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Artist: ‘Heartbreaking’ to see bankruptcy auction of his NASCAR paintings, memorabilia

Sam Bass working on a Tony Stewart piece in 2006. NASCAR artwork and memorabilia belonging to Bass is being sold Wednesday at an auction ordered by a bankruptcy court. He called it “heartbreaking to watch 36 years of your life go on the auction block today, due to medical bills!”
Sam Bass working on a Tony Stewart piece in 2006. NASCAR artwork and memorabilia belonging to Bass is being sold Wednesday at an auction ordered by a bankruptcy court. He called it “heartbreaking to watch 36 years of your life go on the auction block today, due to medical bills!” jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

NASCAR memorabilia owned by artist Sam Bass, from car parts signed by Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. to a custom guitar used in the film “Talladega Nights,” is up for auction this week – but not by choice.

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court ordered the auction involving his Sam Bass Illustration and Design Inc.

Bass has been battling health problems recently in addition to facing financial concerns. He took to Twitter shortly before the auction began and stated, “Heartbreaking to watch 36 yrs of your life go on the Auction block today, due to medical bills! I thank everyone for their love & support!”

I’ll be back stronger than ever.

Sam Bass

Bass was NASCAR’s first officially licensed artist. His vivid, colorful drawings of drivers have long been a staple of the sport throughout his more than 30-year career.

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Sam Bass created the car designs, uniforms and all the other paraphernalia for the movie, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” starring Will Ferrell. JEFF SINER jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

An in-person auction took place Wednesday in the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center in Concord.

The day after that auction, Bass took to Twitter to say, “Well, as hard as it was, I managed to somehow get up, & go to work to face another day. I’m starting over, & am determined to rebuild...” He was smiling in the picture.

A second, online auction runs through Sunday. Iron Horse Auction Co. is handling the sales; click here for online auction information.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted about the online auction Wednesday, saying, “I see a few items I’d love to add to my own” collection.

More than 300 pieces of Bass artwork, 85 custom guitars, many of which Bass designed, stock car hoods and other autographed vehicle parts are part of the auctions.

All of the original artwork and signed driver memorabilia will be part of the live auction, Iron Horse auctioneer Chris Crawford said Wednesday. That includes signed vehicle pieces by the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and the Earnhardts.

Another piece up for auction Wednesday that has been attracting attention is a Coke machine with Earnhardt Sr. on it, Crawford said. Other items include custom guitars signed by The Rolling Stones, B.B. King and ZZ Top.

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In 2009 Kyle Busch posed with Sam Bass, right, the artist who painted the guitar trophy given to Busch after he won the NASCAR Federated Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series auto race in Gladeville, Tenn. Donn Jones Donn JonesAP

The online auction covers framed, signed and numbered Sam Bass prints, artist proofs, collectible cars and plates, and furniture and fixtures from his Concord studio near Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Those items include a signed “Ricky Bobby Wonder Bread” artist proof, retail value $1,500; a “Ready to Rumble” Dale Earnhardt Sr. print signed by the late driver, retail value $850; “Watkins Glen 2009 poster,” retail value $75; and a signed artist proof of “Richard Petty Blueprint,” retail value $700.

‘I’ll be back’

Bass has talked about his health concerns over the years and told the Observer in 2014 he had nearly died from complications of Type 1 diabetes. He also nearly died in 2015, he said in a statement.

More recently, he learned he has Stage 5 kidney disease requiring dialysis, a kidney transplant and possibly a pancreas transplant, according to the statement.

He also noted that since 2008, his business has seen a slow decline.

“Although the auction is not at all by choice, the most important thing is that I love what I do, and I have no plans to stop working,” he stated. “I’ll be back stronger than ever.”

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Large stainless-steel panels depicting the history of NASCAR, based on the artwork of Sam Bass, were installed in 2010 on the Stonewall Street side of the NASCAR Hall of Fame building. TODD SUMLIN Observer file photo

Many in the NASCAR community have been rallying for Bass. For his part, Bass thanked them in a tweet, stating: “My deepest thanks to all in NASCAR for your prayers & support during a most difficult time for me. It gives me great hope & I appreciate it!”

NASCAR fans also have been showing their support in social media posts. This one from Ginger Medlin was typical of how people were feeling: “Sam, my heart goes out to u but through all of this u have shone such courage & strength. U are one of our NASCAR hero’s, our love is with you.”

The bankruptcy case was filed in October, court records show. At the time, the company stated it had assets of up to $50,000 and estimated liabilities between $100,001 and $500,000, records show.

In March, a judge ordered the case to be converted from Chapter 11 reorganization to Chapter 7 liquidation, where a debtor’s assets are sold off to pay creditors.

Adam Bell: 704-358-5696, @abell

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