Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: The Best (& Worst) Movie Paint Schemes of the 2010s, Pt. 2

As mentioned in yesterday’s part one of this ranking, the 2010s featured more than 50 movie-themed NASCAR paint schemes representing 37 films released during the decade, as well as a number of Days of Thunder-themed throwbacks.

The films ranged from blockbusters like Justice League, Captain America: Civil War and The Dark Knight Rises to racing- or car-themed films like Cars 3 and Fast Five (as well as the Furious 7 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway in 2015, where Ludacris was on hand to celebrate with winner Kyle Busch), and there were some oddities featured on cars as well — small or random films including No EscapeThe Counselor and Mile 22.

With all that said, let’s get back to the countdown of the 10 best promotional movie schemes of the 2010s.

5. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

One of five movies to visit victory lane in the 2010s, Batman v Superman is not a great film. It did, however, give the NASCAR world two creative liveries to watch on a Sunday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway: the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were modeled after the aforementioned superheroes’ garb for the film, with the No. 48 designed with Superman’s suit textures and having a cape of sorts toward the back of the car, which had an all-red back bumper to complete the ensemble.

Earnhardt’s car was all gray to imitate Batman’s new, more technical suit for the film and also featured the new character logo emblazoned on the hood. Earnhardt also drove a Superman-themed car three years earlier at Michigan International Speedway to promote Man of Steel, but the scheme (gray with the film logos, and that’s about it) just failed to make this list.

In the end, Johnson went to victory lane in the Man of Steel’s ride for his 77th career victory, putting on a cape himself after the race.

Unfortunately, there apparently weren’t any efforts to promote the summer release of Suicide Squad on a stock car in 2016. It would’ve been interesting to see what kind of scheme or schemes were developed, especially if they were character-specific to, say, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto’s characters like for BvS.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr., The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Earnhardt has represented the Caped Crusader three different times in his career, the latter two detailed above and in the previous article (when Batman made his way onto the No. 88’s Justice League car). The first, though, made for a simple, yet memorable paint scheme, made even more significant by the fact that the then-most popular driver ended a four-year winless drought with the car. 2012 marked the release of the third and final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, to many the pinnacle of superhero films (or at least DC superhero films).

The first of the three movies, Batman Begins, was featured on Mark Martin’s car at Michigan in 2005. Weirdly, the sequel (and best of the trio), The Dark Knight, never received a scheme in NASCAR. The third and final film, The Dark Knight Rises, was all in behind Earnhardt at Michigan, almost seven years to the day of the Martin scheme’s appearance.

On the Thursday before the race, the powers that be in Hollywood brought the Tumbler (Batman’s vehicle in the trilogy) to the track, where it, along with Earnhardt in the No. 88, drove around on the frontstretch. Three days later, Earnhardt was back on the frontstretch doing burnouts after his first win since 2008, just over four years to the day of his last.

It should be noted that this scheme could have been much different. Mountain Dew hosted a contest in which fans could vote on their favorite design, having the option to choose from:

– A black base with profiles of Batman on one side and Bane on the other, behind the door numbers (the eventual winner)
– A black base with smaller film logos where the profiles would be
– A black base with Batman on the hood
– A silver base with Bane on the hood.

It’s safe to say the best option won.

Shame Earnhardt didn’t get a chance to race against the Tumbler for the win that Sunday.

3. Tomy Drissi, Hercules (2014)

Tomy Drissi’s second appearance on this countdown is for his 2014 Jay Robinson entry at Sonoma.

Met with mixed reviews, the 2014 film Hercules starred Dwayne Johnson as the titular character. Reception aside, it made for a standout paint scheme, if a forgotten one at that; the white door numbers are surrounded by fire and flanked by Johnson as Hercules, along with the stylized font of the film’s title, and the aforementioned flames stretch all the way around the car and across the front and rear bumpers.

If nothing else, the scheme works as an intimidation factor: I sure wouldn’t want to be out there and see The Rock on the hood of the car in my rear-view mirror.

Drissi’s best overall scheme, though, might be this 2018 Trans-Am car promoting Shane Black’s reboot of The Predator. The design is based off of the title creature’s heat vision and backs it with a blue base and red title lettering.

