Courtesy of NASCAR Pole Position magazine
Nostalgia, it can be a beautiful thing. And for Harris Lue, graphic artist and designer, it’s everything.
Since the age of 2, Harris has been an avid NASCAR fan. When his dad would point to the television back then, Harris could name the most obscure drivers in the field. And from a young age, he also knew he wanted to do something in the visual arts world, specifically in racing.
Harris recalls times in elementary school where he would be distracted by drawing race cars. Originally, he thought he wanted to be an engineer, but that required too much math. While in the eighth grade, he came up with his first logo for what would be his future passion.
After earning a graphic design degree from East Carolina University, Harris took a job at Late Model Restoration – one of the biggest Mustang aftermarket companies in the United States – in Waco, Texas. He loves cars, specifically Mustangs, and owns two himself.
While Harris was in Texas for one year, he visited Texas Motor Speedway to see Jeff Gordon’s final race at the 1.5-mile track. Shortly after, one of his former classmates told him about a position that opened at NASCAR. It would allow him to get his big break in the racing world.
“A lot of the things you see now, even some of the stuff that’s been released in the past couple of (months), has elements and designs that I worked on (at NASCAR) in 2018 or 2019,” Harris said. “They are just now surfacing and coming to light.
“The actual vintage merch is getting ridiculous. The prices are going way up and are super-hot right now. Being able to replicate that style in a new way with new clothes that look authentic has been a lot of the fun of what we’ve been able to do.”
Harris spent a few years at NASCAR before landing a job with Stewart-Haas Racing. There, he would design many of the elements for the race team, including hero cards, social-media, and race day designs. He was checking off bucket list item after bucket list item, including a trip to work the 2022 Daytona 500.
Simultaneously Harris was working on freelance projects as LUE Creative, where he now serves as co-owner with his girlfriend and business partner, Emily Butler. Quickly, Harris realized he was short on time, so just over a year ago he and Emily began to focus solely on LUE Creative and growing their business together. LUE Creative is a full-service visual agency that works with clients in and out of racing with over 15 years of combined experience in the motorsports world.
Harris’ style is retro. He’s been a devoted retro NASCAR T-shirt collector since 2015. The first two T-shirts he purchased were of Mark Martin, ahead of the aforementioned Texas race. He then bought a few Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan retro pieces, because those were among his favorite drivers as a kid.
“We’re in a nostalgic era,” Lue noted. “The switch to digital and – things going away from being tangible. I’m a collector and huge into things that you can touch and put on a shelf, that you can wear. You can’t get that connection with a digital item. You don’t have the texture, touch or feel. Things that were made yesterday that someone might have had or wanted but didn’t have the chance to get. Maybe they lost it, sold it, threw it away, but now there’s a huge desire to get that item back and recapture that feeling.
“I wanted to study the techniques and learn how to do them digitally. Learn how to take the old techniques that started with drawing on paper and I wanted to learn how to do that on a computer, so I could take my digital work and make it look like the old work.”
In 2015, Harris recalls a full print vintage shirt being roughly $15. Seven years later, it has gotten up to roughly $150, depending on where the customer purchases the merchandise. Since retro began exploding, he believes he has roughly 190 T-shirts.
One of Harris’ most prized possessions is a customized pair of Jordans that he got done ahead of the 2020 Daytona 500. They are black and silver with Sam Bass Illustrated insoles and on the heel of one shoe is the No. 3; on the other is Dale Earnhardt’s signature.
“Whenever I post them, my feed gets flooded with, ‘How can I buy these?’” he said with a laugh. “I say, ‘Due to licensing constraints, you cannot buy these.’”
Some of Harris’ rarest finds are of Davey Allison and he has a considerable amount of Ernie Irvan merchandise. All of his collectibles are separated by driver in his closet.
He often purchases his products through Speedway Screens, BBlaze Vintage and DayzGoneByVintage. If you’re searching for a hidden gem though, eBay or Facebook Marketplace is the way to go.
“If you want to get into it, you’ve got to be in the hunt and find stuff on your own,” Harris said.
Not only is he huge into collecting, Harris’ digital style is also retro. It all began in 2013 at Richmond Raceway with Xfinity Series team owner Sam Hunt. Back then, Hunt was competing in the K&N Series, and wanted photos of his car. Through a mutual friend, Harris reached out and was given credentials for Richmond.
“I think I traded him credentials for track access and photography,” Hunt said. “We made an easy deal there and got to know each other. That was his foot in the door, and he did a good job. We started using him for some other random stuff. He started to get to know some people in the garage and here we are now.”
Since officially opening LUE Creative, Hunt has been one of their biggest clients. LUE Creative has also spent the past three years developing and crafting NASCAR Hall of Famer & 2000 Cup Series Champion, Bobby Labonte’s SMART Modified Tour Campaign alongside Cook Out and PaceOMatic. Currently, they’re working with KHI Management on a few special projects for Kevin Harvick’s retirement year. Some of their other clients include Liquid Death, McDonald’s, MoneyLion, Hooters, Bobby Labonte and NASCAR Licensing.
Despite being a race fan his whole life, Harris only went to one Cup Series race prior to 2011. That race, the 1997 All-Star, was where he discovered the motorsports art of the late Sam Bass, who he later met and befriended in 2016. “ Sam was always a huge influence on my life and art and being able to become friends with him and share our work and passion for motorsports was unbelievable. It’s something I’ll cherish forever” said Harris. You could draw quite a few parallels between the late Sam Bass’ life and career to that of Lue’s that extend beyond just their artistic styling. Both exhibiting passion like no other for the vibrant sport of NASCAR that we all love. Harris also talked of growing up financially lean, but that instilled a hard work ethic.
“That’s the stuff that means the most to me; the stuff that can get in the hands of the kids that can’t make it to the race track,” he said. “That’s how we keep the sport alive and moving, whether it’s vintage merch or current merch. The more that we can get into the hands of people that can’t make it to the race track, the better off we’ll be in 20 years.”