Fox Channels Sam Bass In Building His Artistic Presence


Aspiring motorsports artist Skyler Fox sits at his home workstation in Tennessee. (Photo Courtesy of Fox Family)

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. – NASCAR’s annual throwback weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway provides a chance every year for fans and teams to celebrate the heritage of the sport.

However, it’s also a chance to open the book on creative design in motorsports, and the artists that make those looks come to life.

Well-known names like Noah Sweet (known in the NASCAR community as ‘Lefty’), Ryan Pistana, and Harris Lue are some of the current designers that often showcase their work – both real and occasionally concept – throughout the social media space.

But the artistic realm in NASCAR was first championed by the late Sam Bass, a master at his craft and remembered for being the sanctioning body’s first officially licensed artist.

Though Bass passed away in February of 2019, his spirit, inspiration, and vision still live on in many designers today – including 22-year-old Tennessee native Skyler Fox.

Fox, a 2019 graduate of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, grew up in his youth with faint visions of being able to drive race cars for a living. After all, his father Curtis and uncle Gary have been involved in local racing since the 1970s and Gary Fox was known for hand-lettering race cars in the area.

He realized quickly, however, that those dreams probably wouldn’t pan out. So, Fox turned his focus to another avenue to involve himself in racing, which his uncle was more than willing to help teach.


A drawing by Fox depicting North Wilkesboro Speedway's past and future ahead of the track's return to NASCAR competition last May.

“Like everybody else, if you want to get into the sport you want to be the one driving the car, right? I knew that that was probably going to be very unlikely, though,” Fox told Motorsports Hotspot in an exclusive interview. “I was very inspired by Sam; everyone always saw his work [pretty much] everywhere at the time. And as my uncle was painting race cars, he used to teach me how to draw a little bit; he’d show me how to draw race cars when he could.

“From then on, I just tried to pick that up. I found that I enjoyed drawing a lot and was always around racing and watching racing, so I kind of started down that path.”

Despite a myriad of technology options available to artists in the present day, a younger Fox actually first began applying his craft with the most rudimentary of electronic tools.

“People probably will look at me funny, but when I got more into computers and learned how to draw a bit better as well, I got to where I was trying to do things online. I just didn’t have any programs or anything at that point; I just had Microsoft Paint,” Fox explained with a chuckle. “I’d get on there and just paint over cars to make them look like I wanted them to. “I’d try to post them online; I just didn’t have a whole lot to work with.”

That period of Fox’s learning curve was a decade ago, in 2014, but even with his limited artistic options at that time it didn’t stop him from trying to get his work onto the largest of stages.

“I’d always send drawings of paint schemes or things that I had made in [MS] Paint to race teams and drivers,” Fox admitted. “Being like 12 or 13, you’re just hoping that somebody likes something … but I didn’t know what was good or bad at that time. I just knew it was my work and I was excited about that.”

Fast forward a year to Labor Day weekend in 2015, and NASCAR launched its annual throwback celebration, of which this weekend will be the 10th such campaign since its original launch.

That inspired Fox to start digging into the history books and led to his first major breakthrough as a designer.

Fox Wood Brothers

Skyler Fox (center) with the Wood Brothers and driver Ryan Blaney (right) during the unveiling of Blaney's 2016 Darlington throwback scheme.

“I actually sent a concept for a throwback to [the] Wood Brothers, and it was the [second] year that they were really promoting the throwback races. And they picked up a concept that I had made and used it for Ryan Blaney’s throwback car in 2016,” Fox recalled. “It was [still] made in Microsoft Paint, so it was really rough … but they got the idea and knew what I was going for.”

Fox was invited to the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the unveiling of the car, which honored the 1976 Mercury that David Pearson raced to the Triple Crown – winning the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, and Southern 500 all in the same year.

“That was a special moment,” Fox said of the scheme reveal. “It was after that I continued drawing and trying to learn more digital stuff as well to really add to my skillset. I knew I needed to get better markers, better paper, and things like that to try to do things like I’d seen Sam do through the years.”

Add in a 2019 “design-and-drive” contest at one of Fox’s local dirt tracks – I-75 Raceway in Sweetwater, Tenn. – and the stage was set for the Volunteer State native to take some newfound confidence to the big leagues.

“That contest at I-75 to design a driver’s paint scheme, it was something that was pretty different for the area, and I entered it with some hand-drawn pictures and ended up winning it,” Fox said with a smile. “It was only a $200 prize, but they gave me a big check like you see them give the drivers in victory lane. That really boosted me a little bit farther, and I thought, ‘If I could win this contest, then maybe I could do something else too.’”

