Sunday, March 19, 2017

Box Break Review: 2017 Donruss NASCAR

Donruss makes it's triumphant debut in NASCAR with the 2017 set, and it positions itself as the flagship NASCAR release. There's a lot to like about this set, here's my breakdown of what I got in my hobby box.
My initial thoughts on the set: I'm actually surprised. The base set is 189 cards long, which is the largest set we've gotten since 2011, and most surprising is that the subset concept has returned in a big way! Race Kings, (and Queen, for Danica), Rated Rookie, 1984 Retro, Cup Chase, Pit Crew and Nicknames all appear as subsets in the base set. I fully expected them to be inserts, but I am glad that they were not. What I'm not glad about is the fact that most of them are short printed. I got only three of the Race Kings, 1 of the Rated Rookie, and two of the Nicknames cards. 1984 Retro was almost plentiful with 6 base cards. Pit Crew and Cup Chase are not short printed and I completed both of them. I would have liked to have seen them be not so short and cut down on the duplicates. My box yielded 106 duplicates, some of the cards giving up three examples. That's almost two full base sets.

Most of the Cup drivers have a driver card and a car card...but not all. And some of the choices are downright odd. Kyle Larson does not have a base card. Carl Edwards does not have a car card. Aric Almirola is not included in the base set at all yet appears in the autograph inserts...he also has a card in the 1984 subset but that's it.


The design of the base card is superb.
The borders match the team colors.
The backs of the cards are bright and colorful but the second most disappointing aspect of the set (with the first being the lack of car cards for everyone and the odd exclusions as mentioned above).
There's a LOT of wasted space here. Some of that wasted space could have been removed and career stats included. Even just a total, not a season-by-season breakdown, would have been appreciated. We have not gotten a set with real stats since 2008, so it's desperately missing. What I do like about the back is that Panini has included hometowns. This is good info and something they usually ignore on the NBA cards. The colors are bright and vibrant, which I like. Mears is the only driver who has this green color. He's another driver who has a base card but no car card.

And the car cards...this is, by far, the BEST part of this set.
Not only do we get 21 car cards, they each show TWO cars! Most show the regular scheme and a special paint scheme, some show two special paint schemes, as this card does. (by the way, this was my first card from the set). Quite a few of the cards feature the Throwback cars from Darlington. 39 of the 40 cars in the race ran Throwbacks- it sure would have been nice if we got to see all of them. But this is the most car cards we've gotten in years. Discounting the 2011 set, the one time Press Pass actually got it right, you'd have to go back to the late 1990s to get this many car cards. Seriously. Expect a post dedicated to the car cards alone at some point. They are so good I'll probably post all of them together.
The backs of the car cards are the only ones that are not color coded.
They are all gray. The Pit Crew subset, which is also horizontal, and shows cars, has team color card backs.

Here is the Race Kings subset, which comprises cards #1-27 of the set, including the Race Queen card for Danica, Card #7, which I did not get in my box.
They feature the painted look like the various Kings inserts are known for...except this time they are base cards, of course.

Rated Rookies take up Cards #28-36, although most of the drivers in this subset have cards already. I got one base and one Green, and I am showing the latter.
A good Green to get- Byron is a surefire superstar, and if we had a real points system, would have won the Truck championship last year as he won 7 races, and dominated the season. He is one of four drivers to have a Rated Rookie subset card and a base card. Note that the border shows tires- but treaded tires. NASCAR has used slicks almost exclusively since 1971, but they do have treaded tires for Eldora and the road course races. The card numbers on back are also in a design reminiscent of tires.

The 1984 subset is cards #137-184, and here I have chosen to show a Gold parallel, of AJ Allmendinger.
The Golds are the most common parallel, I got 4 in my box. The gold foil scans as black, but trust me- the SN and the bar his name is printed on is gold foil. This subset falls a little flat to me. They aren't bad, by any means, but it would have been so much better if instead of the current drivers, we got actual photos from 1984, which predates NASCAR getting cards on a regular basis. There are some legends in this section of the set, but I don't have them so I don't know if they include photos from 1984. I know there are a couple of drivers who retired in the 1960s in the subset.

The Nicknames subset finishes off the checklist with cards #185-189, although some of the nicknames are kind of a stretch.
This is a Blue parallel of Daniel Suarez, denoting his Xfinity title last year. It uses the same photo as his base card.
Despite being the second easiest parallel to find based on serial numbering, I only pulled one blue from my box, but two Greens, which have 100 examples less produced. Since green is my favorite color I am happy by that.

