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Drivers, teams react to passing of Buddy Baker
NASCAR community takes to Twitter to honor the sport's 'Gentle Giant' Former NASCAR driver Buddy Baker died Monday morning at the age of 74 after a battle with lung cancer. Often referred to as NASCAR's '"Gentle Giant," the 1980 Daytona 500 winner was well-known, respected and beloved by friends and competitors alike. Upon hearing of his passing, the NASCAR community took to Twitter to pay their respects to Baker and his family. RELATED: Baker through the years “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 — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 10, 2015 Saddened to hear of Buddy Baker's passing. He left his mark inside the car and out. He was loved, appreciated, and respected. #RIPBuddy — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 10, 2015 Saddened to hear of the passing of Buddy Baker . Our thoughts and prayers are with the Baker family. #RIPBuddy — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) August 10, 2015 My thoughts and prayers are with the Baker family & friends. — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) August 10, 2015 Today we lost a legend pic.twitter.com/dtdCdZMoGd — Dale Jarrett (@DaleJarrett) August 10, 2015 Most fitting tribute I can think of this morning... Miss you Buddy @KarenByrnes @CopaCavanna @SteveByrnes12 http://t.co/vYPLtHapo3 — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) August 10, 2015 Such a great weekend with so much fun all around, but sad to hear today of the passing of Buddy Baker . Always enjoyed talking to him. — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) August 10, 2015 Good Morning America, twitterville, race fans, sad day for the racing community, #buddybaker has gone to be with the Lord, RIP #GentleGiant — Darrell Waltrip (@AllWaltrip) August 10, 2015 Saddened of the passing of Buddy Baker . People like Buddy is why this sport is as friendly as it is. Awesome driver, even better person! — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) August 10, 2015 Been planning on doing a throw back at Darlington. Sure wish he could've seen it. #buddybaker pic.twitter.com/BaKOPcWtGq — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) August 10, 2015 Our thoughts & prayers go out to Baker family. He will be remembered as a good and joyous man, an icon in our sport https://t.co/43hMtkfk47 — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) August 10, 2015 When I think of Buddy Baker I smile. I'm thankful I knew this sweet, gentle man. I also him get mad a couple times. But not at me! #RIP BB — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) August 10, 2015 "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 pic.twitter.com/zNyAcFJzDo — Michael McDowell (@Mc_Driver) August 10, 2015 RIP my friend. #buddybaker pic.twitter.com/Fd2RFyL2TM — chocolatemyers3 (@chocolatemyers3) August 10, 2015 So sorry to hear of the death of Buddy Baker .My thoughts and prayers are with his family.Huge contributor to the sport we love. #Respect — Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton) August 10, 2015 Our thoughts & prayers are with Buddy Baker's family & friends. A great man with a great personality. The #GentleGiant will be missed. — Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) August 10, 2015 My thoughts and prayers go out to the Baker family and friends. RIP Buddy — Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) August 10, 2015 Sorry 2 hear my friend Buddy Baker passed, glad he is no longer suffering. RIP, Hear no1 has gone 200mph in heaven. Go easy on the rt front — Ryan Newman (@RyanJNewman) August 10, 2015 Sad to hear the news of Buddy Baker passing this morning. Thought a and prayers with his family. — Regan Smith (@ReganSmith) August 10, 2015 We're saddened to learn about the passing of Buddy Baker . Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and fans. #GentleGiant — Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) August 10, 2015 God speed Buddy Baker ... — Kyle Petty (@kylepetty) August 10, 2015 We had some fun times together. Rest in peace good Buddy . #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/jg1ODjHIca — Wood Brothers Racing (@woodbrothers21) August 10, 2015 Really sad to wake up and see the news of Buddy Baker . He was always a great supporter prays to his family!! — Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (@StenhouseJr) August 10, 2015 Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Buddy Baker . Buddy passed away this morning at the age of 74. pic.twitter.com/SglYrzsKK2 — RCR (@RCRracing) August 10, 2015 Thoughts and prayers to the Baker family.... #RIPBuddy — Ryan Reed (@driverRyanReed) August 10, 2015
Dale Inman relays classic Buddy Baker story
RELATED: Baker dies at age 74 " Drivers, teams react to Baker's passing Was Buddy Baker ever scared? Probably not very often. And rarely, one would guess, while he was in a race car. The larger-than-life Baker , who won 19 times in NASCAR's premier series and was the first stock car driver to eclipse the 200 mph mark on a closed course, died Monday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 74. He was a former Daytona 500 winner and drove for some of the sport's best-known teams during a career that spanned three and a half decades. In 1971, and for a portion of the 1972 season, Baker competed for the legendary Petty Enterprises organization. Two of his 19 wins came while he was a teammate of seven-time champion Richard Petty. PHOTOS: Buddy Baker through the years Saturday at Watkins Glen International, site of Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman, Petty's crew chief during the King's run to seven titles, recalled one instance that shook up the driver known both as "Leadfoot" and the "Gentle Giant." "It was 1970 or '71, '71 I believe; Buddy was driving for us and Richard was running for the championship," Inman said while teams prepared for inspection and qualifying at the 2.54-mile WGI. " Buddy and one of our guys had bought these two dirt bikes and they'd go riding them in the woods. Somebody gave Richard one of those small ones; the handlebars on it weren't hardly no wider than anything." According to Inman, "Richard kept nearly falling off the bike this way and that, finally fell off altogether I think. And the other guy ended up about 10 feet up a tree. "Richard came back to the shop and was showing me all his bruises and cuts and everything and I started yelling at him, really giving him down the road and telling him I wished he'd been hurt worse. 