Ryan Hunter-Reay
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The Tradition of Being Untraditional

2.15.13 – No two driver helmets are alike. Some drivers chose a traditional design for their helmets and then slightly modify the design for significant events. Others, such as Andretti’s newest driver E.J. Viso, sport many different and unique designs throughout their career. Viso’s helmet tradition is to be untraditional.

“I don’t like being a driver that picks one helmet design and sticks with it,” said Viso. “I think the helmet is a great part of who the driver is and their race car. The helmet is the only place where you as a driver can express things. You have some liberty on changing the paint schemes, colors and designs. This is something I have been doing for years and it is really cool. Everywhere you go, you can have a different helmet design and it can bring some inspiration for that weekend.”

Viso first began designing his own helmets over ten years ago and  started by applying decals and various stickers to his helmets. After realizing how difficult that was, he opted to have his helmets painted and has stuck with that method. Bringing family into his untraditional helmet tradition, Viso began having talks with his cousin, a designer based in Milan. They now work together on his designs finding inspiration in everyday things.  

In one season, he will proudly display 12-15 helmets. With each helmet, comes new meaning that Viso wishes to portray to others, however some elements do carry over from helmet to helmet.

“Lucky symbols and lucky charms are something that I feel you always need,” added Viso. “I think that having them on your helmet is a good place to have them present. Different helmet designs have become a tradition of mine because I have always had them close to me.”

A helmet that holds special meaning to Viso came from his 2008 season, when he first started competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Viso calls the helmet “Ovals Dude.”

“(Ovals Dude) is the helmet I used in my very first Indy 500,” said Viso. “This was a great one because it was chrome and yellow on green. I kept using the lucky charms behind it. Some of the lines on this helmet inspired our design for future helmets.”

That same year, he ran “Digital Baby.” This one contained a black background with abstract yellow, orange, pink and red lines. He describes it as being digital in the way that it works.

“There is a lot of red energy coming from the front and then it will dissipate and get colder into yellow,” stated Viso. “At the same time, you can see all of the lucky icons flowing around the helmet. This one was definitely one of my favorites.”

In 2009, Viso was sporting another abstract design called “A Pattern Full of ‘V’.” It also had a black background with green and silver sharp lines all around it, leading to special symbols in the back.

“One of the lucky charms looks like a ‘four’ in Chinese, which is a symbol that means strength,” said Viso. “It is actually a tattoo that I have on my wrist and it always reminds me to keep pushing when you need a little extra strength to get pumped up.”

The 2010 season brought another new design for the Venezuela native, which he called “Texas Glow.” It consisted of a glossy black background with an abstract yellow and green design, joining to the letters “E.J” in the back.

“This is a great helmet to talk about,” said Viso. “This was a glow in the dark one and it had some fluorescent colors that were reflective when the light hit it the lines. I ran this during the Texas race back in 2010 (which was a night race) and it was a great one to use. Each of the lines are like the microchips I have in my head and all of the connections that they make.”

The 2011 Indianapolis 500 brought Viso to another popular helmet design, called the “Thor Helmet.” This helmet portrayed many ties to the World-famous Brickyard and contained a great deal of input from his sponsor Herbalife.

“You can see the bricks symbolizing the Brickyard,” said Viso. “On the back and wrapping to the sides, it has an ‘E’ for ‘Ernesto’ and a ‘J’ for ‘Jose.’”

After each helmet is worn, Viso gives it to his dad to hold onto.

“Each helmet is very special for me,” added Viso. “There is a very little quantity of helmets I have given away in the past, and normally when I have done it, it has been because of a particular reason. I really like each of them and I like keeping them.”

Viso knows what he would like his next helmet to look like, but the fans will have to wait in suspense. "I do have an idea of what I want my next helmet to look like. That one is going to be a surprise and you will see it in St. Petersburg!” 

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