By: Tanner Watkins
May 17, 2019 | 8:15 PM
The Indianapolis 500 is filled with beautiful sightlines at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, vibrant color in the pre-race ceremonies and dazzling race cars that look like darts traveling the 2.5-mile oval. With those cars, one of the most memorable parts of race weekend is grabbing a spotters guide and taking a look at your favorite driver’s livery for that race.
In this year’s field of 36 car and driver combinations, we have a variety of paint schemes and sponsors lining the group of entrants. Many cars feature returning sponsors like DHL, NAPA Auto Parts, Pennzoil and PNC Bank, but there are also some new companies joining the Indianapolis 500 fray like Gainbridge (the race’s new title sponsor) and AutoGeek.
The point is, we have an eclectic mix of colors, sponsors and car designs on display for this year’s Indianapolis 500.
Today I took the time to rank the paint schemes, from my least favorite (No. 36) to my absolute favorite (No. 1) – and it was incredibly difficult. There were many impressive paint schemes to pick from, and some non-starters for me, but all in all it was a ton of fun.
Without further ado, check out each of the 36 entrants and their paint schemes as we head into qualifying weekend.
Bumped from the Field: 36 to 34
Images by Joe Skibinski (Kaiser) and Tanner Watkins (King and O’Ward)
Well, I hate to do this to these guys but what we have here is a) a blank car, unfortunately, b) a black and white car with little modern design, and c) a white car with red and an out-of-place neon green.
This is nothing on Kaiser, King or O’Ward because they are all respectable individuals in this series with race wins in other forms of open-wheel racing, but if there was a Bump Day for Indianapolis 500 liveries this year, they are going home.
Row 11: Positions 33 to 31
Images by Tanner Watkins (Ferrucci and Kimball) and James Black (Veach).
Okay, we are in the field now! Ferrucci’s livery does feature some cool little pattern that has hints of gray on the white, but from far away it is still too bland. Kimball’s scheme is one that I have never really cared for with the yellow mixed into the dark blue and white, but the green and black liveries he used to have were worse.
As for Veach’s Gainbridge skin, it actually isn’t bad at all. This is a tough field and it has a lot of decent paint schemes, but the blue rear wheel ramps seem out of place so I had to mark down for that. The yellow on black is tough, though.
Row 10: Positions 30 to 28
Images by Matt Fraver (Hanley) and Tanner Watkins (Leist and Kanaan).
Yes, a primarily-white car did make the top 30 after Ferrucci and Kaiser were grilled for their blandness – and in Kaiser’s case, the Juncos Racing primary sponsors dropped out at the very last moment, so that wasn’t their fault.
Nonetheless, I like the blue with white stars and red trim on Hanley’s machine, and DragonSpeed gets props for doing this all on their own in 2019.
The A.J. Foyt Racing machines of Matheus Leist (No. 4) and Tony Kanaan (No. 14) are not poorly designed, but they have remained relatively simple in year’s past and for this Indianapolis 500 I am rewarding clean, elegant styles. The ABC Supply liveries, while iconic, are a little too busy this year.
Row 9: Positions 27 to 25
Images by Tanner Watkins (Hunter-Reay and Servia) and Matt Fraver (Jones).
We are about to start making some tough decisions. For Jones, I love the cherry red color on his livery, but the design is a little too plain for my taste as I feel they could have cooked up something special with WeatherTech.
Servia has an interesting, and I’m giving credit when I say creative, paint scheme this year for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. I just think that the alligator pattern in support of his sponsor was hastily done and doesn’t stand out very much – it just looks like green on black in most cases.
Hunter-Reay has an excellent partner in DHL, but red and yellow cars just don’t do that much for me. Additionally, RHR (and his Andretti teammates) will be hurt since they all run a similar graphical layout on their cars.
Row 8: Positions 24 to 22
Images by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com
James Davison’s scheme was a tough pick for 24th for me. I enjoy black cars – more on that later – and the neon red/orange is a nice touch. I just feel that the sponsor placements on the car make it too busy, but that is a good problem to have for David Byrd and his family.
Herta has a solid, yet uninspiring, paint scheme at this year’s Greatest Spectacle. GESS International is a great partner to have aboard for the month of May, and this color of green on white isn’t terrible. Still, not good enough to make the top 20.
I really like the NAPA Auto Parts car, but I have to mark down Alexander Rossi for his team’s generic livery design. The red mirrors definitely moved Rossi up the list, though, and NAPA colors always look good on a race car.
Row 7: Positions 21 to 19
Images by Chris Owens (Dixon), Walter Kuhn (Ericsson) and Tanner Watkins (Pigot)
Yep, these are getting tough.
The AutoGeek car of Spencer Pigot looks pretty slick with black on top and the white underneath separated by a red stripe. It is just a little too simple to make the top 20.
Dixon’s PNC Bank car has been an eye-opener since debuting last year, and it is a nice, memorable skin. Orange and blue actually goes together pretty well, and the white accents in certain places help break things up a bit. Still, the tiled design lacks a little bit of inspiration.
Finally, we will have two consecutive Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports cars in Marcus Ericsson and James Hinchcliffe – who will appear on the next page. The gold on flat black is very tidy, and honestly, the futuristic ARROW logo on the sidepods makes this scheme even more aggressive. With that being said, it is just an “okay” livery.
That is my explanation for James’ ranking as well, but he gets the nod over Ericsson since he is a former Indianapolis 500 polesitter.
