Inspired by chandelier, NASCAR trophy designers built a monster for Cup champion

The trophy that goes to NASCAR’s Cup series champion includes shapes that represent all the tracks on the circuit – and a whole lot more symbolism.
The trophy that goes to NASCAR’s Cup series champion includes shapes that represent all the tracks on the circuit – and a whole lot more symbolism.

Thirty contenders, six finalists, and now, one trophy left standing.

At the end of August, NASCAR and Jostens officially released the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy, putting an end to months of brainstorming and craftsmanship. The centerpiece of the trophy, which stands 37 inches tall and weighs almost 70 pounds, is an intricate web of every track from the Cup Series.

That idea came from NASCAR, who wanted a newer, edgier trophy to match its newest sponsor, Monster. But as for how to include them, or what else to put on it?

“They said they would like for the tracks to be incorporated and that’s it,” Curt Bruns, the vice president of the motorsports division of Jostens, said. “They didn’t want to stifle any creativity.”

Planning for the trophy goes all the way back to January, a few weeks after the partnership between NASCAR and Monster Energy was first announced. From there, the team at Jostens had about three months to design and then perfect the 2017 trophy.

Initially, Bruns said the designers turned to a chandelier hanging at Daytona as a source of inspiration. The chandelier, like the final trophy, features replicas of all the Cup Series tracks. But that design wasn’t popular or easily replicable, so the team began thinking of alternate ideas.

That led to a massive brainstorming period, and by the end of it, the group had 30 different options. They managed to whittle that down to their favorite six, at which point they printed off each finalist at full size.

“You could kind of pick up, in essence, what the trophy would be,” Bruns said. “Where would you grab it? How would the champions be able to raise this above their heads? That kind of stuff.”

Eventually they settled on the winning design and began production work. Bruns, who works at Jostens’ headquarters in Wisconsin, said he hadn’t even seen the final version, being produced in an Oklahoma City factory, until months after the winner was selected.

“All I would see is images,” Bruns said. “I walked in, and a picture is one thing, but wait until you see it in person. It’s just so neat.”

There were a select few who got to view the trophy before the official announcement, but only a number of drivers who had already qualified for the playoffs. Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, among others, were led to the covered trophy under a guise of mystery. They didn’t know what they were going to see, just that there were cameras rolling to capture their honest reactions.

With the playoff field finally set – the last three spots were determined Saturday night – the cup will be present for the media, fans, and drivers to see up close this weekend in Chicago. They’ll see the Monster logo at the base of it, and they’ll see the cup area that holds roughly 37 16-ounce Monster drinks (Bruns pushed for 36, one for each Cup Series race, but things didn’t work out – “If you don’t want to fill it to the rim, 36 is a perfect drink.”)

For the 16 drivers in the playoffs, it’ll be a reminder of what they’re still racing for. Then, in three months time, one of them will have to figure out where to put that behemoth of a trophy in their home.

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @brendanrmarks