Artwork in the Fast Lane
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on April 18, 2014 | 8:30 A.M. EST
Ryan Young is the owner of Indocil Art and Design. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
ROCK HILL, S.C. - When it comes to motor sports you might not know the name Ryan Young, but if you are a race fan you probably have seen his work.
Young is the owner of Indocil Art and Design, and he creates some of the standout helmet paint schemes for not only some of the stars in NASCAR but also the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Verizon IndyCar Series, to name a few. Young's love for painting and racing started when he was growing up and it took him on the path to where he stands today.
"I wanted to race, anything fast, anything that had wheels on it I was interested in," Young said. "Growing up, I figured out that I could paint signs, letter hot rods, pinstripe and that kind of turned into painting helmets. I couldn’t afford to go racing, so I had a physical connection by being able to paint a helmet for particular drivers. I’m not the kind of guy that likes to sit in the stands.
"I love racing but if I go, I want to be involved. I want to have a personal connection. Early in the '90s, I decided I was going to paint helmets. Over a period of time, we got so well-known for our helmets and our particular way of doing things that it just kind of took off."
The company name, Indócil - which is defined as headstrong, unconventional, doesn’t follow restrictive contemporary guidelines - dates back to when Young was in high school.
"My art teacher at the time asked me what I was going to enter into the monthly art contest in our library," Young said. "Our teachers were judges and I was so bad in everybody else’s class that no matter what I put in there, I wasn’t going to win. I got discouraged and didn’t want to put anything in it, and it was suggested to put a fictitious name on it and turn it in. So instead of just picking a random name, I got a Spanish/English thesaurus and looked up the word 'anarchy' to try and find something as a sign of my rebellion.
"I found indócil and I signed the artwork 'Arthur Indocil.' So on my first racecars I lettered, I would put Indocil Art with a little anarchy symbol and then it just took off. It’s such a strange name that when we started painting helmets, people couldn’t remember it. But it set us apart from 'So-and-So Designs.' Indocil is so strange that when you see it, you can’t confuse it for another brand."
The Indocil Art and Design studio is in Rock Hill, approximately 30 miles from NASCAR's hub in Charlotte, N.C. There, Young works with another artist, General Manager Dwain Cromer. Both concentrate on different types of styles with Young working on Dirt Late Models and tattoo-style artwork with Cromer working on the corporate side of things. Indocil paints around 350 helmets a year and not only has clients from across the United States but from countries such as Singapore, Australia and Guatemala.
Some of the racing helmets Indocil started with were go-kart helmets and they quickly grew into NASCAR in the early 2000s with drivers such as Kasey Kahne, Scott Riggs and Elliott Sadler. Currently, Young and Cromer work with the likes of Austin and Ty Dillon, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, James Buescher, Brad Sweet, Rico Abreu and Marco Andretti.
"We have a reputation for people coming to us and finding us," Young said. "I don’t sponsor any drivers. All of our guys have been with us a long time. Once we got over that hump, we started getting guys from Cup and things like that coming to us."
Logano and Sweet are two of the most recent winners wearing Indocil painted helmets at Texas Motor Speedway in the Sprint Cup Series and the World of Outlaws at Calistoga Speedway, respectively. Abreu's first World of Outlaws win last month at Thunderbowl Raceway came wearing an Indocil designed helmet. Indocil started off the season by seeing Dillon, wearing one of its helmets, capture the pole for the Daytona 500.
"We have such a great group now (that) it’s hard to keep track of how many people that have our helmets in Victory Lane," Young said. "To have a helmet on the pole for the Daytona 500 is one of my favorite things. My first world championship (helmet) was with Jason Meyers in the World of Outlaws."
Sweet's SurePoint Medical helmet was designed by Sean Cain, Kasey Kahne Racing creative director, and is one that incorporates the design into the visor strips on the helmet.
If the sponsors allow a driver the freedom, some really get involved with the design of their helmets and many who have worked with Young in the past just give him an idea or a theme and he runs with it.
"Drivers are very proud of their helmets," Young said. "It’s one of the last things that racers have good control of. Their helmets are a good extension of their personality and I think where we really do well is we can get inside that person's personality and what makes them happy. There are a lot of things that people don’t see on TV that are inside these helmets' paint jobs, the reasoning behind some stuff. Some guys have superstitions, requests."
Austin Dillon likes to incorporate the Maverick Eagle based off Tom Cruise's character in the movie "Top Gun" on some of his helmets.
"I like putting themes on every helmet and trying new stuff," Dillon said. "Ryan does a good job for me. I kind of give him an idea, figure the best way for an artist is to give him the full reins after you give him a few ideas and let him go. I did the 'Maverick' theme for a while and keep that on most of my helmets, then change it up here and there."
Sprint Cup Series rookie Kyle Larson also owns a number of Indocil-designed helmets including one he wore to Victory Lane on the opening night of the 2012 Knoxville Nationals and a special Eldora Speedway design that he sported in the inaugural CarCash Mudsummer Classic Camping World Truck Series race last season.
"That’s what I’m in this for," Young said. "I look at helmets as pieces of art. They're not pieces of a uniform. I don’t want a machine that can knock these helmets out. I want to figure out a way to make this helmet really cool. The Eldora helmet - that was a great helmet. The first-ever helmet that Larson wore in a Cup car was Indocil Art. That’s something I’m extremely proud of."
Indocil has also painted helmets for movies, with one of the biggest being "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" in a last-minute project.
"They needed, at one point, 17 helmets in 36 hours," Young said. "We painted helmets that were wet. They were almost too wet to put together. They had to be at Talladega Superspeedway on a Saturday morning. They rented a van and made wooden stands that would hold the helmets because we couldn't package them."
The No. 26 Laughing Clown Malt Liquor helmet from the movie is one of the helmets on display in the Indocil studio.
"Out of all the helmets on display in the shop, more people get excited over the 'Talladega Nights' helmet with Will Ferrell's autograph on it," Young said.
But one of Young's prized helmets at the studio is one he did in 2009 for the 25th anniversary of Richard Petty's 200th win, at Daytona International Speedway.
"Growing up, I thought Richard Petty was just cool," Young said. "I've always been a Richard Petty fan. There are a few people in this business I would have loved to be able to paint for - Richard being one I knew I would probably never get the chance. But I was fortunate to be contacted by Bell Helmets and Daytona International Speedway, and they needed six helmets."
Photos: Shop photos, Kyle Larson helmet - Jeff Wackerlin; Austin Dillon, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ty Dillon helmets - Getty Images; Rico Abreu Victory Lane - S&S Photoz