'Cause we were in the middle of the championship and here he was doing something foolish like that." Inman's tone and obvious displeasure with what could have happened caught the easy-going Baker off-guard. "Well, I guess it scared Buddy so bad the next thing you knew he had loaded up his bike on the trailer and got out of there," Inman said, laughing at the recollection. Baker won 38 poles during his career and finished fifth or better 202 times in 699 starts. Buddy's father Buck was the first driver to win back-to-back series titles (1956-57) and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013. Both he and Buddy were named on NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers list, selected in 1998. Buddy is a member of the National Motorsports Hall of Fame as well as the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Buddy Baker passes away at age 74
RELATED: Baker through the years " Drivers, teams react to Baker's passing Buddy Baker , one of NASCAR's fastest and most fearless drivers to ever compete in its premier series, passed away Monday from lung cancer, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio announced. Baker , 74, won 19 times at NASCAR's top level during a career that lasted three-and-a-half decades. The son of two-time premier series champ Buck Baker , Buddy Baker retired from the sport following the 1994 season. "Many of today’s fans may know Buddy Baker as one of the greatest storytellers in the sport's history, a unique skill that endeared him to millions," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement. "But those who witnessed his racing talent recognized Buddy as a fast and fierce competitor, setting speed records and winning on NASCAR's biggest stages. It is that dual role that made Buddy an absolute treasure who will be missed dearly." He made his NASCAR debut on April 4, 1959, finishing 14th in a field of 21 at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway in a car owned by his father. He is credited with 699 career starts (excluding four career starts in the now-defunct NASCAR Convertible Division), 16th on NASCAR’s all-time career starts list. He earned 202 top-five and 311 top-10 finishes, as well as 38 poles. Big tracks were Baker's specialty, a fitting strength for the 6-foot, 6-inch driver. Among his notable victories were the 1980 Daytona 500 with team owner Harry Ranier and crew chief Waddell Wilson, four victories on the sprawling 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway and one on the sweeping 2-mile Michigan International Speedway course. RELATED: Relive Baker's Daytona win Baker became the first driver to eclipse the 200 mph mark on a closed course, lapping the Talladega track at 200.096 mph during a transmission test on March 24, 1970 with car owner Cotton Owens. He bettered that mark during the test with the winged Dodge Daytona Charger eventually topping out at an average speed of 200.447 mph. "It's the most wonderful feeling I've had in a long, long time," Baker told track officials after his day's work was completed. "It's something nobody can ever take away from you." His first premier series win came Oct. 15, 1967 in the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with car owner Ray Fox. Baker would go on to win three more times at CMS, all in the physically demanding 600-mile event held each May. He was a two-time winner at Darlington Raceway as well, winning the 1970 Southern 500 and returning the following spring to capture the ’71 Rebel 400 at the track long billed as the "Lady in Black." During his career, Baker scored wins with Owens, Petty Enterprises, Nord Krauskopf, Bud Moore, Ranier and Wood Brothers Racing . RELATED: Dale Inman relays classic Buddy Baker story Baker drove for Petty Enterprises in 1971 and 1972 and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty issued a statement on Baker's passing on Monday. " Buddy was always wide open and that's the way he raced and lived his life. He was always full of energy. 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. