NASCAR Legend Buddy Baker Dies from Cancer at 74
One of NASCAR's most beloved drivers, Buddy Baker, passed away Monday morning. He was 74 years old.
Baker left his co-hosting slot on Sirius XM's NASCAR show, "The Late Shift" only last month when he shared the news with listeners about of a massive inoperable tumor in his lung. He left his listeners with these final words - "Do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name. I'm not saying goodbye. Just talk to you later," Buddy Baker.
With a career spanning more than five decades long, Baker saw success from behind the wheel and on the airways. One of his most notable accomplishments was being the first official NASCAR driver to break the 200 mph barrier in a stock car on a closed-circuit course, a feat that was accomplished during a test session. NASCAR founder, Big Bill, even flew to Tallageda to witness Baker's record-breaking achievement once it was surmised that Baker was making history that day, March 24, 1970.
Baker, fondly known as the "Gentle Giant," a name bestowed upon him as his 6-ft 6-inch frame towered over his competitors, was named to NASCAR's top-50 drivers list in 1998.
At Bristol Motor Speedway, Baker competed in 25 events, led 331 laps, and collected five Top 5's and seven Top 10's.
"Buddy was always wide open and that's the way he raced and lived his life. He was always full of energy," Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty said. "He was a person you wanted to be around because he always made you feel better. He raced with us, shared his stories with us and became our friend. Buddy loved the sport and he made a lasting impression on the sport on the track, in the television booth and on the radio."
Buddy Baker's Racing Achievements:
- Won 19 races on NASCAR's top National Circuit
- First driver to break the 200 mph barrier (Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, March 24, 1970)
- First driver to win the Big Four (Daytona, Talladega, Darlington and Charlotte)
- Ranks ninth on NASCAR's all-time list for top-five finishes (202) and top-10 finishes (311)
- Ranks 10th on the all-time list for pole positions with 40
- Career earnings: $3,995,500
- Inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame at Darlington, (S.C.) Raceway (1997)
- Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama. (1997)
- Inducted into Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Court of Legends (1995)
- 1980 Daytona 500 with an average speed of 177.6 mph (a record that still stands)
- Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, North Carolina (1972-1973)
- Talladega four times (1975 (2), 1976, 1980)
- Charlotte four times (1967, 1968, 1972, 1973)
- Darlington (1970 & 1971)
- Daytona (1980 & 1983)
- Atlanta (1975 & 1979)
Television color commentator for TNN's NASCAR race telecasts and Sirius XM radio