Until just recently, fans of NASCAR racing have seen the same logo during televised races, on marketing materials, and displayed proudly on t-shirts since 1976. In December 2016, a new NASCAR logo was unveiled for the first time in over 40 years, and it started being used regularly in January 2017. Along with the logo change, NASCAR announced that the official title of the NASCAR cup will be the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, which is sponsored by Monster brand energy drinks.
The stock car racing brand has undergone a few logo redesigns during its rich history. This article will take a look back through years of the NASCAR racing series, along with how the NASCAR logo has changed with the times. The brand has been driven to keep up with the trends through constant sponsorship updates. Those involved in the logo update believe it will bring the brand up to date while also paying homage to the image fans have come to associate with over 70 years worth of racing history.
About the NASCAR Brand
When abbreviated, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing spells “NASCAR.” The company promotes and operates over 1,500 auto races at over 100 tracks in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Europe and is most associated with stock car racing. It began in 1948 under the leadership of Bill France Sr. Since 2003, his grandson, Brian France, has been the CEO. The headquarters is in Daytona Beach, Florida, and spectators in over 150 countries can watch NASCAR races on television.
Before Monster Energy in 2017, previous sponsors of the NASCAR Cup series were R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Winston Cup) and Nextel/Sprint (The Chase/Sprint Cup). Drivers can win the cup by accumulating points on a system that has undergone several revisions since its inception. The driver with the most points when a season concludes is the winner. Some famous winners have been Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jimmie Johnson.
NASCAR Logo Design History
The original NASCAR logo was used from 1948-1955, and it has a look that is representative of that era. It features two minimalist, stylized cars facing off against each other, one on the left and one on the right. The backs of each car morph into a shape that looks like wings, to convey the notion of speed or movement, which is appropriate for a motorsport such as racing. A simple arched banner that contains the word “NASCAR” in black connects the two cars. Even in this earliest incarnation of the logo, one can see the formation of the lettering style used on today’s NASCAR logo.
Behind the two cars and NASCAR banner are two checkered flags that mirror each other and billow outward toward the edges of the logo. The checkers on the flags are red and white, and red is the only color (aside from black) featured on the original emblem. In between the flags, in arched, vintage type, are the words “National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Inc.” This logo is far more complex than later versions and embodies the spirit of the time in which it was used.
The NASCAR logo underwent its first redesign in 1956, and that version was used until 1963. It features many elements of the previous logo, but those elements have been rearranged and more color has been added. The logo now features a predominant oval shape in golden yellow that is representative of a stock car racing track. The words “NASCAR International” in all caps flow in an arch inside the boundaries of the track.
The 1956 logo also features two facing cars and two about-facing flags just like its predecessor but with a few tweaks. The checkered flags are now smaller and in black and white and serve as ornaments for the two upper corners of the design. The two cars are now a burnt red color and slightly more angular than the ones used prior. The two cars sit on top of the track facing each other.
The NASCAR logo that was used from 1964-1975 once again utilizes similar elements from its predecessor. However, the racing track oval has been removed, and the colors have been simplified to blue, gray, and black. Like previous versions, two stylized cars with winged backs face each other, this time in gray with black outlining. They sit atop a vertical line pattern that resembles the grill of an older model car. The checkered flags are larger now and make up the middle background of the design.
Two blue banners connect the entire design together on top and bottom. The word “NASCAR” sits predominantly on the top banner, and the word “International” runs a bit smaller on the bottom banner. Overall, this version of the NASCAR logo appears to be a bit squashed vertically, which is an interesting design choice. Perhaps the compression of the cars makes them appear longer and leaner or as if they are going faster.
Then we come to the longest-lasting incarnation of the NASCAR logo so far, and also the one that most patrons of the brand will recognize. It ran from 1976-2016, and features the word “NASCAR” large and slanted forward as if it is moving quickly into the future. The type is straight-edged with angular corners on the letters and features a registered mark.
The white text sits on top of colored bars that change from left to right in an almost-rainbow sort of progression. The colored bars are also slanted themselves, giving the illusion of propelling the text forward down a race track.
This 1976-2016 NASCAR logo was far simpler than its predecessors, making the brand name the focus and easily recognizable to fans. The color choice on the slanted colored bars includes the colors from previous versions of the logo (yellow, red, and blue) with the addition of a purple/magenta color in between. In this sense, this logo honored the ones that came before it.
NASCAR Logo Evolution
It was the debut of a new NASCAR sponsor that prompted the logo redesign. This, plus a new series of rule changes in 2017 made the timing right for an updated look as the brand marches into its future. Jill Gregory and Peter Jung (Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer and Managing Director of Brand and Consumer Marketing, respectively) worked together with Rare Design to develop the new NASCAR logo.
NASCAR understood that the previous logo was synonymous with the die-hard brand loyalty of its fans, and so the new logo retains many elements of the old. The updated NASCAR logo, even though different, is still easily recognized by fans. It is essentially a stripped-down and modernized version of its predecessor. NASCAR fans are notoriously resistant to change, and so the logo’s updates were intentionally discreet while still giving the brand a fresher look.
The updated NASCAR logo removed the slanted colored bars from behind the white text on the previous logo and shifted them toward the left of the NASCAR text. The colored bars still slant forward, giving the illusion of motion, which continues to be appropriate for a speed-driven sport. The logo keeps the primary colors of yellow, red, and blue, but the purple/magenta colored bar is now gone.
The NASCAR wording appears to be basically the same font with angled corners on the letters, and it slants to mimic the lean on the colored bars. Each letter now has an even space in between instead of some letters being joined like on the previous NASCAR logo. The text also appears to have been widened slightly, and a trademark symbol follows the letters instead of the registered mark.
The removal of the colored bars from behind the text allows the logo more versatility. The NASCAR wording can be either white or black, depending on whether the logo sits atop a light or a dark background when printed or displayed online. This was perhaps one intention of the designers since most modern companies desire logos that can be used easily in multiple applications.
There is a second version of the new logo that appears with the new sponsor’s branding. When the NASCAR logo is used in conjunction with Monster Energy, the Monster logo appears larger. The NASCAR-related text reads “NASCAR Cup Series” in all caps instead of just the singular “NASCAR” text.
Reaction to the logo seems to be mostly favorable with many fans not noticing a major difference. The revised NASCAR logo keeps its brand familiarity while successfully honoring the company’s history, which appears to achieve the goals of company officials with regard to the new design. The new logo is slightly more clear to read and seems a bit less dated than the previous incarnation.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Overall, the NASCAR logo redesign is a success for the brand. The company is able to retain its brand loyalty among diehard fans with minimal criticism (if any). The “NASCAR” text is easier to read, and the slant of the colored bars and text appear to be pushing the name forward at an accelerated pace.
This gives it the same illusion of movement as the previous NASCAR logo while bringing the logo up to date and allowing it more versatile usage in print and digital design. An added bonus to fans would be the potential increase in value to previously purchased merchandise that sport historic versions of the emblem.