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Baker family at this time." His last victory came in 1983 with the Stuart, Virginia-based Wood Brothers organization -- he drove the No. 21 Ford to the win in the July 4 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. In his final start on May 3, 1992, fittingly at Talladega, Baker finished 31st. While he didn't run the full schedule during much of his career, Baker did compete for the series' title on occasion, finishing in the top-10 in points on five occasions. He finished a career-best fifth in ’77 while driving for Moore. His folksy manner eventually earned Baker a job in broadcasting, where he served as a NASCAR commentator for The Nashville Network and CBS. In recent years he could be heard on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "From the time we launched SiriusXM NASCAR Radio in 2007, Buddy was one of the anchors of the channel and we are honored and grateful to have worked with him all these years.He brought a wonderfully engaging personality to the airwaves and his storytelling ability made his show a joy to listen to. As one of NASCAR’s great competitors, he generously shared a wealth of knowledge – developed over many decades in the sport – with our listeners. He is greatly missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family," SiriusXM said in a statement. It was on SiriusXM's "Late Shift" program that Baker recently announced doctors had discovered a large tumor in his lung. Because of the diagnosis, he was stepping down as co-host of the popular program. "I think I retired five different times," Baker told listeners. "Why? Because you build this trust and love for a sport that I don't care what anybody tells you, there is no other form of auto racing in the world that can entertain and bring the stars that we have in our sport. And to have a long career like I've had, do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name." In 1995, Baker was inducted into the Charlotte Motor Speedway Court of Legends; in '97 he was doubly honored, with inductions into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame the previous year, as well as the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The following year, Baker was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers. His father was also among the 50 named to the legendary list. Funeral Services will be held at Avondale Presbyterian Church, 2821 Park Rd., Charlotte, conducted by Rev. John Earles, on Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. ET. Burial will follow at Sharon Memorial Park on Monroe Road in Charlotte. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Humane Society of Iredell, 110 Robinson Rd., Mooresville, NC, 28117.
Buddy Baker remembered at Tuesday memorial
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The nickname wasn't a misnomer, according to those who knew him. Often called NASCAR's "Gentle Giant," Buddy Baker was laid to rest Tuesday, with family and friends gathering at Avondale Presbyterian Church to say a final goodbye. Stock car racing history filled the pews, silently and respectfully honoring a NASCAR star that won 19 premier series races and 38 poles during a career that spanned three-and-a-half decades. Drivers, crew chiefs, owners and mechanics sat side-by-side, elbow-to-elbow during the hour-long service. NASCAR officials, marketing folks and those from the media turned out as well. The 6'6" Baker left a lasting impression not only on the sport but on everyone he touched. Cancer claimed the 74-year-old a week ago, silencing a distinctive voice that race fans had come to know and enjoy long after he climbed out of the car and stepped behind the microphone. The son of two-time premier series champ Buck Baker , Buddy retired as a driver following the 1994 season, but stayed involved -- he worked in the television booth for The Nashville Network and CBS during race coverage by those two networks. Until earlier this year, he served as co-host of the popular night-time program "The Late Shift" heard on SiriusXM NASCAR radio. "He definitely was a gentle giant," three-time NASCAR premier series champion Cale Yarborough recalled recently. "He was a great guy who would give you the shirt off his back. " Buddy wasn't only a great race car driver, he was one of my closest friends. He and I grew up together; we came along (in the sport) about the same time and we used to travel together, just the two of us. "He'll be missed … I thought the world of him." In 1980, Baker ended 18 years of frustration by finally winning the Daytona 500 while paired with team owner Harry Ranier and legendary crew chief Waddell Wilson. Baker's winning average speed of 177.602 mph established a track record that has yet to be broken. He also won four times on the series' biggest track, 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. Baker was the first driver to eclipse the 200-mph mark on a closed course, lapping the Talladega track at 200.096 mph and later 200.447 mph during a transmission test on March 24, 1970. The mark came in a winged Dodge Daytona fielded by Hall of Famer Cotton Owens. Former Charlotte Motor Speedway President and General Manager H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler said Baker eclipsed the 200-mph mark on a number of occasions, unofficially, while testing tires for Firestone in the 1960s. "Back (then), I was with Firestone … and I was looking for a young guy that could just really push the throttle down and be our test driver," Wheeler said Tuesday. "In those days, you couldn't draft … you had to set up these weird things on the race car to simulate things you'd go through in the draft. … Carburetors as big as a swimming pool, real weird tires; we never told him what (the setup) was. And he was just unbelievable. He'd say 'We're not going fast enough.'" The potential for grave injury, even death, didn’t give Baker pause, according to Wheeler. "There were no soft walls, the inner liner had just come in (and) the fuel cell had sort of come in. You could get hurt most anywhere you went tire testing," he said. "And it didn’t bother Buddy one bit." Baker , Wheeler noted, is in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the National Motorsports Hall of Fame. "And there is no doubt,” Wheeler said, "that he will soon be brought into our NASCAR Hall of Fame. " Buddy was a great driver and fantastic human being." Baker has been among the 25 nominees for induction into the NASCAR Hall for the past two years. His father, Buck, was enshrined in the Hall in 2013.
