape; usually, this shortens the look of the car,  resulting in a strange and stubby look. The Dodge Charger Daytona, of course, didn’t suffer this fate—quite the opposite, in fact.

Thanks to its gargantuan length, it had the reverse effect: the car looked a lot better by being, visually, a bit stubbier. These two vivid tones of red and blue sit remarkably well together, but I wouldn’t want either to be shade brighter, as they’re both close to the line in terms of, “beginning to hurt the eyes”.

With the huge number 43 emblazoned on the doors and a giant STP logo spread across the hood, it was a livery that became legendary from day one. The STP logo has a great advantage when it comes to racing liveries, as well: those three letters and simple oval shape seem to say “racing,” no matter what. I can’t think of many other logos, that when applied to even the most civilised of road cars, can turn them into sporty cars.

That said, designs that feature only STP logos—including the ridiculous team uniforms someone dreamt up for the Indianapolis 500 one year—tend to not look as great as Petty’s Nascar designs. Even svelte Formula 1 cars don’t necessarily look as good as STP-sponsored stock cars. For instance, the ugliest-of-motorsport-ducklings: March Engineering’s 1971 ‘711’ Formula 1 car. One barely notices the sponsor logo, for your eyes are preoccupied with that nose; from one angle, it resembles a Spitfire aircraft’s, from above, a tea tray.

Each time STP make the return to a race series as a major sponsor, it seems to celebrate the news with its new race car dressed in the original STP/Petty colors. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, but it does raise the problem: if a livery never changes, what chance does a modern race car have of becoming iconic? In STP’s case, there’s been a lot of homage to its first partnership with Petty over the last 40 years.

Still, for me, this combination of sponsor and driver is unmatched. Aside from their insane success in terms of race results, the idea that the protagonists also created the color scheme blows me away: imagine the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team changing its livery because Lewis Hamilton starts favoring the color red.

Image Sources: caranddriver.comfastinfastout.comracingnation.com
pinterest.comhsrca.com

Tags Motor Oil/ STP
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Sean Paul Lorentzen
Sean Paul Lorentzen(@seanpaullorentzen)
5 years ago

Uhhh…. Petty never drove a Daytona, and he definitely didn’t in ’72. The Daytonas and Superbirds were banned after the 1970 season.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago

Well … y’alls part right … and part wrong . He drove a Superbird in 70-71 … though the Superbird/Daytona twins were not outlawed/banned per se in 1970 … but rather the rules placed so many limitations on them in 71 as to make them irrelevant by the end of the season bringing an end to the NASCAR supercar era [Dodge Daytona – Plymouth Superbird – Ford King Cobra ]

Not to mention for all practical purposes bringing about the end of all innovation in NASCAR

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago

Oh … and guess who lobbied , begged , threatened and pushed for all those restrictions on the SuperBird / Daytona twins as well as the upcoming Ford King Cobra ?

GM … because they had nothing in their quiver with which to compete and didn’t have the wherewithal or money to develop anything new . Another fine example of corporate interests and money trumping [ no pun intended here ] innovation – competition and fair play .

Derelict
Derelict(@derelict)
5 years ago

Things are expensive. That is not anything new. Sponsors make racing possible. Racing is a losing proposition. We are lucky that companies are still willing to waste money plastering their emblems on things.

You missed an opportunity to do a story on the turbine powered #70 STP racer. Or, maybe you still can. A great ‘could have been.’

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago
Reply to  Derelict

Uhhh .. gee .. so does that make each and every race team before the age of blatant advertising full on miracle workers ? Get a grip on reality . Things are so expensive because the series – teams and sponsors chose to make it all so expensive . And of course racing is a losing proposition . Fact is its a financial black hole ! But the simple fact is …. the moment corporate interests went beyond a few dollars and a decal on the side … taking firm control of the teams-series – tracks etc . THAT .. was the point where motorsports went from … ‘ Sport ‘ .. to blatantly scripted and homogenized … ‘ Spectacle ‘

And if you can’t tell the difference …. well .. then you have my undying sympathies … and I truly hope you can find it within yourself someday to dig out of the delusional black hole you’ve allowed yourself to be sucked into … no insult implied or intended … because my good man … unfortunately … you’re not alone

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago
Reply to  Derelict

FYI ; The #70 STP Special . Thats not a story .. thats in need of an entire book .

Derelict
Derelict(@derelict)
5 years ago
Reply to  Derelict

Jumping to conclusions. What you are missing is the rich history of racing. It beginning as self funded ‘gentlemen racers’. Eventually, the desire to go fast and win brought on a push for advancements that with them brought on an increase in cost. Hobby racers then began to move up in the ranks to challenge the well off set that was the typical racer. That increase in cost brought about a need for sponsorship deals to be able to attain the latest and greatest. I have a firm grip upon reality and history.

Before organized racing series’, there were manufacturers fighting it out for glory. If it was a land speed record or a Le Mans entry, they did it without sponsorship and with factory backed works programs. As the speeds and trophies became more desirable and harder to attain, outside funding was needed. The series did not make it expensive, the quest to be the best did, with the added cost of trying to make sure that as few drivers died as possible. If anything, organized race series exist to level the playing field and reduce costs. Not make things more costly.

The only motorsport that is homogenized is modern day F1. Lame rules and regulations designed to do nothing but curtail and out and out fight. There are good reasons for it and good against. The objective of trying to create close racing has done nothing but create boring events. NASCAR, vintage, BTCC, DTM, etc…, are all the antithesis of what you think racing is. Nothing scripted about those. Nothing. And those series are not what made the cost of racing skyrocket. It is the quest to win. Striving to engineer within every single little loophole available for that advantage. That takes money. Money that sponsors pony up.

As for the Indy turbine car, Octane did a pretty good story on the evolution of the turbine racer. Really interesting. That is something that I would love to see on this site.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago

Yeah … I do ! And I also remember when advertisements didn’t try and masquerade as articles [ not this one … but you get the point ] Movies and TV series weren’t just another excuse for product placement .. interviews had more to do with the actual racing than the million and one sponsor shout outs .. magazines had more articles in comparison to advertisements .. and we were the customer … rather than a commodity being sold to the advertisers by the magazines , movies , TV , sports & motorsports etc .

Yeah baby ! We’ve certainly come a long way . From human beings with inalienable rights … to chattels , paid slaves and a commodity to be traded bought and sold to the highest bidder .

FYI ; Its only getting worse . As of the 2016/2017 season … NBA players uniforms will have blatant advertising as part of the teams livery