Anatomy of Penske Perfect Paint Scheme

April 12, 2021

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The quest to create the perfect paint scheme for a race car can be just as involved and detailed as finding the right shock and aero configuration. As Team Penske works to create the perfectly-designed scheme for its cars, each livery decision passes through multiple channels to not only provide premier partner exposure, but also provide value in licensing, merchandising and point-of-sale opportunities. In the quest for the Penske perfect paint scheme, Team Penske’s longest-serving account manager and the team’s graphic designer guide us through the process of creating a NASCAR and INDYCAR masterpiece.

Greg Cross is a 10-year veteran of Team Penske. The New Hampshire native manages the team’s partnerships with Shell-Pennzoil, Autotrader, AAA, Advance Auto Parts, Penske Truck Leasing, Dent Wizard and Paralyzed Veterans of America, among others. As part of building long-lasting relationships with those important partners, Cross has the responsibility of balancing not only the sponsor’s brand and identity on a race car, but also working to highlight a partner’s cause, initiative or services in special “one-off” paint schemes.

“Our timelines really depend on the partner and what they are looking to do,” said Cross. “For example, Josef (Newgarden)’s Shell Fuel Rewards paint scheme he’ll run at the Indianapolis 500 this year was roughly a 60-day process. We try to make our cars look as clean and uniform as possible, especially for a big race like that. Other schemes we might be able to get turned around for a first round of revisions in the matter of a week if the partner knows what they are looking for.”


In addition to making sure the needs of the partners are being met with each paint scheme, Team Penske account managers like Cross also work with the team’s competition department to ensure all car production deadlines are met and all elements of the final design are represented in the final scheme that competes on track.

Team Penske graphic designer Jordan Erickson joined the organization in late 2019 after working for nearly a decade with JR Motorsports. Erickson is responsible for the design and conceptualization of paint schemes for both the Team Penske NASCAR and INDYCAR programs.

Erickson says there is not a specific playbook for the process of designing a paint scheme. While some partners may provide all elements of a design, others approach a paint scheme concept with a blank slate. Erickson begins the design process working in the Adobe Illustrator program with a 1/10th scale model. From there the scheme moves into Photoshop for a different template and then the scheme is rendered in a 3D format in the 3DS Max. The challenge of managing space for logos between the very different INDYCAR and NASCAR templates is an important factor when designing a scheme.

“The amount of flat space on an INDYCAR compared to a stock car is so different along with the bodylines and for me to make a logo look correct I have to basically warp the logo for it to fit properly,” said Erickson.

Erickson, himself an avid competitor in iRacing, became even more valuable to the organization during the early stages of the pandemic last season when he was tasked with transforming the real-life paint schemes into iRacing designs for the NASCAR, INDYCAR, IMSA and even World of Outlaws virtual events. Erickson has expanded those responsibilities as both NASCAR and INDYCAR have continued their iRacing programs throughout the 2021 racing season. Erickson said that in 2020 he created roughly 85 different version of paint schemes.

Both Cross and Erickson recall their favorite paint schemes from their time with the organization. Cross said the 2019 Shell-Pennzoil Darlington Raceway throwback design was a personal favorite. The scheme was a tribute to Shell-Pennzoil’s first Daytona 500 victory with Kevin Harvick and the video created for the design unveil featured Logano’s wife Brittany dressed in firesuit like Harvick’s wife Delana.

Erickson said his favorite scheme that he’s designed is the PPG livery that rookie Scott McLaughlin will race this season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The design builds on the popular rainbow scheme run that has been featured on both the team’s NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series cars over the last several years.

In order for a paint scheme to garner final approval, however, it has to pass one person’s final review to make it from the computer to the track: Roger Penske himself. Even through his busy schedule of leading a global transportation company in Penske Corporation, Mr. Penske always examines each design with a keen eye to make sure his race cars look Penske perfect.

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