NASCAR's First Licensed Artist Sam Bass - 1961-2019

(CHARLOTTE, NC – FEB 16, 2019 – RIS) There is more sad news in racing today - long time friend of the sport and artist Sam Bass has lost his battles with diabetes, kidney failure and their complications.“It is with a sad heart that our family shares the news of our loss with the NASCAR community,” wrote Sam's wife Denise. “Sam Bass, a loving husband, father, and inspiration to us all, passed away earlier today. Thank you for your prayers during this very difficult time.”

NASCAR said of Bass: “Though he may have never turned a lap or a wrench, few captured the essence of our sport through his work more than Sam Bass. He was a consistent presence in the NASCAR garage, and his ever-present smile and endearing personality welcomed all. Though we have lost a member of the NASCAR family, his legend will continue in his art – all of which illustrated the greatness of our sport and the talent of a true friend.”

“One of the things I have enjoyed the most about my career over the years is the people interaction,” Bass said in 2017 as he provided a medical update.

Many memorable car paint schemes from the last few decades began life on Sam's sketchpads, including the "Rainbow Warriors" DuPont paint scheme driven by Jeff Gordon. He provided the original artwork for many race programs, including a long run as the designer for Charlotte's race programs. Sam's interests were not limited to NASCAR however, as he created numerous custom paint schemes for guitars played by famous musicians and collaborated in many other projects through the years. Walking through his old gallery was an exercise in restraint to prevent overspending on souvenirs.

Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. President and CEO, said: “Our deepest sympathies are with Denise and her family today. Sam Bass has been a significant part of NASCAR’s history. He poured his heart, soul and talent into producing souvenir program covers at many speedways including Charlotte for more than 30 years. His work provided our fans a keepsake to treasure, and that was so appropriate, because Sam was always such a fan of our sport and he was such a treasure to the entire NASCAR family. His body of work will be a legacy that lives forever. We will miss Sam’s smile and positivity.”

I was "sad to hear about the passing of Sam Bass," wrote racing journalist Pete McCole. "As an artist when I first started out in the sport of auto racing, my goal was to be able to faithfully re-create Sam’s amazing paint scheme for use in the NASCAR Racing computer games. His work was second to none. His designs changed the concept of the idea of “paint schemes” in NASCAR and set the standard that is still in use today. Sam Bass was a visionary and a masterful artist who blessed the entire sport with his artistry. He will be missed...."

 Farewell Sam. We'll miss your smile and artistry, but even more, your friendship with everyone you met.

John Davison

Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.

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Volume 2019, Issue 2, Posted 5:38 PM, 02.16.2019