For decades, Sam Bass designed paint schemes for many of NASCAR‘s greatest names from Jeff Gordon to Dale Earnhardt, while also holding the title of NASCAR’s first official artist. On Saturday, the Bass family announced his passing at the age of 57; he had long battled with Type 1 diabetes and recently required a kidney transplant, sparking a social media campaign supported by driver and friend Dale Earnhardt Jr. to find a donor.
“PR: It is with a sad heart that our family shares the news of our loss with the NASCAR community,” his wife Denise posted on Facebook. “Sam Bass, a loving husband, father, and inspiration to us all, passed away earlier today. Thank you for your outpouring of sympathy and continued support and prayers for us during this very difficult time. God Bless – Denise Bass”
Among Bass’s most well-known works are his designs for NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Gordon‘s #24 Hendrick Motorsports cars, beginning with the Rainbow Warrior DuPont (now Axalta) scheme that Gordon used at the start of his Cup Series career. Bass later created Gordon’s flames-based car that he began driving in 2001, followed by various other Gordon rides.
Gordon’s Hendrick team-mates, including Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson, and others like Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Tony Stewart have also raced with Bass-designed cars.
“Sam designed many of our iconic schemes, including the rainbow and flame schemes for the 24 car,” Axalta’s Twitter wrote. “His legacy will live on in NASCAR history. Sending thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.
Proud to call him a friend and to have had the opportunity to work with him over the years. https://t.co/IX3e1hrT75
— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) February 16, 2019
A watercolour painter, Bass also drew various race programs and created trophies like a Gibson Les Paul guitar for the Xfinity Series race winner at Nashville Superspeedway during the series’ run at the track.
The NASCAR community issued its condolences and reflected on their experiences with Bass on social media:
Rest In Peace @sambassartist
He was a positive influence on @NASCAR as an artist. A friend to everyone he met. The nicest person, always smiling, always thrilled to see you again.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 16, 2019
I still have this original painting @sambassartist did in my shop. What a treasure and honor it was when Sam gave it to me.
Thank you Sam pic.twitter.com/KHaphugHVO
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) February 16, 2019
Sad to hear the news about Sam Bass passing away. Such a talented guy that combined art and auto racing together to create tons of special pieces. Sam designed my very first paint scheme and hero card back in 1999. The whole @NASCAR group will miss you! pic.twitter.com/Gsb1mvaIxy
— David Ragan (@DavidRagan) February 16, 2019
Really sad to hear about the passing of Sam Bass. He was so much more than ‘just’ an artist. He made art that helped make the sport and he will be missed by so many.
— Wood Brothers Racing (@woodbrothers21) February 16, 2019