Row 6: Positions 18 to 16
Images by James Black (Hinchcliffe), Walter Kuhn (Rahal) and Joe Skibinski (Karam).
Okay, I already mentioned Hinch’s reasoning above so let’s move onto Rahal. The United Rentals special looks great red, white and blue, topped off by the dual-colored No. 15 that Rahal sports for his father’s team. This is a tidy paint scheme with little flaws, if any.
The Dreyer & Reinbold Racing crew always put together a solid livery for Sage Karam, and this year is no different. Back with WIX Filters sponsorship, the black and yellow coloring with ghosted WIX logos all over the car took some real work – and I appreciate that.
Karam’s paint scheme is scored in the top half of the field and could have been higher if there weren’t so many other good liveries.
Row 5: Positions 15 to 13
Images by Tanner Watkins (Newgarden and Pagenaud) and Chris Owens (Sato).
Both the cars of Josef Newgarden (Shell) and Takuma Sato (Mi-Jack) feature red, yellow and white in their schemes. But unlike the car driven by Hunter-Reay (P25), these cars have more elegant lines. Furthermore, Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing machine is an ode to the past, so it gets the nod over Newgarden’s sharp livery.
And how can we not enjoy seeing the neon livery of Simon Pagenaud featuring Menard’s branding once again? It re-connects us to the Indianapolis 500’s past while bringing back another influential sponsor in our sport. Even as simple as this scheme is – day-glo yellow/green with red and black Penske lines – this thing just looks fast.
Row 4: Positions 12 to 10
Images by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com.
These are all great schemes from here on out.
The Driven2SaveLives livery driven by Pippa Mann this year features some nice colors, and while it may be a little busy, it is instantly recognizable on-track.
Ed Carpenter’s Preferred Freezer Services machine ranks a full ten spots higher than his teammate in Spencer Pigot, and that comes down to the beautiful paint job on the PFS special. That blue is a special hue of awesome and it really pops in the light.
Finally we have the Salesforce Chevrolet of J.R. Hildebrand. A former teammate of Carpenter, this car really pops when you see it in person at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The orange catches your eye, but it isn’t overpowering. The blue and white ties things together nicely with the design they have chosen.
Row 3: Positions 9 to 7
Images by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com.
Well, if you are still reading: Welcome to the Fast Nine.
We start with Max Chilton, and his Gallagher Chevrolet really flows well with two different hues of blue plus well-placed white. It is the same design that Pato O’Ward’s car has, but his colors are quite awful and that was the difference of being in the Fast Nine and missing the show, for me.
Jack Harvey’s black-and-pink Meyer Shank Racing piece is just tight on track. It is simple and follows the same design of the adequate Ericsson/Hinchcliffe rides, but the pink that they have chosen to pair with the black is very appealing. Well done.
Finally we have Felix Rosenqvist. I like this car because it not only features the light blue of NTT Data, but the colors on the side give me some sort of a Benetton feel and I am really digging it. It looks sporty on track and hopefully Felix can honor it with a strong run in qualifications to bounce back from his accident earlier this week.
Row 2: Positions 6 to 4
Images by Chris Jones (Bourdais), Chris Owens (Daly) and Tanner Watkins (Castroneves).
This is where some feelings might get hurt, but all of these cars are finishing high up the grid at this point and should be happy.
The SealMaster special belonging to Sebastien Bourdais is becoming an iconic scheme in IndyCar history – and it is impossible to miss out on track. The neon yellow pounces off of its black base and it is just an all-around creative scheme.
Speaking of creative schemes, we knew something special was coming when Conor Daly announced a partnership with the U.S. Air Force in early 2019. The car pays homage to our service men and women’s fighting machines and the grey/blue combo is a nice hardened touch.
Finally, the Yellow Submarine of Helio Castroneves. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner will be hoping that this year is the year he conjures up some of that magic Rick Mears owned while driving this car. It is a nod to the past, a clean design and easily recognizable. That checks all the boxes and for that, it is a strong placing for the No. 3 Chevrolet.
Row 1: Positions 3 to 1
Images by Chris Owens (Alonso), James Black (Andretti) and Tanner Watkins (Power).
And we finally arrive at the end. Let’s kick things off with our friend Fred.
Alonso’s papaya orange livery will certainly carry sentiment to Indianapolis 500 traditionalists, and the blue carryover from their Formula One livery is a fine touch in my opinion. Certainly, all of this is opinion-based and you could have completely different feelings on ALL of these picks, and that is okay.
Moving along, how could we deny the top spot to Marco Andretti’s throwback livery which honors his grandfather’s 1969 victory? Well, we did because there was an all-black car, but Marco’s day-glo red scheme is an incredible re-creation of Mario’s race-winner from 50 years ago. It is cool to see on track for those who enjoy the history of the “500” and it simply looks fast. Job well done to U.S. Concrete and Andretti Autosport here.
Finally, it is the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, Will Power. When Will unveiled this flat black Verizon 5G machine ahead of the late April test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this was going to be a tough car to beat. I said earlier that the black is a tough looking car which I fancy nearly every time, and this car’s black base with the red and white trim takes the cake.
So there you have it! I have spent entirely too much time on this, but hopefully you enjoyed the analysis today. We want to hear from you and your thoughts on the best-looking cars, so reach out to us via Twitter and submit your choices for best livery in 2019.
Header image by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.