The inside story: 'Looks as fast as it goes'
It's a "speed secret" that's been repeated once and again at racetracks around the world: A race car that looks fast usually goes fast.
Fans know crew chiefs like spend countless hours devising ways to coax more speed from their cars. Behind the scenes, graphics designers, such as Eagle One's creative director, Fred Large, work to give those high-horsepower machines a winning appearance.
The Eagle One company, Valvoline's line of premium appearance products, needed an exciting new look for its stable of racers for the 2001 season. Just as an artist begins with a blank canvas, Large had to begin with unpainted racing vehicles of various sizes and shapes. There was the Chevrolet Cavalier driven by two-time NHRA Winston Pro Stock class winner Ron Krisher, the Suzuki of triple NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Hines, Sherman Adcock Jr.'s Super Comp dragster, Jimmy Ayers' Super Gas Corvette, and NASCAR racer Johnny Benson's Pontiac, which is carrying the Eagle One colors in selected events, plus assorted transporters, driver suits and crew uniforms.
The result of Large's project, which had an estimated budget of $50,000, is the eye-catching "Flaming Eagle" design off a black background. "Even though our new 'look' has only been seen at a few races so far, the response from drivers, crews, and especially the fans has been tremendous," said Eagle One Vice President and General Manager Tony Puckett.
NHRA and NASCAR teams understand that, even in a high-tech world, sometimes old-school techniques work best. That's how the "Flaming Eagle" design came to be. When the decision to create a new graphic presentation was made last December, as part of an overall marketing initiative which includes relaunching the EagleOne.com web site early next month, Large sat down in his office at Eagle One headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., and used markers and pens for the original artwork. That process took two weeks. He then shipped those hand-drawn sketches to graphics consultant Chad Stern in North Carolina, where Stern put them into a computer and crafted a finished version.
"With our change in positioning, we wanted a look which would bring our image to life," explained Puckett. "We needed to convey to the public who we are as a company and a brand, impressions like 'contemporary,' 'attitude,' and 'edge.' This is not the Eagle One of the past."
With that in mind, Large, whose commercial art education was at Los Angeles Tech, began. "We actually worked up a sketch with some flames on it, but it looked like any other car with flames on it," Large recalled. "So, then we decided, we've got to have something on it that really makes it 'happen.' I drew up the eagle and we put it in with the flames. The eagle became an action figure, so to speak, and it brought the entire design to life."
Stern put the approved layout on a disc, from which decals were made, via computer-controlled printer. "It went one vehicle at a time," said Large. "Each one is a little different. For example, NASCAR rules require a big number on the door, and that's where we would have liked to place the big eagle. That meant the eagle had to be moved and made smaller. On the NHRA Pro Stock car, we don't have that kind of rule, so we had the space to make the eagle head more prominent. The bike has a [fairing] that gave us a lot of area to work with.
"One of the challenges in doing something like this is that it has to 'read' well. Whether a photo in a magazine, or on TV, the graphic has to appear crisp, clean, and clear. In NASCAR, the fans tend to be a long-way away from the track. In drag racing, the fans are very close. The basic design needs to be flexible enough to work in different series."
Like racers everywhere, co-designers Large and Stern worked under time pressures. The entire process, from sketch to decals, took 45 days.
"We need to maximize our investment in motorsports, which has increased in 2001," said Puckett. "The 'Flaming Eagle' is helping to bring a whole new look for Eagle One into the marketplace."
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