I’ve done some pretty obscure lists on this blog and I figured that, while I’m still trying to grab an audience, I’d put one of most random lists here and combine two of my guilty pleasures into one. NASCAR, the sponsorship machine of motorsports, has long been associated with the film industry as many movies have found themselves on the hoods of cars at the track. With the #37 car of Chris Buescher set to sports a “Cars 3” scheme before the movie’s release, I decided to take a look at ten of the best NASCAR paint schemes to advertise movies.
For this list I looked at the wide variety of NASCAR paint schemes that incorporated film releases into their design. I gave special consideration to the best schemes where the movie took center stage and discounted any scheme where the movie was featured in direct partnership with another sponsor. Movies can appear on the hood with another sponsor, but not as one entity as it is not uncommon for sponsors to share hood space even if they are unrelated. I rated these schemes based on their creativity and how well they capture the spirit of their film sponsors. I did this for fun and I hope you all enjoy it.
Here we go.
10. Justin Allgaier’s #12 “Star Trek” car
One of two “minor league” car on this list, Justin Allgaier raced this black and blue car in what was then the B-level Nationwide Series in 2009, sporting sponsorship from the “Star Trek” reboot film released that year. Allgaier was joined by teammate David Stremme, who sported a similar paint scheme in the major league Sprint Cup Series, but it’s Allgaier’s that stands out thanks to the contrast between the primarily blue “Star Trek” logo and the red Verizon logo as the two shared space on the hood. The car also looks “out of the world” as this was a time when the cars were still slick and built based on aerodynamics and had yet to be upgraded to the more bulky vehicles they are today.
9. Kasey Kahne’s #9 “Click” car
While “Click” was not the comedy everyone hoped it would be, the film did receive heavy promotion in 2006, which included a one-race NASCAR sponsorship on the hood of Kasey Kahne’s car. Kahne would drive the car to victory in Michigan, creating great publicity for the film. The scheme was slick and bright, taking full advantage of the film’s remote control prop to underscore other sponsors and put “Click” front end center. The car number even matched the color of the “Click” font, effectively turning a one-off sponsor into the center of attention on an already busy racecar.
8. A.J. Allmendinger’s #43 “Immortals” car
Billed as an epic fantasy film, “Immortals” was a 2011 sleeper hit that explored numerous Greek legends. A week before its November 11th release it was featured on A.J. Allmendinger’s #43 car from Richard Petty Motorsports with a fitting and fully detailed scheme driving home the action packed feel of the movie with star Henry Cavill as Theseus swinging his mighty sword on the car’s hood. Black with tinges of gold, the car fully embraced the style of the film and told fans and viewers that “Immortals” would be an epic and dark story with plenty of visual delight to behold.
7. Blake Koch’s #44 “Son of God” car
NASCAR and religion go hand in hand. With it’s southern roots, many fans and drivers are members of the Christian faith so it’s no surprise that a Jesus-themed film would find its way onto a NASCAR vehicle. Blake Koch drove a “Son of God” themed car in the Nationwide series race at Daytona in February of 2014, complete with website, biblical accent art, and the Son of God himself smiling on the hood. It was the only major sponsor on the car for the race and stood out quite nicely despite it’s black and gold theme. While “Son of God” is an often-overlooked interpretation of biblical stories, the car that helped draw people to the theaters is one of the best to feature a film and one of the most dedicated to its source material.
6. Bobby Labonte’s #43 “Speed Racer” car
“Speed Racer” was a 2008 film based on the popular motorsports based television show. So when it came time to draw in a crowd where better to start then the racetrack. Bobby Labonte drove this car at Richmond that year, sporting the familiar look of Speed Racer’s own race car, the Mach 5, complete with the cartoon icon’s familiar “M” logo on the hood. This car stands out for sheer design as it works to emulate one of the most iconic fictional cars in history. While I’m sure Speed Racer himself would have been better behind the wheel, it was still pretty cool to see Labonte bring the Mach 5, or rather Mach 43, to life even if only for a single event.
