NASCAR Loses A Pair Of Icons

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 17 2019
Sam Bass worked his artistry on everything from canvas to guitars. (RacinToday file photo by David Vaughn)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

NASCAR lost two very special people Saturday; people who were icons in very different areas of the sport but still connected.

One was motorsports artist Sam Bass. The other was former NASCAR official and flagman Doyle Ford. Today’s generation knew Sam because of his artwork. However, if you ever saw a flagman in Sam’s paintings, then you saw Doyle.

A Tennessee resident, Doyle took over the flagman’s duties in 1990 after the death of Harold Kinder and held that role until mid-1997. Through the years the personable Doyle developed a unique, flamboyant style of waving the flag. However, it was the man’s character that endeared him to many in the NASCAR community. He never met a stranger, and if you were experiencing a difficult day, his smile and hug made the clouds disappear. Whenever you needed help, you could count on Doyle.

Doyle loved NASCAR and was one of its best ambassadors. When asked to sign autographs in the Kids Zone at the Winston Preview in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Stocks for Tots in Mooresville, N.C., he didn’t hesitate. He also was a strong supporter of the Shriners Children’s Hospital. When he retired from NASCAR, a bit of sunshine left the garage.

Sam and I first met in the mid-1980s when I joined Griggs Publishing. At the time, the motorsports artists emerging as the top three in NASCAR were Jeanne Barnes, Sam Bass and Garry Hill. Jeanne’s forte was portraits, Garry’s specialty was history and Sam’s work was what I describe as conceptual.

Sam was married and still working in Virginia when Robb Griggs recognized the young man’s talent. For several years, Griggs paid Sam to create a painting called “The Leaders of the Pack.” The painting was a collage of the top cars in the point standings for that particular season. Griggs took the painting and had a poster made of it. The poster then went into the first issue of the magazine Winston Cup Illustrated the following season.

Next on Sam’s agenda were program covers and race car paint schemes with Charlotte Motor Speedway displaying his work on every program cover for nearly three decades. He also designed Jeff Gordon’s initial No. 24 paint scheme.

Dale Earnhardt loved Sam’s work and possessed a tremendous amount of respect for the Virginia native. He even sold Sam the property where he built his gallery. Walking into Sam’s gallery, which was located across the street from Charlotte’s second turn, was a step into a world of creativity.

Sam, however, was more than a talented artist. He was a very special person, who took time for everyone but himself. He would visit with people who came into his gallery and explain to students and teachers his business world. He always greeted you with a smile and was interested in how you were doing. Even in the last couple of years when his health was waning and he knew he needed a kidney transplant, Sam still greeted you with a smile.

Two weeks ago at the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Sam and I crossed paths. I could tell he didn’t feel good, but he still smiled when he spoke. My thought was, ‘I sure hope he gets that kidney transplant soon.’

All of us who knew Sam always thought he would receive the kidney transplant and everything would be fine. It never occurred to us we would lose him at age 57.

When you work in racing, it’s as though time stands still. The competitors change, and the children become parents, then grandparents. But there are those people that you always think will be there, whether it be a press conference, a race or a social function. Sam and Doyle were two of those people.  Fortunately, we have Sam’s artwork and Doyle’s flamboyant style on video; legacies that will live forever.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 17 2019
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