PA Airman's paint scheme may adorn Air Force Recruiting stock car

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Wilfredo Acosta
  • 111th Attack Wing

An Air National Guardsman assigned to the 111th Attack Wing at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania, is a finalist in the recent U.S. Air Force Recruiting contest that challenged Airmen to design an Air Force-themed paint scheme for the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet for the 2022 NASCAR season.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Copenhaver, a native of Royersford, Pennsylvania, who serves as a heavy vehicle maintainer with the 111th Logistics Readiness Squadron, found out his P-51 Mustang design, which incorporates the Hap Arnold wings to celebrate the Air Force's 75-year heritage, made it to the contest finals Jan. 7, 2022. 

“One key, distinct feature that I really wanted to incorporate, and I think really embodies the history, is the Hap Arnold wings,” said Copenhaver, a Drill Status Guardsman who earned his degree in in applied engineering technology management from Millersville University.  “That actually stems even before the true Air Force creation back in the Airborne Division Army. And that's something that's been around for many, many years and it describes aviation.”

Though Copenhaver grew up with a passion for designing vehicle graphics, he would have never entered the competition had it not been for his wingman. 

“I heard about this competition from my friend, Staff Sgt. Michael Bolden,” said Copenhaver. “We actually share a passion for designing liveries and video games, and this is something that he saw and thought was right up my alley when he gave me the opportunity to submit my design and run with it.”

Staff Sgt. Michael Bolden, a native of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, who serves as the 111th LRS Material Manager Noncommissioned Officer-In-Charge, said finding out about the competition seemed to be fate.

“I was reading through the Air Force portal's news updates and saw a link in the tab with a race car on it,” said Bolden. “I'm a racing fan, and I was easily drawn to the link. After I had read the article, Staff Sgt. Copenhaver was the first person I knew who could get the job done. I learned that he aspires to design graphics for cars and has an amazing portfolio. I immediately contacted Copenhaver about the details and the deadline.” 

In addition to being race fans with a passion for vehicle graphics, both Copenhaver and Bolden grew up around aviation as their fathers both served in the military. 

“My dad, also currently serves in the Air National Guard here,” said Copenhaver. “He's one of the reasons why I'm currently serving as well. He would actually take me and my family on base to watch the Blue Angels, or Thunderbirds practice their routine for the air show

Bolden, whose father is a retired chief master sergeant, has similar stories of being around aircraft growing up and said among the valuable lessons he learned from his father was the concept of knowing and supporting your fellow Airmen.

“I was extremely excited and jumped for joy when I was informed that his design had been chosen for the top three selections,” said Bolden. “Staff Sgt. Copenhaver has done an amazing job, and I will continue to support our wingmen in what they aspire to do in life.”

Copenhaver, who folded up his original design and forgot about it after the submission, said he was grateful for the opportunity and surprised his design made it to the finals. 

“When I submitted the design, I thought I would never hear back,” said Copenhaver. “This opportunity is something I've never dreamed of … I'm usually the person that barely makes the podium. So, to even be considered on a national level, makes me ecstatic.”

“I want to thank [Staff Sgt.] Bolden for making me aware of this opportunity, because this is something that is a once-in-a-lifetime, and I would have never even seen it if he didn't show me.”

Copenhaver said the idea of winning the competition and having his paint scheme adorn the body of a professional stock car never really crossed his mind because designing graphics for race cars has always been a labor of love. 

“I really don't know how to think about this, because this is something I've always had a passion for,” said Copenhaver. “I've always liked designing stuff, even from when I was a teenager playing video games and car games that had vinyl detailing. So, to be one of the top three out of 70, I don't really know how to feel about it. Because it wasn't, for me, ever a competition.”