NASCAR is a sponsor-driven sport and each year drivers do not get much of a say when it comes to the looks of their paint schemes or firesuits. One thing they have a big impact on is their personal helmet design.
When you look at the helmets of Richard Childress Racing drivers, you get a glimpse of their personal style. Each is unique and most either have a story or inspiration that is connected to the design. Helmet designs are the one piece of the puzzle that drivers can completely control, from start to finish. They work closely with painters to accomplish a desired style and see that it is brought to life on their helmets.
Paul Menard’s first helmet of the 2017 NASCAR season reflects his and his family’s close ties to the sport of IndyCar. With Paul’s family ingrained in the open-wheel series as much as they are NASCAR, Menard chose to honor a fellow racer who passed away in December 2016.
“This helmet is based on the design from one of our early IndyCars in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Herm Johnson was the driver, he was also the one that got my family into professional motorsports. Herm was an accomplished helmet painter after his racing career. He passed away last year in December, so I thought it to be a fitting tribute.”
You’ll also notice that Menard adds a unique moniker to each helmet that holds a special meaning.
“When I first moved to North Carolina, my buddy Kinnon and I rented a storage unit to put go-karts in. We called it Black Widow Racing. Ever since then, I’ve kept with the theme and get one put on all of my helmets,” said Paul, who even has a sign at his shop that says Black Widow Racing.
“We got the idea because there was a black widow that lived in our shop for a couple of years. We never killed it, well, not intentionally at least. I did end up rolling over it with a tire by accident one day. The black widow lived in an old go-kart tire for a couple of years and we just let it be.”