When the 2020 NASCAR season started back up after being shut down for a two month period due to COVID-19, things had changed dramatically.
There were no cheering fans in the stands, the typical pre- and post-race festivities were gone, and personnel required to be there such as drivers, pit crews and camera crews now had to wear masks and practice social distancing.
The entire 2020 racing schedule was different as well, with NASCAR squeezing in the number of races over a much shorter time period. Those responsible for the design and production of graphics for race cars and support vehicles, such as the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) Graphics Center, have had to deal with significant changes as well.
In addition to adapting to new COVID-19 protocols, with the condensed NASCAR schedule, their workload essentially doubled.
“NASCAR is revising this year’s schedule to get in all 36 races, so we need to be able to respond quickly to any changes they make,” RCR Graphics Center Manager Nick Woodward said. “Now, with two races per week instead of one, planning and executing the extra work presents some definite challenges. We are working overtime and weekends to get things done, as we have to print and install twice as many wraps as we normally would – about 10 full vehicle wraps per week.”
While the print and installation workload increased substantially, Woodward notes that the designs were in fact completed earlier than normal.
“We had to come up with many of our new wrap designs for use in NASCAR’s ‘iRacing’ series – virtual races that fans can compete in online,” Woodward said. “Even though these are basically video games, the race cars needed to feature our newest designs, and everything had to be 100 percent accurate. That allowed us to get ahead of most of the design work for this season.”
Fortunately, when it comes to design, printing and installation, Woodward has a full-time crew of eight talented graphics professionals, plus several advanced Roland DG
wide-format printers, to get the job done.
All the design, printing and installation takes place at the RCR Graphics Center, an 8,000 square-foot facility located on the racing team’s expansive Welcome, NC campus.
“This season, we also have some new valuable additions on the equipment front, including two new Roland DG TrueVIS VG2-640 wide-format printer/cutters,” said Woodward. “I’m incredibly impressed with the quality and productivity of this machine, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to keep up with the increased demands on our shop. With the VG2 and its TR2 inks, including a new Orange ink, we’ve been able to hit the exact corporate brand colors we need to achieve for sponsor graphics, right out of the box, without any special color management software.”
The RCR Graphics Center relies on Roland DG printers exclusively to produce all of the team’s race car and support vehicle wraps. In addition to its two VG2 devices, the shop is equipped with a SOLJET XF-640 printer, a VersaUV LEC printer/cutter – primarily for creating signs and displays for Childress Vineyards – and a GR series vinyl cutter.
“While basic operating procedures have changed, and the work is more challenging, one thing remains the same – the importance of our sponsors’ vehicle graphics. NASCAR continues to have a huge fan base that watches the races religiously on TV," Woodward said. "Millions of eyes are fixated on these cars during any given race, so the print quality of our sponsors’ wraps needs to be perfect. NASCAR’s TV audience is even larger than in the past, making the quality of our vehicle graphics more important now than ever before.”