Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Company Car: A Look Back at Jasper Motorsports

Moving to a new apartment this weekend, so hopefully this is the last "pre-race post-race" for awhile

This welcome mat is a polite way to say "nobody welcome"
Team owners like Gene Haas use their own teams as ways to promote their own companies nowadays, but in the 90’s there was really only one team to do that—Jasper Motorsports.  Owned by executives at the engine remanufacturing company, the perennial also-ran put their own logo on the hoods of their ever-changing cars for a decade plus.  Take a walk down backmarker memory lane in this look back at what my dad once called “The Company Car”.

1996: Bobby Hillin Jr. piloted this car, which appears to have been the stealth inspiration for Ricky Bobby’s Wonder Bread paint scheme.  For those of you too young to remember, Bobby Hillin Jr. was Trevor Bayne before Trevor Bayne was Trevor Bayne.

1997: The team goes all primary colors and uses three primary drivers—Hillin, Morgan Shepherd, and Robert Pressley.  Sure the team was using journeymen drivers and running almost exclusively in the back, but at least their car looked ok.

1998: Robert Pressley returned as the primary driver for the nearly-identical looking blue 77 car, spelled by Ted Musgrave and Hut Stricklin for a race each.  By this point the team had firmly established itself as a “our drivers only get interviewed when the rain delay goes over two hours” team.

1999 Brickyard 400
1999: Things stayed mostly the same this year—same primary paint scheme, same driver (Robert Pressley), and failing to qualify for a number of races.  But they DID break out this special paint scheme at the Brickyard 400.  Just a reminder that special paint schemes used to be a big deal, just like how racing at Indianapolis used to be a big deal.

2000: A banner year for the returning Pressley as the team not only qualified for every race, but also managed a rare top-five race finish (at Michigan).  Ironically the team chose a rather sedate paint scheme for what passed as a “breakout year” for the Jasper crew.

2001: Although Robert Pressley returned as the team’s primary driver—finishing runner-up at Chicago—it would be his last.  In addition, he was spelled at both road course races by Boris Said.  The team marked the year of impending change by switching to a urine-yellow paint scheme.

2002: Dave Blaney joined the team, which somehow made their previous year’s scheme look even worse with he addition of gray to the color palette.  Boris Said, meanwhile, returned in a second car, which was the equivalent of adding a rec room addition to a double-wide trailer.

2003 "Panther Power"
2003: No changes to the primary paint scheme this year (nor to the driver), so here’s a look at the awesome “Panther Power” special paint scheme.  Unfortunately Blaney wasn’t running this when he finished third at the spring Darlington race behind Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch, his career highlight until the time he blew me off in the garage at Dover.

2003-2006: After the 2002 season Jasper Motorsports ceased to exist as an independent team as Roger Penske bought into the operation.  Drivers Brendan Gaughan and Travis Kvapil would get a year each in the now Kodak-sponsored 77 car before The Captain would shut the team down completely after 2005.  Jasper would then own the now-55 “Dodge” of Michael Waltrip in name-only for 2006 season for points purposes.  The 77 would later re-emerge as the Penske third team, living up to the lofty expectations of the past by featuring Sam Hornish Jr. spinning out on a regular basis.