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AUTO RACING: Nisbet makes career of race car design

Dan Nisbet grew up attending Friday night races at River Cities Speedway. "I can't remember a weekend where we didn't go to the races," Nisbet said of growing up in East Grand Forks. "We would get photos of the drivers and their cars. Then at hom...

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Dan Nisbet grew up attending Friday night races at River Cities Speedway.

"I can't remember a weekend where we didn't go to the races," Nisbet said of growing up in East Grand Forks. "We would get photos of the drivers and their cars. Then at home, my mom would draw a picture of the car and I would color it in."

Now, as a 26-year-old, that's not far from what Nisbet does for a living.

Working for CM2 Concepts, Nisbet designs the visual schemes for race cars of all shapes and sizes, including the No. 18 car of NASCAR star Kyle Busch. He also designs trucks and Indy cars.

"When I moved away from home as a freshman in college, I started doing car designs on the computer for fun," said Nisbet, who lives in Milwaukee and works from home. "I never thought I would actually do this for a living."

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Nisbet and his brother Dave worked on the pit crew for a few drivers at River Cities Speedway growing up. They also raced go-karts in Emerado, N.D., and later in Grand Forks.

The racing background eventually fueled a career in which Nisbet estimates he's designed 30 or 40 cars that have raced.

The first Nisbet-designed car to race was Jeff Burton's No. 31 Beneficial Financial car in 2005. Nisbet was a freshman in college.

During that year, Nisbet's work was seen by CM2 Concept's Bart Kelley.

"(Kelley) liked what I did, so he reached out to me," Nisbet said.

Nisbet's design that landed on Busch's car was actually a school project.

For his final project during his senior year at Minnesota State-Moorhead, the graphic design major picked NOS energy drink as the brand to design the color scheme of a race car.

"I just picked NOS for fun," Nisbet said. "My designs ended up catching the eye of one of their marketing guys."

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That led Nisbet's design to victory lane. Busch raced the NOS No. 18 car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. in 2008. Busch took the checkered flag.

"So many people watch and say 'Hey, that's a cool car,'" Nisbet said, "but not many think to look at the process."

Nisbet said the design process typically lasts a couple of weeks, but "we've done it as quick as a week. We got the marketing brief on Monday and the car was on the track on Saturday and Sunday."

Nisbet said he hasn't had his designs on any cars that race at RCS, but he said he's started to work with Mitch Mack, a sprint driver from East Grand Forks.

"That's something I'd really like to do," Nisbet said. "When someone gets on the national scale, sometimes they can forget where they came from. I'm excited to bring back some of my experiences and have that on something that races around here."

Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to tmiller@gfherald.com .

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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