Buddy Baker to be honored this weekend
Former NASCAR driver died earlier this week at 74 RELATED: Baker passes away at age 74 " Drivers react to Baker's passing NASCAR will honor the late Buddy Baker in a special way this weekend in events for all three national series. Vehicles will be affixed with a B-post decal (see below) honoring the former NASCAR driver. Baker , 74, passed away Monday after battling lung cancer. The NASCAR racing legend's career spanned more than three decades. His father, Buck Baker , was a two-time premier series champ. Here's where the decals will go on the vehicles: #NASCAR Buddy Baker decal for teams at @MISpeedway pic.twitter.com/G4IH9jul5t — David Higdon (@HigNASCAR) August 12, 2015 ...And here's where you'll see the #NASCAR Buddy Baker decal on the @NASCAR_Trucks vehicles this weekend (1/2) pic.twitter.com/Bu6yieWzif — David Higdon (@HigNASCAR) August 12, 2015 The No. 31 of Ryan Newman had Baker's name spelled out on the door frame, and the No. 21 of Ryan Blaney has an additional sticker on the C-post. Photos by NASCAR.com's Kathy Sheldon.
High 5: Remembering Buddy Baker ; Squirrel invasion
Presenting NASCAR content from around the web Editor's note: On Wednesday at noon ET, "High 5" will present some of the best NASCAR-related content from around the web. 1. Remembering Buddy Baker NASCAR driver Buddy Baker was known as a fearless racer and one of the sport's greats. Baker , 74, passed away Monday after battling lung cancer. In a career that spanned for over three-and-a-half decades, Baker had racing in his blood. His father Buck Baker was a two-time premier series champ. ESPN's Bob Pockrass wrote about Baker's successful career, touching on important career highlights on the man who was nicknamed the "Gentle Giant." Read the entire piece here . 2. Trouble in the Empire State New York seems to be the home of altercations in recent history, with Ty Dillon and Regan Smith getting physical with one another at Watkins Glen International during the Zippo 200. The two, however, weren't the only athletes duking it out in the Empire State. RELATED: Ty tweets after scrap with Smith Just a couple of weeks into training camp the New York Jets are already making headlines. Head coach Todd Bowles announced on Tuesday that quarterback Geno Smith will be sidelined for 6-10 weeks due to a broken jaw. The quarterback and LB IK Enemkpali, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft, got physical with one another in the locker room. Now Smith needs surgery and Enemkpali needs to find another team. Geno out 6 to 10 weeks becuse of an altercation in the locker room. Broken jaw. Requires surgery. IK Enemkpali hit him. Been released. #Jets — dom cosentino (@domcosentino) August 11, 2015 3. 'Tom Brady Sux' Remember that time Kyle Busch likened himself to Tom Brady? Well he might want to play down the comparisons between himself and the Deflategate star. RELATED: Kyle compares himself to Tom Brady Sun King Brewing, an Indiana-based brewing company, is showing its disdain for the Patriots quarterback. Look closely at the expiration date. This from @SunKingBrewing in Indy. (Look closely at the expiration date) pic.twitter.com/NbjRRUT8pI — Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) August 10, 2015 Not sure when that date on the calendar falls so be extra safe and drink the beer right away; you don't want to be drinking expired beer. 4. One-year anniversary of Robin Williams' passing Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of the beloved Robin Williams. Superb actor, witty comedian and Oscar winner are just a few of the accomplishments listed on the funny man's lengthy resume and many in the NASCAR community were avid Williams fans. Check out what some of the drivers were tweeting about the late actor this time last year: I remember Mork & Mindy as a kid. Was a fan. #NanuNanu What an amazing talent. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 11, 2014 Sad to hear about Robin Williams. Brings light to the fact that you can't be sure what tomorrow holds, and Everyone has their struggles. — Aric Almirola (@aric_almirola) August 12, 2014 5. Squirrels are everywhere XFINITY Series star Bubba Wallace and Kansas City Royals infielder Ben Zobrist have one interesting thing in common, squirrels. Yes, you heard that right, squirrels. Bubba had a rollercoaster weekend during the Zippo 200. Not only did he finish outside the top 10, but he had the misfortune of running over a squirrel during the race. He confessed to reporters, right away, about his hit and run, "Yeah, I hit a squirrel." RELATED: Bubba hits squirrel during Watkins Glen race Days before during a Royals-Tigers game, Zobrist also had an interaction with a furry rodent. Read the full story here to find out just how the squirrel was able to outsmart the entire outfield. Your browser does not support iframes.
