Sam Bass

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Sam Bass, famed paint scheme and race program designer, dies

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Sam Bass, the artist known for designing many iconic NASCAR paint schemes and race programs, died Saturday.

His wife Denise confirmed Bass’ passing on Twitter. He was 57.

Bass, who designed Jeff Gordon’s striking “Rainbow Warriors” paint scheme, had spent the last few years looking for a new kidney. That was a result of a sepsis infection that originated in a blister on his left foot in 2005 and led to a below-the-knee amputation in 2008. Bass also had Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with at the age of 29.

Bass was inspired to become a NASCAR artist when he was 7 after attending his first race at Southside Speedway in suburban Richmond, Virginia.

“I was so amazed that night not only by the excitement and watching those cars run around and beat and bang on each other, but also the color – how all the cars were painted so many different colors,” Bass told NBC Sports in 2017. “I was like, ‘How cool is this?’ I couldn’t wait to get home to pull out my markers.”

The first car Bass designed was Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life car in 1988. That car went on to win the Daytona 500.

He went on to design the first Cup schemes for Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Bass first designed a race program for the 1985 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He designed programs for it and other Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks through 2018.

Marcus Smith, the CEO and President of SMI, issued 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.”

NASCAR issued the following statement.

“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.”

William Byron to drive Jeff Gordon’s ‘Rainbow Warriors’ scheme in Southern 500

Hendrick Motorsports
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CONCORD, N.C. — One of the most famous paint schemes in NASCAR history will ride again in the Sept. 2 Southern 500.

The rainbow paint scheme Jeff Gordon drove for the first eight years of his Cup career will be resurrected for William Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet.

The scheme was announced Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a presentation with Gordon, Byron and artist Sam Bass, who designed the scheme that debuted in the 1992 season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race was Gordon’s series debut.

Gordon drove the scheme full-time from 1993-2000 when he was sponsored by Du Pont. He drove it one last time in the 2015 Bristol night race during his final full-time season.

The scheme was used by Dylan Lupton in last year’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington.

Gordon, now an analyst for Fox Sports, never dreamed his paint scheme would be used in a throwback fashion decades later.

“I was just a young kid that was anxious to get out there and show what I could and excited about the opportunity to be at Hendrick Motorsports and hoped that I would be able to do my part and go on and win a race, let alone 93 of them,” Gordon said. “I certainly never looked far enough ahead that I would have ever thought we were creating something that would be part of NASCAR history or a throwback to the history at Darlington with a 20-year-old kid behind the wheel that wasn’t me.”

The four-time champion is a nominee for the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class. The class will be announced Wednesday.

Byron, 20, is in his rookie season with Hendrick Motorsports and will compete in his first Southern 500.

“Jeff’s got a huge history in the sport and to follow that and be able to carry his legacy and hopefully have success with it is my goal,” Byron said.

Byron is 19th in the point standings through 12 races.

Bass told the story of how he came to get the job of designing Gordon’s car in 1992.

“(Jeff Gordon’s crew chief) Ray Evernham came over to my shop looking for a birthday present for Jeff,” Bass recalled. “He picked up a print, he was getting ready to leave and wanted to pay me for it. I said, ‘No, I don’t want your money. I want you to give me a shot to design the race car for Jeff Gordon.’ I didn’t really think he would do it, but he called me back in a couple of weeks and said, ‘Hey, you got a shot.’ I worked on three designs and had two of them done the day it was due. On the way driving to work, I kept thinking in my mind Du Pont had said they wanted a rainbow of color. They wanted to car to show that they could produce a rainbow of colors.

“I went back to the shop and started working on something, and I knew when I got it done that if they would paint it that way it would definitely be different. I thought the guys in the body shop were gonna kill me when they saw it because they knew how difficult it was going to be to paint. To their credit, they did it and they were so proud of it.”

 

Ryan Reed honors Alan Kulwicki, Sam Bass with Darlington paint scheme

Roush Fenway Racing
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Roush Fenway Racing and artist Sam Bass have worked together to create Ryan Reed‘s throwback paint scheme for the Sept. 2 Xfinity race at Darlington Raceway on NBCSN.

Reed’s No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford will resemble the No. 7 Zerex Ford driven by Alan Kulwicki in 1989.

Kulwicki was sponsored by Zerex from 1987-90, earning two of his five Cup wins in that time.

“My dad was huge fan of Alan and had a lot of respect for him, so it’s awesome to get to run this throwback scheme in Darlington,” Reed said in a press release. “My Dad ran his own race team and drove for himself throughout the 90s, just like Alan. Alan overcame a lot of challenges to become a champion and I can’t help but have a lot of respect for him.”

Bass, who lives with type 1 diabetes like Reed, worked with Kulwicki during his career and helped design Reed’s car. In a Facebook Live video, Bass said he took extra care to make the one in Reed’s No. 16 resemble Kulwicki’s No. 7.

Bass’ name will also be on the passenger-side nameplate on the roof of Reed’s car.

Reed’s car won’t be the only one at Darlington that will pay tribute to the 1992 Cup champion.

Michael McDowell‘s No. 95 Chevrolet in the Cup Series will resemble the car Kulwicki drove in his 1986 rookie year.

Kyle Petty Charity Ride receives National Motorsports Press Association Spirit Award

Photo courtesy of Kyle Petty Charity Ride
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The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America has been named the National Motorsports Press Association’s Pocono Spirit Award recipient for the second quarter of 2017.

The Charity Ride celebrated its 23rd anniversary this year, raising $1.3 million for the Victory Junction Gang Camp (the highest total since 2008), as motorcyclists rode from Portland, Oregon to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Charity Ride was one of three nominees for the second-quarter award voted upon by NMPA members. The other two nominees were Speedway Children’s Charities and NASCAR Cup driver Kevin Harvick.

According to the NMPA, the Spirit Award “recognizes character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports.”

Renowned motorsports artist Sam Bass was the first quarter recipient of the Spirit Award.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to Budweiser days with paint scheme for final Cup start

Axalta Racing
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Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s NASCAR Cup series career will come full circle on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

During a program on QVC, Earnhardt revealed his No. 88 Chevrolet will look just like the No. 8 Budweiser car he drove in five Cup starts in 1999 and then full-time in 2000.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives at Michigan International Speedway in 1999. (Robert Laberge /Allsport)

Designed by famed artist Sam Bass, the Axalta-sponsored car has the exact same color codes of the Budweiser car. Wednesday night was the first time Earnhardt had seen the completed car in person.

“This is incredible to see it first hand,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve been involved in the design process going forward, but I haven’t seen the car. I’ve only seen some sheets of metal and choosing the proper paint codes and all that stuff and seeing it on paper. This brings back a lot of memories.”

Earnhardt made his first start with the paint scheme in the 1999 Coca-Cola 600, starting eighth and finishing 16th. He would earn his first Cup win the following April at Texas Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt would be sponsored by Budweiser and drive the No. 8 until he left Dale Earnhardt Inc. for Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

The driver explained the extra effort that went into making sure the paint scheme was faithful to the original.

“We actually talked to some of the guys on the team to get the proper paint codes so that we knew that we were doing the right thing and doing this from the top to the bottom as good as we possibly could,” Earnhardt said. “It was important to me that the car replicated the actual race cars as close as possible. Sam was incredibly involved in the design back in the late 90s. He was involved in the designs of a lot of our cars and him and my father were great friends. Sam did do a lot of these designs at DEI … He’s designed our Axalta car that we run this year.”

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