It was late on a cold winter day as I was working on livery designs for the ever popular “Design It” program that I got a phone call from a strange number. “Hello — This is Mike”, I said… “Mike, I’ve seen your designs on and wanted you to design a car for me,” said the caller. “Certainly, who’s this?” I replied. “This is Jay Penske.”

Understandably, I was shocked and honored. Here was the son of the greatest car owner in motorsports, calling me to design the car they’d race in the 2008 INDYCAR season, the popular Symantec #12 Dallara for Luczo Dragon Racing. He’d been a big fan of my designs on and gotten in touch with me. I got to work immediately!

Fast forward a few years, a few new friendships, and several years of designs for Luczo Dragon/ DeFerran Dragon Racing, to February 2011. The news had recently broken that DeFerran Dragon racing was ceasing operations. Soon after, the phone rang with another opportunity from Jay and team manager John “JC” Cummiskey. Jay, JC and a skeleton crew were working hard to put together a program to keep Dragon Racing alive and needed my help in designing liveries for sponsorship proposals. One of those designs, came to life this past weekend when INDYCAR star Paul Tracy took the reigns of the Ralph’s Supermarkets / Pepsi / Frito Lay / Rockstar Energy Drink / Berringer Vineyards Dallara at Long Beach Grand Prix for Dragon Racing.

Paul Tracy at Long Beach

Paul Tracy at Long Beach

Dragon Racing has always been wonderful when it comes to my creative freedom. I’m generally given a sponsor or two and am free to “go for it” to come up with an eye-catching design. This makes the design process much simpler, as there is no “box” to stay within. The design process for this particular car was quite simple once I got started. Ralph’s has such an iconic, clean, and classic logo that I wanted to make sure the paint scheme fit along with it. I also wanted to incorporate the Red/Black/White colors synonymous with the Dragon Racing logo. We also wanted to be sure to cleanly blend the logos of PT’s wonderful sponsor, Motegi Wheels into the mix.

The best way to accomplish this, was a white base. After sorting logo placements for Ralph’s, Motegi, and other partners I went to work sketching different line schemes on the model until I ended up with the design that will be raced on Sunday.

One of the benefits to working in 3D as I do is the ability to “rotate” the car at any angle needed. I was able to design this car, along with all others in the past, by sketching directly on a virtual INDYCAR, just like it were sitting in front of me. This is a benefit over working in 2D, for me, because I’m able to better visualize the final product at a multitude of viewing angles without redrawing the design multiple times at multiple angles. Until the next time, happy designing!


There are 11 comments for this post.

  1. Ralph Simpson on April 19, 2011 9:16 pm
    Ralph Simpson

    Colors are placed in the right locations. Not overbearing with creativity. I like it. I’ll create a 1/18 model of it soon.

  2. fred schechter on April 20, 2011 9:55 am
    fred schechter

    What software package are you using to design, and how did you get your model? That sounds far better than the. Typical 2d vinyl development I’ve heard of.

  3. Michael Peters on April 20, 2011 10:02 am
    Michael Peters

    Fred — I utilize 3D Studio Max for rendering and Adobe CS (Illustrator and Photoshop x64) for doing the flat textures.

    I often utilize the “Paint on Model” feature that debuted in Adobe Photoshop CS4 (

    Thanks for asking!

  4. VSciuto on April 20, 2011 1:56 pm

    Nice work, Mike! Congrats!

  5. Fred Schechter on April 22, 2011 10:30 am
    Fred Schechter

    Mike, thanks for the answer! I was also wondering, do you do the 3d model yourself (obviously we’ve all been in dallara land for a while) or did you have a location to purchase that (or does Dallara offer it?) Great work!

  6. Zachary on April 22, 2011 10:43 am

    Simply awesome, Mike. Loved this design. Very clean.

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  8. J Louis Frey on April 23, 2011 4:25 pm
    J Louis Frey

    Clean look, sponsor is easily recognised, not overbearing, and a little POP. Good job Mike

  9. Jeff Downer on May 5, 2011 5:15 pm
    Jeff Downer

    It is outstanding design, but is still doesn’t hide the fact that it is Buzz Calkins driving and nit Paul Tracy.

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