With paint sprayer in hand, Alan Jones of Sherrills Ford is celebrating a milestone anniversary at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week.
For 30 years, his artwork has graced the infield during major races, including the 200-foot-by-100-foot All-Star Race logo he made for Saturday night and the Coca-Cola 600 logo that will replace it on Monday.
Jones and his 10-man crew of full- and part-time workers will have logged about 600 hours over 10 days painting up to a dozen logos with at least 3,000 gallons of paint. They also paint the start-finish line with a checkered black-and-white motif and the logos of each race.
Jones is the speedway’s longest-running contractor. He started painting billboards at the track as a student at UNC Charlotte in the mid-1970s. He graduated in 1977 with an arts degree.
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His dad, the late L.T. Jones, was a highly acclaimed billboard painter in Charlotte, Alan Jones said, and Alan assisted him since he was old enough to hold a paint brush.
In 1984, speedway officials asked Alan Jones to come up with an image to paint on the large patch of grass between the front stretch and pit road – the first NASCAR track to do so.
He painted two speedway globes, one of which said “1960” and the other one “1984.” In 1960, the speedway hosted the first NASCAR-sanctioned 600-mile race, then called the World 600.
Jones used to scale his artwork out with a scaling rule, converting everything to feet and measuring it by hand. He plotted the designs with a tangled web of string. He now uses high-tech computers and GPS.
His four generator-powered paint sprayers can release more than 1 1/2 gallons of paint per minute. On a sunny day, the paint dries and becomes waterproof in 20 minutes. Jones said he once lost a completed logo because of a sudden rain.
Work on the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race logo began May 7 with GPS-guided sketching on the infield. It took all day and was the most demanding part of the job.
Monday and Tuesday mornings were for spray-painting the designs with buckets of paint that Jones and his crew drove to the infield on three Ford F-250 trucks.
They also drive the trucks to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Texas Motor Speedway, where they also paint the logos for NASCAR races.
Those jobs form the bulk of the work his Jones Sign Co. does. As an artist, small-business owner and lifelong NASCAR fan, he said, he couldn’t have landed a better line of work.
“Back in college, everybody was looking for a great career,” Jones said. “I found one.”