Remembering Buddy Baker, NASCAR's Gentle Giant
Buddy Baker, one of NASCAR’s most famous men and fans’ favorites, passed away on 10th of August, 2015, in his home after a battle with inoperable lung cancer. Brother of Randy Baker and son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member and two time NASCAR winner Buck Baker was born Elzie Wylie Baker Jr. on January 25th, 1941. When he was a schoolboy, Baker’s family moved to Charlotte and Buddy started racing at age eighteen in 1959 in his father’s car, winning the first NASCAR premier series race in 1967. Over the long course of his career which lasted until 1994, Buddy won nineteen races, including four wins at Talladega Superspeedway and one Daytona 500 victory in 1980.
Buddy Baker conquered the hearts of many NASCAR racing fans
However, ten years before winning at the most prestigious NASCAR event, Buddy Baker made a record breaking run in a Dodge Daytona, being the first driver ever to pilot his car in excess of 200 MPH on a closed course. The run was made on Talladega Superspeedway on March 24 1970 and the average speed was 200.447MPH. The 200 MPH record run at Talladega was a defining moment of Buddy’s career and one of things he will be remembered for the most, along with his spectacular driving at NASCAR’s Big Four – Charlotte Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Buddy was victorious at all four of the venues, thus achieving NASCAR Grand Slam as one of nine drivers who made it and the only one who never won the championship title.
During his career, Buddy Baker drove and scored victories for Petty Enterprises, K&K Insurance Racing and Bud Moore Engineering, while his 1980 Daytona 500 win was under Ranier-Lundy Racing’s wing. Buddy’s final victory came in 1983 with Wood Brothers Racing, on Daytona International Speedway as well, where he won Firecrackers 400. He also won back-to-back World 600s at Charlotte in 1972 and 1973. The reason Buddy Baker didn’t win a Winston Cup championship trophy is mainly because he was rarely running full schedule, but he ended up in top ten five times during his career. In 1997, Buddy Baker was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and was a nominee for the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Because of his towering height unusual for race car drivers, combined with laid back demeanor and a good-hearted nature, late Buddy Baker was often nicknamed “The Gentle Giant.” But, his fearless on-track persona and fast driving earned him a second nickname – “The Iron Foot”. Even though he was never a champion, Buddy will be remembered as a true NASCAR legend and one of the most beloved racers and broadcasters who has left a great legacy in the world of NASCAR.