I had an opportunity to interview the one and only, official NASCAR Artist Sam Bass at Daytona International Speedway this past week.
Sam Bass has been a race and a music fan since he was seven years old. He’s been drawing and painting race cars since his early childhood. His love of music came from his mom when she use to take him to country music concerts when he was just four years old; Bass use to play in bands during high school and college. So for the past 43 years, he has always dreamed of doing stuff related to music and NASCAR. Dreams do come true. Bass’s two favorite things have come together and has grown into something that he is very passionate about.
Bass’s career actually started back in 1997 when Country super stars Brooks & Dunn contacted him to paint a guitar to be given to Dale Earnhardt as a gift during the 1998 NASCAR 50th Anniversary celebration. In 2001, Bass approached Gibson and asked if he could paint and design the Gibson guitars they were giving away as trophies at Nashville Superspeedway. In 2002, he designed and painted his very first Gibson Guitar trophy.
Back in the day, Bass’s gallery was once located on the second floor of the old Simpson building which occupied space for over 50 years, just right outside of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, he had to vacate that building because CMS wanted the land to expand for more parking spaces. That’s when his good friend, Dale Earnhardt Sr. stepped up. He had offered the land – which his current gallery sits on – across from Turn 3 at CMS. “Earnhardt could have sold that land for a lot more money to someone else, but instead, he offered it to me at a real reasonable price. I will always be forever grateful to him for that,” said Bass.
Some of you may remember when Kyle Busch won at Nashville Superspeedway and smashed up the guitar – which also represents the trophy for Nashville Super Speedway. Sam was upset and hurt because of the time he put into the guitar. Bass has certainly forgiven Busch, and has recently designed and painted one for the Kyle Busch Foundation.
In 1987, Bass had a job with the federal government and he had been there for seven years while chasing his dream with NASCAR since 1981. In 1987, Miller Brewing Company had commissioned Bass to do Bobby Allison’s car for the 1988 season. “I have been a Bobby Allison fan since I was seven years old,” said Bass. “So this was a dream come true.” Bass designed Allison’s Piper Aircraft car for that following season in the Busch Grand National series and his Golden/White Miller High Life car in the Winston Cup Series. The first two designs he ever did was for Bobby Allison. “That’s how my career started,” said Bass.
Since May 1985, Bass has designed and painted the program covers for Charlotte Motor Speedway and just recently completed his 70th cover, which represents over 10,000 man hours of work just for the speedway alone. Bass is also in the middle of designing the program cover for Bristol Motor Speedway.
If you happen to see Bass at a race track, chances are he will be accompanied by a minimum of one guitar. This weekend, however, was a busy weekend for Bass. He showed up at Daytona International Speedway, not with one or two guitars, but with four – all for good causes.
For each guitar, Sam stated it takes anywhere from 2-3 weeks, with several hours per day to complete just one – but it could take longer, or less time depending on the difficulty of the design.
The Richard Petty Guitar – Painted in the Richard Petty Blue, with own guitar case representing the official RPM colors as well, right along with the famed face of The King himself, Richard Petty. Bass is donating the autographed Gibson guitar to the Victory Junction Gang for auction.
The Jeff Gordon Guitar – Sam hand painted the front and back of the No. 24 car design he had specifically designed for Jeff Gordon. Bass is donating this guitar to the Jeff Gordon Foundation.
The Event Guitar (NASCAR Unites) – This comes out as Bass’s favorite. From being a huge fan of music, Pop music group Train just happens to be one of Bass’s favorite groups. Unable to actually use the Gibson Guitar during the pre-race concert, as such greats as Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Lenny Kravitz had done in the past, Train is currently signed with another guitar brand, so they can not use the Bass designed guitar. However, they agreed to autograph it, along with NASCAR drivers on the back, and Bass will donate it to the NASCAR Foundation.
The Coke Zero 400 Gibson Guitar – will be handed to the winner of Saturday night’s race in Victory Lane. This guitar sparkles with actual bits of metal.
Bass is also starting up a jewelry line with a Roush Fenway spotter’s sister, Stephanie Calinoff. Since it is still in it’s early stages of planning, Bass couldn’t really expand on the details. However, race fans will be able to see some basic holiday jewelry in around October. The newly formed company will be starting out with simple designs, such as checkered flags and helmets and will be touching on Santa and Christmas themed jewelry.
Bass is also currently working on a couple of guitars for the Band Perry for the Indianapolis race, July 29th.
If you are ever at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, please be sure to stop by Sam Bass’s Motorsports Gallery – You will simply see what dreams are made of.