2. Danica Patrick, Wonder Woman (2017)

Despite the DC Extended Universe movies being largely made up of either complete messes or forgettable entries, a couple films have shone through as better than the rest. Patty Jenkins’ 2017 effort Wonder Woman is one of the higher-tier DC movies.

A solid entry that gave moviegoers a break from the dismal 2016 (Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad), Wonder Woman became the backer for Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet at Kansas Speedway.

With star Gal Gadot on the hood and side panels, the design also factored in the character’s logo and splashes of red, orange and blue, instantly becoming one of the most recognizable and eye-catching movie schemes of the decade.

Unfortunately, the car fell just short of making it 200 laps when Patrick was caught up in a crash, mostly remembered as the incident that injured Aric Almirola. Almirola, coincidentally, would go on to take over the No. 10 in 2018.

1. Kyle Larson, Cars 3 (2017)

We have arrived.

With nearly 50 schemes taken under consideration, mulled over and ranked, Kyle Larson‘s 2017 scheme promoting the third film in the Cars franchise takes the top spot.

Despite Tony Raines’ No. 96 car 11 years earlier securing the best Cars scheme title, Larson’s car was the standout in a trio of schemes inspired by the third entry (the others driven by Chris Buescher and Clint Bowyer at other races in 2017). All three were similar in their base design, sides emulating lead character Lightning McQueen’s bolt design with a black hood, roof and decklid for reasons unknown.

Bowyer and Buescher both had the film’s logo taking up most of the car’s hood and were solid in their own rights, but Larson’s wins out for several reasons. Buescher’s No. 37 had black side numbers, which distracted from the scheme’s faithfulness. Bowyer’s scheme had red numbers, like Larson’s, but for whatever reason seemed to blend more with the red backdrop of the car, while Larson’s had thick bordering that made it stand out. And, above all, Larson went to victory lane in his car at Michigan, doing burnouts in the winner’s circle.

Honorable Mentions

– Even though technically tributes to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Kurt Busch‘s cars at the spring 2012 and fall 2013 Talladega Superspeedway races were sights to behold. 2012 is arguably the best simply movie-themed car of the 2010s, with the low-sponsorship James Finch team emblazoning the classic “ME” from the film on the car, along with the cougar. Busch also made sure to get a stuffed cougar for the race and followed that showing up a year and a half later with actual sponsorship from Wonder Bread on his No. 78 Chevrolet.

Robby GordonFast Five (2011): Considered by some to be the best in the Fast & Furious franchise, Fast Five was the film series’ turn from simply racing cars to the heist-oriented action prevalent from that installment onward. Gordon’s sleek, matte-black Dodge had a couple different number designs, but maintained its look evocative of Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) Dodge Charger in the film. (See it here.)

A.J. Allmendinger, Immortals (2011): 2011 was a good year for movie schemes, wasn’t it? Allmendinger’s sponsorship by a more or less forgettable film that released on — of course — 11-11-11 resulted in a striking scheme that alternated black streaks with fire as a backdrop. The movie, starring Mickey Rourke, soon-to-be Superman Henry Cavill and a fresh-off-Transformers Isabel Lucas wasn’t a huge hit, but the scheme stuck out. (swipe to the end to see the 2011 render; photos of this car are incredibly hard to find)


Alex Bowman and J.J. Yeley (then with BK Racing) ran dual schemes promoting Dumb and Dumber To in 2014. The cars were standard, Bowman orange and Yeley blue with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ faces on the hoods, respectively, but the two drivers’ firesuits were mocked up to emulate the actors’ characters’ blue and orange suits from the first film. That alone gives these cars a spot on the list.

– Other notable movie-themed looks: Drissi’s striking livery for Ice Age: Continental Drift in 2012, Kyle Busch’s half-green, half-red Skittles scheme promoting Captain America: Civil War and Christopher Bell‘s 2018 scheme for Bumblebee (a weird partnership, considering his main sponsor for the Homestead-Miami Speedway race was GameStop) all rank highly as the best of the rest.

Next Up

As the offseason drags on for all of us, Reel Racing will continue taking a look at movie schemes by decade, breaking them down and ranking them. The 2000s rule by sheer quantity; 77 schemes promoting 52 movies ran over the course of the new millennium’s first decade, and we’ll get to those next week.

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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Bill B

I wonder woman, when are you going to win a race?

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