If you have raced cars for any number of years, you probably have a large collection of trophies collecting dust stashed around your house or garage. At my house, my wife is not a fan of dusty old racing trophies. I don’t understand why. Racing trophies are awesome! Sure, some trophies mean more than others, but each one of them has a story to tell.

Some trophies were hard earned while others were handed out just for showing up. Regardless of the effort, those trophies didn’t just magically appear at the end of an event, somebody had to take the initiative to order them ahead of time to be ready to give them out when the checkered flag waved.

Racing trophies come in all shapes and sizes, and if you want to keep things fresh for your region, then it falls on you to come up with some original ideas for future awards and add some flare to the trophy concepts. After a while, and once you have won a few trophies, you realize they often start to look the same. It is pretty obvious when somebody jumped on Google at the last minute and ordered a small cup that says “Winner” at the bottom of it. I’ve been at podium celebrations where somebody was quickly tearing open an Amazon box that had been overnighted to hand me a generic trophy. That didn’t seem exactly special in the moment. But, the thing about racing is it is a community, usually run by racers for racers. If you want something different, then you need to take the initiative and do something about it. I decided my region needed cooler trophies. So, I tried to make cooler trophies.

It’s 2023 and inflation is a real thing, so the dollar store is actually $1.25. I guess that is why it is called Dollar General, because each item is generally around a dollar? Regardless, I found these plastic plates at the dollar-ish store and thought they could be made into cool trophies.

When it comes to trophies for car races, the first thing that comes into play is budget. If you have a lot of classes, that is a lot of trophies to purchase, which means a lot of money to pay for those trophies. But more money doesn’t always equal a better trophy. What makes a cool trophy is the passion that went into its design, the connection to the event, and if it looks like something you want on our desk at work — or conversely if it is something your spouse is going to make you immediately leave in the garage.

Once I had a stack of plates, it was time to start cutting stickers for the three positions on the podiums for each class. That meant using my trusted and overworked die-cutting machine to cut 1st, 2nd and 3rd, red, white, and blue, over and over and over again.

Many years ago I won a legit silver platter at the Silver State Classic, a completely bananas all-out, open-road race in Nevada. I’ve always thought the platter was cool, and I still have it to this day — though it requires polishing every couple of years. Then, a few months ago, I was walking through a dollar store randomly looking for cheap zip ties and saw the dollar store was selling plastic plates that looked just like my old silver platter trophy from the Silver State Classic. I was inspired, so I bought every plate they had on the shelf.

To add some personalization to each trophy, instead of it just saying “1st,” I used my die-cutter to add the class to each plate trophy. For NASA’s extremely popular class, the SM was for Spec Miata — no, I did not use the alternate acronym for this class, SP, for Smash Piñata.

The next step was to figure out how to make a plastic disposable dinner plate from a dollar store look like a cool trophy. The answer was obvious: stickers. Since stickers add horsepower to cars, they could certainly add horsepower to my dollar store trophies. I came up with what would be a simple design and started working the tried-and-true die-cutting machine that has put many a different livery on my team’s racecars at Double Nickel Nine Motorsports over the years.

Once I had the position stickers for each plate and the class stickers for each plate cut, it was time to line things up — unfortunately slightly crooked — and make some cool cheap trophies.

You don’t realize the complexity in the different race classes and how important pre-registration is until you have to ensure you have the proper number of trophies for every podium at an event. There is definitely a fair amount of organizational skills required to pull this off successfully. I’ll admit it is a big lift, and I want to personally thank race directors and their staffs who have done this for me in the past. Great job! Only now do I know how hard you all worked! I appreciate you!

To really personalize each trophy, I decided to break out the Brother P-Touch, order some fancy black labels, and then have the names of each driver printed and stuck on the plates right before the podium celebration for each class.

To complete the project, I had lists upon lists, stickers all over the place and a kitchen table filled with half-finished trophy plates. It turns out my wife doesn’t like my old dusty trophies and she also doesn’t like it when I occupy “her” kitchen table for a week with other people’s trophies. She really hates trophies! I assured her it was all just temporary, and then stayed up late putting stickers on plastic plates to keep her happy.

I’m not going to sugar coat it: this was a bunch of work. Every event has a lot of trophy winners and going the extra mile meant spending a lot of extra time at my kitchen table stacking plates.

As the plates were taking shape for the upcoming event, I began to see my vision manifesting itself. I had created a trophy I would love to have in my own trophy collection and I was able to do it with a very small budget. The irony was I would not get one of these trophies, I wasn’t racing in the event. Not only did I create all of the plate trophies for each of the classes but I also spent some more pennies at the dollar store to create some wacky extra awards for the event.

For a simple dollar store plastic plate, some die-cut stickers and a label maker, I think these trophies came out fantastic.

All of the effort paid off at the end of the race when I saw the different classes receiving their plates. Drivers were smiling, the trophies looked way better than their dollar store origin and they didn’t cost a lot of money. Win, win, win! So, next time you are thinking about trophies for your region, use a little creativity, think outside the box and come up with something new and cool for the racers in your part of the country. The drivers probably won’t thank you for it — I never did in 30 years of racing — but when you see the smiles on the podium, you will know you did your job.

These are million-dollar smiles paid for with dollar store plates. Success!

Rob Krider is a four-time NASA Honda Challenge 4 National Champion and the author of the novel, “Cadet Blues.”

Images courtesy of Rob Krider and T-Rev Photography

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