Renowned NASCAR artist Sam Bass returns to track after near-fatal health scare

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One of the most talented persons in NASCAR will never win a Sprint Cup championship, let alone win a race.

But Sam Bass, NASCAR’s first officially licensed artist, is coming off the biggest win of his life nonetheless.

After nearly dying twice within a 2 1/2-week period from a rare blood disease earlier this year, the friendly and popular Bass will make his return to the sport and be on hand at Charlotte Motor Speedway during this Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race and again during the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, of which he designed the race program covers for both events, marking the 75th and 76th time he has done so in his career.

Bass was preparing to head to Daytona Beach for Speedweeks in early February. But he quickly found himself in the hospital in intensive care when a diabetic-related blood infection morphed into often fatal septic shock.

Bass underwent four surgeries within a span of 2 ½ weeks. And while he has lost some of the strength in his left leg as a result, it’s a lot better than what could have happened, he said in a recent statement.

“It was very touch-and-go there for a bit,” Bass said. “While the recovery process from losing more than 33 percent of the tissue in my left leg has been frustrating at times, for the first time in 90 days I am finally able to walk without crutches. Honestly, I’m just really happy to still be here.”

Bass has spent nearly 30 years as a renowned artist and is particularly known for his portraits of drivers, on-track action, race program covers and pretty much anything NASCAR-related.

Perhaps one of the most notable occurrences in Bass’s career came when Kyle Busch took a Bass-designed and hand-painted Gibson guitar – worth a reported $25,000 – that was the trophy for winning a Nationwide Series race at Nashville Speedway in 2009 and smashed it in the fashion that rock stars are known to do (see video below, starting at 1:40).

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.