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Reel Racing: The Best (& Worst) Movie Paint Schemes of the 2010s, Pt. 1

In June, I undertook a project to dig up every single movie-themed paint scheme that ever ran across NASCAR’s three touring series and, eventually, rank them. The weeks-long search yielded that exactly 100 films have been represented on stock cars throughout the years, ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Shazam.

Unfortunately, 2020 became the first year since the first-ever movie scheme ran (1995) to not feature any paint jobs promoting an upcoming film (to be fair, 2020 hasn’t been a normal year, nor has it been kind to the movie industry). Spire Motorsports’ Chevrolet, driven by Reed Sorenson, was renumbered to No. 74 and carried a fictional sponsor – Fake Steak – for filming shots for Netflix’s new show The Crew, starring Kevin James, but no actual movies showed up on a car this year.

Regardless, the lack of schemes this year had me looking back at the 2010s and the 57 promotional or throwback schemes related to movies that ran during the decade, and as someone who loves ranking things I decided to do just that.

This is the first in a series of scheme-ranking columns focused on the 2010s. I am excluding Darlington throwback schemes (such as William Byron‘s City Chevrolet throwback to Days of Thunder, or Kurt Busch‘s 2013 throwback to the same film) since they’re way too easy to rank high on the list and aren’t exactly promotional cars so much as they are nostalgic.

I’ve tried to keep things as fair as possible, which includes lumping in multiple schemes for a single movie (for example, Hendrick Motorsports’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice promotional schemes for Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016 will be combined together) in order to avoid, say, three schemes from one movie crowding the top 10.

10. Aric Almirola, Shazam! (2019)

As the only Cup Series scheme for an upcoming film in 2019, Aric Almirola‘s car for DC Comics’ Shazam! ran at Martinsville Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway in the spring of 2019. David F. Sandberg’s third directorial effort is arguably one of the best films in the DC franchise after a number of mediocre-to-bad entries (more on those below). Almirola’s car essentially represented the title character’s superhero suit, with a silhouette of the character portrayed by Zachary Levi and a lightning bolt on the hood as added bonuses.

9. Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Justice League (2017)

While Justice League ended up being a mess of a movie between DC generally having a hard time making movies and the need to switch directors, Kasey Kahne and Earnhardt Jr. ended up running a pair of promotional schemes for the film at Texas Motor Speedway.

Between the two cars, all six members of the superhero league are represented (Wonder Woman, Superman and the Flash on Kahne’s No. 5; Batman, Aquaman and Cyborg on Earnhardt’s No. 88) and both schemes looked quite nice overall. I’ll give the edge to Kahne’s look between the two, especially since the car had more variety in its design – red right and blue left sides with a gold hood, roof and deck lid.

8. Stanton Barrett, Navy Seals vs. Zombies (2015)

It’s not every day that a driver gets to drive a paint scheme promoting a movie they themselves directed.

That was the case, though, for Stanton Barrett for three races in 2015. Barrett has split his time between racing and Hollywood for years now, working as a stuntman for productions that include Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (where he once doubled for James Franco), the third John Wick film, Logan21 and 22 Jump Street and even 8 Mile, where he doubled for Eminem. (Barrett’s full filmography can be found here.)

Barrett’s first directorial effort came in 2015 as the direct-to-video, action-horror film Navy Seals vs. Zombies. He ran two events for Rick Ware Racing in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series with his own film on the car: at Indianapolis, where the No. 15 was all black save for a white hood with the movie logo; and at Dover, where a fully fleshed-out scheme graced the team’s car. Featuring jets, scenes from the movie and more, the car ended its day on fire but looked good while it lasted.

Additionally, Barrett also ran his only Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start to date later that month, with another zombie-themed machine. While not as striking as the car above, the additional space allowed for more movie-themed images to show up on the truck.

7. Mike Wallace, Cowboys vs. Aliens (2011)

Mike Wallace actually piloted two different versions of this JD Motorsports car promoting what ended up being a largely forgotten sci-fi action film, even though it featured the likes of Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano and Olivia Wilde.

The two schemes ran a combined total of eight times. My most prominent memory was when it ran at Daytona (below) as the mosaic version of the scheme, assembling thousands of photos of fans onto the car to create a giant collage. The idea was reminiscent of something Red Bull Racing had done earlier in the year with its “Shutter Speed” cars at Charlotte, where Kahne and Brian Vickers ran similar schemes consisting of fan photos in the Coca-Cola 600.

Wallace (and the car) were caught up in a massive, violent crash at the end of the race as he and five other drivers (Danica Patrick, Steve Wallace, Aric Almirola, Elliott Sadler and Tony Stewart) battled to finish in the top 10.

Wallace also ran a non-mosaic version featuring the works – a landscape shot of the film’s action scenes, with alien ships, cowboys on horses and scannable QR codes to promote the movie.

6. Tomy Drissi, Straight Outta Compton (2015)

More or less the most prominent driver with constant movie-themed liveries, Tomy Drissi isn’t just a racer. Along with competing in NASCAR, Trans-Am and other endeavors, he is a longtime advertising executive in Hollywood, and I’ve personally seen his name etched on the back of cardboard standups at the movie theater.

Two of Drissi’s three Xfinity Series starts in 2015 featured a black-and-white wrap promoting Straight Outta Compton, the biopic of hip-hop/rap group N.W.A. that came out in the summer of that year.

It’s a simple scheme: the parental-advisory-esque logo on the hood with the film’s name place of the warning, the stark black-and-white colorization and the black stripe down the quarter panels with the members’ names (Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella) etched inside it came together to form a memorable design.