5. Bobby Labonte’s #18 “Small Soldiers” car
Joe Gibbs Racing has a history of supporting theatrical releases in the late 90s and early 2000s. The #18 and #20 occasionally sported matching paint schemes with films like “Shrek 2” and “Jurassic Park 3” being a few standouts to have been on Coach Gibbs’ cars. In 1998 Bobby Labonte drove another film-based scheme with “Small Soldiers” as a prominent hood and rear deck lid sponsor. The entire scheme was based around the film and it’s technical themes, with a black and orange paint job and data-like details on the stripes. This scheme hit the pavement when NASCAR was still well in its prime in the 90s, with a younger audience glued to the TV for many races making the kid-friendly action film a perfect product to showcase on the hood of one of the most popular drivers of the time.
4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s #88 “Dark Knight Rises” car
In one of the neatest promotions any film sponsor has ever presented in the sport, fans got to chose which of three schemes Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would drive at Michigan in 2012 to promote the third film in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” Batman trilogy. One featured a grey scheme with villain Bane on the hood, the other a black scheme with Batman himself on the hood, and the winning scheme featured a pure black scheme with the Batman symbol, reminiscent of its presentation in the “Dark Knight Rises” trailer. It’s one of several DC-themed paint schemes that have hit the track in NASCAR (get ready there’s a few more coming) and Dale Jr. didn’t disappoint his fans, taking the car to victory lane in one of the most celebrated wins of his career outside of Daytona. It is to date one of his most popular paint schemes and proved to be a massively successful promotion campaign for the film and solidified a relationship between Dale and the Dark Knight as Dale would later have Batman on his hood again in 2016 to help promote “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”.
3. Danica Patrick’s #10 “Wonder Woman” car
The newest car on this list, and one that raced just this past weekend, Danica Patrick, being NASCAR’s only prominent female driver, was a perfect fit to promote the upcoming DC film “Wonder Woman”. The car is immaculate, with a blue, gold, and red paint scheme that catches the eye and looked fantastic on the track until an unfortunate wreck ended its run. The car featured the Wonder Woman logo on the front with the titular heroine’s likeness just above it. On the side panels Wonder Woman is ready for battle as if running at the competition behind Danica to help her fend off her opponents around every turn. We don’t see a lot of major film sponsors on NASCAR cars these days, so it’s great to see Warner Bros. continue the tradition along with Pixar showing “Cars 3” on a hood later this year.
2. Jeff Gordon’s #24 “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” car
Alright, full disclosure, Jeff Gordon is my favorite NASCAR driver, but you have to trust me that this is not why he made this list. Just look at this paint scheme! This chaotic scheme defied convention, as it was not sponsoring a movie in its theatrical run. This was a movie promoted for DVD sales, after “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” had already passed it’s theatrical release. The scheme was part of a two-scheme on-track contest as both Gordon and Ryan Newman, the later driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in the #39 at the time, sported competing Decepticon and Autobot paint schemes. Gordon’s more rustic scheme featured villain Megatron’s likeness on the hood with a full-body mechanical theme. The car looked villainous and intimidating, just like the character featured, and was very much an attention grabber compared to the brighter, but more forgettable #39 car.
1. Jimmie Johnson’s #48 “Batman v. Superman” car
In 2016 Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, brought their friendly rivalry to a peak, sporting rival schemes of Batman and Superman to promote “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”. Johnson, whose nickname just happens to be Superman due to his ever-consistent performance and numerous series titles, prevailed and won the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California on his way to his seventh championship. The Superman scheme was a flashy, well designed speed machine featuring the scaled look of DC’s newer suit design and Superman’s cape waving towards the back of the car as if Superman himself were flying around the track. The logo on the front says it all as the Superman of NASCAR took Superman to victory lane, even if the caped hero himself got his but kicked in the actual movie.