Atlanta: Ricky Rudd preview



Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, has for many years been at the forefront of unique helmet designs in NASCAR. With the blessing of Motorcraft and the Air Force, Rudd has a new helmet of his own design for the 2005 season.

RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus - "We wanted to come up with an aviation/Air Force-related themed helmet, so we came up with something based on the old Flying Tigers P-51 Mustangs they used to fly. I've always been a big P-51 Mustang fan. I asked the artist to come up with something that looked like the paint scheme they used on those planes.

"He combined the new and the old. The back of the helmet looks like jet exhaust coming out and that doesn't apply to the P-51. They had Rolls Royce motors and were piston driven.

"The front of the helmet has the teeth across it like the Flying Tigers had painted on the nose of the airplanes. And on the old fighter planes there would be something to signify kills when they would knock another plane out of the air. They used a skull and crossbones sometimes. Instead of 'kills,' the 23 skulls on my helmet are for the wins I've had.

"And if you look at the old paint schemes from the Flying Tigers, they had eyes on the upper part of the fuselage. There are eyes on the upper part of the helmet.

"We saw some A-10 Warthogs painted up like the old P-51's at Pope Air Force Base when we went over there last year before the All-Star race at Charlotte. (The 23rd Fighter Group of A-10 Warthogs is assigned as Tenant Unit to Pope Air Force and is the modern-day version of the Flying Tigers.)

"The artist, Tim Norris, is a pretty creative guy. He takes my ideas and comes up with the drawings and sketches that I can look at and work with. I think he is originally from Richmond, but he is in the Mooresville (North Carolina) area now.

"A company called Troy Lee was a pretty popular guy doing helmets and we were one of the early guys who used Troy Lee with the artsy-type helmets. It was hard to get our sponsors to go with that because they were pretty conservative, and these were some pretty wild paint schemes. But Troy Lee was the guy doing motorcycle helmets at that time.

"Tim isn't as well known, but he is really good, and I really like his stuff. And, thanks to Motorcraft we've been able to work on some great designs.

"For a long time we used an Ironman theme with the helmet looking like it was made of steel riveted together. And this new helmet has some of that in the design too, but it looks like the skin of an airplane with bullet holes in it."


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Series NASCAR Cup