There are also variation cards. I could do without these, mainly because they share the same number but are totally different otherwise-different photo, different text on the card back, and a nickname on the front. These are basically no different from the nicknames subset but instead of being part of the base set they just have the same number as the base card- stupid.
I pulled one from my box, and it was Kenseth. Interestingly, the base Kenseth card came from the same pack.
There are several parallels I didn't pull, but I did manage to pull an Artist Proof card, which has only 25 copies produced, making it the rarest non-printing plate parallel in the set. It features a black theme, with black text, black border, etc. The card is holofoil. Another Kenseth.
It doesn't really show in the scan but the card is refractor-like in hand. It's a nice card.

Now, that covers the base set. But there are a lot of inserts, and all of them have parallels. The relics and autographs have gold and black foil parallels, and the standard inserts all have Cracked Ice parallels which are all numbered to 999 copies, I wasn't able to pull all of them, and in fact the Pole Position insert, I pulled ONLY a Cracked Ice, no standard. The Cracked Ice look much better in hand than they do in scans. Here are, without further blathering, all the standard inserts I got. None of them yielded more than one card per set.

The inserts all feature gold foil on the standard version and holofoil on the Cracked Ice versions. The Call to the Hall set is the only one that includes photography from the 2017 season. Everything else reflects 2016, which makes sense when you consider that the set came out the week the 2017 season started.

Now, each box promises one autograph and two relics, and I got exactly that. My autograph came out of my first first pack, and is my first and currently only card of third generation driver Todd Gilliland.

Interestingly, the Rubber Relics set includes more than one card for some drivers, who had more than one standard sponsor. Jimmie Johnson is one of them- this card is for his alternate, Kobalt car. The back mentions a specific race but it's unclear if the tire piece used comes from that race or if they just chose to highlight that race. I suspect it may actually be the race the tire is from, because for Johnson it highlights a race he finished 16th in- nothing special for the multi-race winner and 2016 Champion.

The Logano card, part of the 1984 Retro Relics insert, does not say what the material is but it feels like firesuit. I really wish Panini would tell you what it is they are putting on the cards. With NASCAR it's easier to figure out what the material is- there's no mistaking tire or sheet metal, for example- than for the other sports, which feature multiple options that use the same basic material, there's no real way to know, unless you get a patch and can match it to the jersey photo.

Overall, this is a GREAT set, and a worthy flagship. It's not perfect, but I will say it's Panini's best effort so far. I completed the non-SP base cards from my box, with many duplicates to spare, but I still want to pick up a blaster to see if I can get some of the short prints or maybe a parallel.

Five drivers made their cardboard debut in this set: Todd Gilliland, Alon Day, Julia Landauer, Matt Tifft and Noah Gragson. The latter four appear only in the Signatures series, while Gilliland appears in the Rated Rookie subset. I added 8 new people to my collection, which is a very high number for a NASCAR box. I don't know what the record is, but this may be it, not counting when I first started collecting and everyone was new, of course. New to me were: Gilliland, Byron, Kate Dallenbach, John Hunter Nemechek, Cameron Hayley, Daniel Hemric, Christopher Bell and Ben Kennedy.

Thanks to my mom for giving me the box as a surprise gift! 


  1. I am glad you are happy with it. :)

  2. Nice box review. looks like you did well. Is it just coincidence that your post leads off with Ryan Newman on the same day he finally wins a race in what has to be years?

    1. Totally! I published with about 25 laps to go. Maybe it was the boost he needed to get his first since August 2013!

  3. I just opened five packs of this and even though I'm not a NASCAR fan, I really enjoyed it. Lots of fun parallels and cool looking base cards. I'm definitely going to buy more.

    1. Good to hear! Maybe we will convert you like I converted to hockey😁

  4. Nice pulls Billy. I have to look but the classic card also comes in variation I think.

    That gilland card is a keeper let's see what the future holds for him

    1. I know they have a Cracked Ice version...I was not lucky enough to pull one though. I think if Todd Gilliland can do as well as he did in the West series as he moves up through the ranks he might have a bright future ahead of him. I was surprised when it came out of my first pack.

    2. The autograph I pulled was Matt dibenedetto. It was the very last pack.

  5. Great review! Even though this Donruss design has been featured in multiple sports, I think Panini did a great job. The design looks great for racing.

    1. It really does! I like when a brand has a yearly identity across multiple sports too.