NASCAR’S first officially licensed artist, Sam Bass, passed away over the weekend after a long battle with kidney disease.
His family shared the news of his passing on social media. The post made by his wife Denise said he was “a loving husband, father, and inspiration to us all.” Bass passed away on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the age of 57.
PR: It is with a sad heart that our family shares the news of our loss with the NASCAR community. 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. God Bless - Denise Bass— Sam Bass (@sambassartist) February 16, 2019
With work ranging from program covers to car designs, it was evident from the response to his passing that Bass was beloved by NASCAR fans across the country. His work can be seen all over NASCAR, from advertising and paint schemes to track mascots and souvenirs.
In an interview with the Independent Tribune in 2016, Bass said he knew he wanted to be a NASCAR artist after walking out of his first race car.
“So 47 years later, I’ve never changed that dream, and I’m very blessed,” he said in that interview. “It has been the one singular focus I’ve had. I love this sport, and I love the people in it, and I’ve always wanted to paint and draw them. It’s worked out so far. This is all I have ever wanted to be—an artist in the sport, to work with the drivers, to create paint schemes, to do uniform designs, to have a place that I could show my work to the public. So it’s about as good as it gets.”
That was in October 2016 when he celebrated his career by opening the doors to Sam Bass Art Studios down the road from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In 2018 he was presented with the Smith Family Lifetime Achievement Award by the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau, one of the organization’s Golden Helmet Awards which honor those who continuously make memorable experiences for visitors through exceptional customer service.
Many people who knew and worked with Bass offered their condolences and shared memories of him on social media. Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted that Bass was a positive influence on NASCAR as an artist and a friend to everyone he met.
Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. President and CEO, also released the following statement:
“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."
Others tweeted about how kind he was and shared pictures of his designs.
.@sambassartist, @NASCAR’s first officially licensed artist, has died at the age of 57.— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) February 16, 2019
Along with portraits, he designed paint schemes like Jeff Gordon’s Dupont car, Dale Sr.’s Peter Max car, & many more.
Look back at a small sample of his incredible work. He will be missed. pic.twitter.com/rHIX2Sn6oG
U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08) also released a statement on his passing.
“Renee and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and legendary artist, Sam Bass,” said Rep. Hudson. “I got to know Sam through NASCAR and he even hosted the art competition I hold every year for high school students at his gallery. I admired him not just for his talent, but also for his incredible kindness. We send our sincere condolences to his wife Denise and the entire Bass family.”
A service to celebrate Bass’ life will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 at Rocky Ridge United Methodist Church, 1428 Old Charlotte Rd. in Concord.
The family will greet friends following the service in the fellowship hall until 1:30 p.m.
A private burial will be held for the family.