Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Remembering" Buddy Baker

January 25, 1941 - August 10, 2015
Elzie Wylie "Buddy" Baker, Jr.
(Photo; nascar.com)
Born in Florence, South Carolina, USA.
Nicknamed "Leadfoot" or more commonly Buddy, he is the son of two time winner of the NASCAR Championship and a Hall of Fame member Buck Baker and brother of fellow racer Randy Baker.

Baker began his NASCAR career in 1959. On March 24, 1970, he became the first driver to ever exceed 200 mph on a closed course. This World Record feat was accomplished in the Chrysler Engineering blue #88 Charger Daytona, at 200.447 miles per hour, a record that stood for 13 years. That record was finally broken by the late Benny Parsons. The same year, with a victory at the Southern 500, he became the first NASCAR driver to win the same race at the same venue as his father. Buck did it in 1953.

During his career, Baker won nineteen races including the 1980 Daytona 500, NASCAR's most prestigious race. His victory remains the fastest Daytona 500 ever run, with an average speed of 177.602 mph.
(Photo: familymwr via photopin cc)
Besides his Southern 500 and Daytona 500 wins, his other victories include the 1968, 1972, 1973 World 600, the 1975, 1976, 1980 Winston 500 and the 1979 Busch Clash. 

Baker is one of nine drivers to have won a Career Grand Slam, by winning the sport's four majors, the Daytona 500, Aaron's 499, Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500. Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson are the other seven to have accomplished the feat. He is the only one of the eight to not win the championship, mainly because he generally raced part-time, competing in every race in only three seasons.

He owned a car with Danny Schiff from 1985 to 1989, and was instrumental in the career of Jimmy Spencer. He competed in two International Race of Champions series.
(Photo: Mike Traverse via photopin cc)
The Buddy Baker/Danny Schiff Pontiac driven by Jimmy Spencer

From 1991 until 2000, he became a television commentator on The Nashville Network and later races produced by their World Sports Enterprises division, including CBS races. After the 2000 season Baker could still be heard on TNN, calling the American Speed Association races in 2001 and 2002 with Bob Dillner. During 2007, Baker could be heard as the part-time co-host of The Driver's Seat with John Kernan on Sirius Satellite Radio's NASCAR channel 128.

From 2011 until his resignation in 2015, Baker co-hosted Late Shift with Brad Gillie and Trading Paint with Jim Noble on SiriusXM's channel 90. Baker resigned effective immediately on July 7, 2015 due to inoperable lung cancer, stating "Do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name". He died on August 10, 2015 at his home in Catawba County, North Carolina.

Baker helped run the Buck Baker Racing School with his brother for a number of years. In 1997, Baker joined his father as an inductee in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama. He was inducted into the Charlotte Motor Speedway Court of Legends in 1995, and into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame inductee in 1997. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

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