Friends of Jaclyn Banner

Fox’s artistic motivation led to him getting his college degree in graphic design, graduating to programs including Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator that seem commonplace in the industry nowadays.

His most cherished project to-date came around his college graduation, when Fox got a message from one of the most well-known teams – and family names – in the NASCAR garage area.

“As Dirty Mo [Media] was really taking off, I’d done some drawings of Dale [Earnhardt] Jr.’s first race cars, the [No.] 03 Malibu and the Mom and Pops’ Lumina that many people remember … and I posted on Twitter [now X] that I was trying to get [those drawings] to him.

“One day I’m on social [media], and all of a sudden I’ve got a message from Dale himself that if I’d send them to JR Motorsports, he’d showcase them in the recording room on the Dale Jr. Download [podcast],” recalled Fox, who grew up as an avid fan of Earnhardt. “I don’t know exactly where they’re at now, but I know for a while that he had them hanging above the Cale Yarborough firesuit that’s in there.”


One of the t-shirt designs that Fox was commissioned by JR Motorsports to create, featuring an early late model scheme run by Kelley Earnhardt Miller.

Fox’s connection with Earnhardt led to a couple of t-shirt designs commissioned by JR Motorsports’ late model program and Earnhardt’s sister, JRM CEO and co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller, during the early days of the zMAX CARS Tour’s annual Throwback 276 at historic Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

In fact, one of his more recent designs to take social media by storm was a digital painting of Earnhardt Jr.’s 2003 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo for Dale Earnhardt Inc., the season where the future NASCAR Hall of Famer set a record with his fourth straight win at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Earnhardt reposted the drawing on Jan. 23, helping to provide Fox with more than 60,000 views of the piece in a short amount of time. That piece was the one which ultimately inspired this story, as well.

“I really appreciate what he does,” said Fox of having Earnhardt’s support. “He shares a lot of people's stuff on there, but there have been several times that he’s promoted my stuff or shared my drawings.

“A couple years ago, he actually showed a drawing that I had made of one of his dad’s cars that only ran a couple races. It was a Dodge Aspen kit car from the late 1970s that ran on dirt, and there might be three or four real pictures of that car. But I drew a picture of it, and he posted it. That was a cool one.”

Nowadays, Fox continues to hand-draw at times, but relies on a Huion graphics tablet and Apple iPad for the vast majority of his digital works.

Seeing the strides that artists like Sweet, Lue, and Pistana have made at the upper levels of NASCAR provides optimism for Fox that, perhaps, he can join them in that echelon one day.

“It gives me hope, you know? I know that some people pick up [skills] faster or are more [naturally] skilled than others, but it gives hope to [all artists] that eventually somewhere is going to open up for them to go.

“That’s what I'm hoping for someday, is that I can get an opportunity similar to what they have.”

As Fox has continued working toward that dream, he’s added to his personal toolbox while rekindling echoes of Bass in his art along the way.


The digital painting of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 2003 NASCAR Cup Series car completed in January by Fox.

“I always enjoy seeing the finished product. Whenever I try something new, where I don’t know how to do something in a drawing or a design, I always enjoy finally getting it figured out,” Fox noted. “The [January] drawing that I did, I didn’t know a whole lot about making the glare on the windows and the light look quite right, like Sam used to do with the shine. I was really trying to learn how to do that. So, when I finally got the look similar to how he did it, I was really satisfied with that.

“When you see people like Sam and [physical] artists who work with canvas and paint, whenever I have a hard time doing something digitally, it gives me a whole new respect for people who do [their work] by hand,” he added. “It’s probably a lot of things that Sam [and others like him] might not have envisioned having years ago, but the digital side really opens a lot of doors for people.

“Regardless of what tools I’m using, though, Sam Bass will always be an inspiration for what I do.”

At his core, however, Fox just wants to continue being himself as an artist– no matter what level it’s at.

“I’d say I’ve never gotten to anything huge; it’s just been spot projects here and there,” he said humbly. “But everything that I do is huge to me, you know? I don’t care who it is, it’s always a big deal if they want me to make something [for them].”

Follow Fox’s work on Twitter @SkylerCurtisFox or online through the SkyFox Designs website at

NASCAR Throwback Weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway runs from May 10-12, with coverage all weekend long on FS1, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

For a look at some of the historic designs running in NASCAR’s three national series, click here.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.