Personally, I remember trying to replicate this car in the NASCAR ’15 video game’s paint booth (mostly because it wasn’t terribly hard to replicate, but let’s ignore that).

Straight Outta Compton is also an excellent film and, to this writer, one of the best ever represented on a NASCAR paint scheme, and definitely at least in the top three of any on-car movie in the 2010s.

Dishonorable Mentions

Korbin Forrister, Run the Race (2019): I didn’t remember this movie existed until I came across Forrister’s scheme for it. The film didn’t garner positive reviews, nor did it rake in money at the box office. Forrister’s is the most recent of just five film-themed truck schemes – ever – and ended up a very bland, black-and-yellow look. Even with a (small) photo of the cast from the poster and several renditions of the film logo on the hood and sides, all the movie advertising is crammed in alongside numerous sponsor logos.

Chris CookRise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): There was huge potential here. Cook is a road course ringer who is also an instructor at Bob Bondurant’s driving school and was making his second career Cup Series start at Sonoma in 2011. Even with the possibilities of including shots of the film’s primates on the car, maybe some of the characters, something, the car instead ended up an all-black, white-numbered bore. A similar car ran the year before, driven by Drissi in his only start of 2010; his then-Nationwide Series car was sponsored by the Michael Douglas vehicle Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, which had the exact same dull all-black, white-numbered design.

For what it’s worth, Cook’s machine is one that stuck with me; even as movie schemes continued to run through the years, I remembered it being one of the first times I really noticed a film not connected to NASCAR whatsoever featured on a car. Six years later, Drissi ran a Trans-Am car promoting War for the Planet of the Apes, the third film in the trilogy, which was slightly more creative.

Matt DiBenedettoThe Hurricane Heist (2018): For the Daytona 500 two years ago, DiBenedetto was still with Go Fas Racing at the time and received sponsorship from the film. Despite a solid starting point – an all-black base with red numbers and logos – the lightning added to the car ended up looking like blobs on the race broadcast and ended up being more or less forgettable.

Jimmie JohnsonPlanes (2013): I’ll throw in a subpar scheme from a more prominent driver for good measure: Jimmie Johnson ran several Lowe’s “Build and Grow” cars in 2012 and 2013. The best, his teal 2012 scheme for Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, went to victory lane at Dover. His 2013 Monsters University car was also an eye-catcher, but the third and final installment was for the poorly-reviewed, forgettable Disney effort Planes.

It’s not a horrible-looking car, but the white numbers blend into the very, very light blue backdrop (and so does the Lowe’s logo on the hood), and there’s just absolute chaos with planes all over the side panels.

Odds and Ends

It’s weird scheme time! Here are a few notable rides that hit the track promoting a movie seemingly devoid of NASCAR connections, had an underwhelming scheme or just struck me as generally odd.

– A few television shows have also made their way onto stock cars’ panels in the past, a few during the 2010s alone: Clint Bowyer had USA Network’s Damnation on his car at Phoenix in the fall of 2017. Six years prior at Kansas, then driven by team owner Tony Stewart, the No. 14 featured the A&E crime drama The Glades, with the striking image of an orange with a bullet hole in it on the hood.

For what it’s worth, Stewart, Brian Vickers and Carl Edwards also all played themselves on an episode of The Glades.

John Wes TownleyThe Identical (2014): A movie about Elvis-but-not-Elvis, to my understanding, with a glaring 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, ended up on Townley’s car for three Xfinity Series events in 2014. It didn’t really have a design, either – the hood was mocked up to promote the film, but the rest of the car flowed like the standard Zaxby’s livery. For whatever reason, there are a number of these paint schemes that simply had a hood design and nothing else to promote movies.

Brett MoffittNo Escape (2015): Back when Moffitt was with Front Row Motorsports in the Cup Series, the film No Escape, directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine and As Above, So Below) and starring Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan, jumped on board the No. 34 at Bristol. Perhaps an appropriately forgettable scheme for a movie described by one reviewer as “borderline xenophobic,” it was another hood-concentrated, dull car with the characters featured there and on the quarter panels. Brosnan himself is on the car in an action pose, though, which helps its case.

Carl EdwardsMinions (2015): Considering the first two films in the Despicable Me universe hadn’t received their own paint schemes, it felt odd to see the side characters on the No. 19 car at Kentucky. It’s not a bad scheme by any means, considering the blue, yellow and white work quite well together, but an oddity nonetheless.

Next Up

Reel Racing will be back tomorrow with Part 2 of this ranking! We’ll count down the top five movie schemes of the 2010s, along with some honorable mentions.

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3 thoughts on “Reel Racing: The Best (& Worst) Movie Paint Schemes of the 2010s, Pt. 1”

  1. Although not a true “promotion” sponsor”, I always loved Kurt Busch driving the Cougar ME car from Talladega Nights.

  2. Cowboys vs. Aliens may be largely forgotten, but it was a pretty good flick. Coulda used a dose of humor, but otherwise quite enjoyable for an action flick.

    • I have never watched that movie from beginning to end because it sounds like such a goofy premise. The bits and pieces I have seen were entertaining but, once again, the combination of cowboys and aliens just seems silly. I really should check it out because I like most of Robert Zemeckis’ movies.

      I know I am jumping the gun decade wise, and I am very bias, but I always thought the most legendary movie themed car was Gordon’s T-Rex car for Jurrasic Park.

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