With fans across the globe, it’s no wonder that one NASCAR artist hails from across the pond.
Bruno Rafael Vieira Aguiar of Lisbon, Portugal, has been a NASCAR fan since the early 1990s. It all started when his sister rented Days of Thunder while they lived near the United States Air Force base on Terceira Island in the Azores, an archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe.
They lived close enough to the base that Aguiar watched his first Daytona 500 on the American Armed Forces Network. They watched some races on AAFN until American Sports Cavalcade, a Portuguese cable channel that carried NASCAR races was added in 1994.
Recently, Aguiar has put his degree in Visual Design from the Institute of Visual Arts, Design, and Marketing to use creating NASCAR comics. Aiming to go for the joke and to get a laugh out of race fans, the artist has recreated many of the iconic moments from race weekends.
The joke does not always come from an incident on track. For Aguiar, he listens to the driver’s post-race interviews and creates a comic based on their comments. These recreations have included Kyle Busch’s incident with Garrett Smithley at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s quip about spoilers, among others.
“I go after the joke, always,” Aguiar explained. “And it needs to be funny for me, first of all. Usually it’s not something I see on the track, but it’s from drivers’ interviews, something the announcers say or something I read on the internet.
“And sometimes the fun part is replacing the real sponsors from the cars with jokes. The one thing I try to do is not offend the subjects of the comic and their fans. I’m not a fan of mean jokes. The joke comes first. If I don’t find a joke in a race or moment, I have a hard time drawing said moment.”
In addition to recent race weekends in NASCAR, Aguiar has also started recreating iconic moments from NASCAR history. As a nod to his fandom of Days of Thunder, he recreated the final lap contact between the characters of Cole Trickle and Russ Wheeler, with real-life drivers Dale Earnhardt Sr., Derrike Cope, and others behind.
Aguiar saw an opportunity to combine the infamous end of the 1990 Daytona 500 with his favorite movie:
“The other day I did draw the final lap of the 1990 Daytona 500, and I placed Cole Trickle and Russ Wheeler beating and banging in front of Earnhardt, Cope and Labonte. The idea came to me a couple months ago, when re-watching the final race from Days of Thunder, it just popped into my mind. Of course, Earnhardt blew a tire, he was running third behind those two idiots and something fell of one of the cars.”
Each NASCAR comic strip that Aguiar creates takes time to draw and create. On average he spends between two and six hours painstakingly drawing the comic. Using the Procreate app on his Apple iPad Pro, the comics often come out flawlessly.
The comic that Aguiar the longest to create was his 2019 Darlington Raceway throwback. This comic, taking 10 hours in all, was the most complex for the illustrator. As a way of honoring the weekend and what it meant to NASCAR, he recreated the original car that each driver was honoring. Those that did not run a throwback, Aguiar placed on pit road as if they were serving a penalty.
Although Aguiar has been a NASCAR fan for almost 30 years, and has been creating NASCAR comics, he has yet to attend a race in person. However, he has seen NASCAR’s growth in Portugal. That growth comes despite the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Without a round in Portugal, and the series’ focus on road courses, Aguiar feels that the series is not very akin to NASCAR in the United States:
“First of all, because we don’t have a round of the series here in Portugal and second because it’s not the same thing as NASCAR in the U.S.A. It’s mostly road racing. I think the Euro Series is a good championship, but there’s not a real connection with the American side of things. Yes, there’s a driver or two that comes from the U.S. to race, but it’s not Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch.”
With a lack of racing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aguiar first recreated the 1990 Daytona 500 finish. He also watched the eNASCAR event, “The Replacements 100” online. If the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series continues to be broadcasted internationally, Aguiar may just create another NASCAR comic.