High 5: Kyle compares himself to Tom Brady; Buddy Baker's courage
Presenting NASCAR content from around the web Editor's note: On Wednesday at noon ET, "High 5" will present some of the best NASCAR-related content from around the web. 1. The Tom Brady of NASCAR? During his post-victory press conference at Indianapolis, Kyle Busch made an interesting comparison. "As far as right now, Tom Brady's going to be suspended for the first four games of the season and he's probably going to go on and compete for a championship and might even win the Super Bowl and I doubt anyone's going to take away a Super Bowl championship from that gentleman," Busch said, addressing his critics who say he doesn't deserve to win a championship after missing 11 races due to injury. Unfortunate timing for "Rowdy", as the verdict for the infamous "Deflategate" was released yesterday, upholding the four-game suspension for Brady after it was discovered that the New England Patriots quarterback destroyed his cell phone, aka evidence. Oops. Looks like Kyle better keep his phone in tip-top shape if he's going to keep the comparision going. Otherwise, who knows what the critics will dream up! 2. Buddy Baker's courage He may not be able to drive 200 mph anymore, but Buddy Baker's courage has never wavered. Facing a recent diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer in December, the 74-year-old retired NASCAR wheelman -- whose celebrated career spanned from 1959 to 1994 -- told "The Charlotte Observer" that he's "right with The Man Upstairs" and "if (he) feared death, (he) never would have driven a race car." In his 700 starts, Baker earned 19 victories and 38 poles, including his famed 1980 Daytona 500 win in the iconic No. 28 "Gray Ghost" Oldsmobile. The Observer's Tom Higgins recently sat down with Baker for a story that depicts his long racing tenture, legacy and courage for what lies ahead. Click here to read the entire piece . 3. From football to racing Before entering the racing world, Landon Walker -- gasman for the teams of Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott -- spent his weekends on the football field playing for Clemson University. Walker was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals, but he failed his physical (balky knee) and didn't get to try out, leading him to NASCAR. During this weekend's Brickyard race at Indianapolis, Walker received an opportunity to catch up with an old teammate and friend -- former Clemson player and current Indianapolis Colts tight end, Dwayne Allen. Former Clemson teammates @Dallen83 and @JLandonWalker catch up at @IMS during #Brickyard400 weekend. pic.twitter.com/Oin8WSJxzS — Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) July 25, 2015 Click here to read the full story from FOX Sports' Jay Pennell. 4. Unlikely comeback Many imagined Kyle Busch 's return to racing after his injury at the beginning of the season would be tough. Some thought he might come back to win one, trying to prove himself. But likely no one imagined "Rowdy" would take the checkered in four out of five races following his big return. In this story from Mashable, Sam Laird examines his injury at Daytona, his comeback and fight heading into the championship. See the entire story here . 5. Later, alligator The Charlotte Stone Crabs -- a Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays -- received quite the surprise in their visitors' dugout on Friday. There is a 10 foot alligator just chilling in the visiting teams dugout at our field #MilbProbz pic.twitter.com/DSP0OKGd8F — kyle mckenzie (@kmckenzie13) July 24, 2015 Talk about something that would only happen in the wonderfully strange state of Florida. Next time, the team should call Jeff Gordon 's son Leo -- it looks like he's got a handle on wildlife. Photo courtesy of JeffGordon.com To read Cut 4's entire story on the wild incident, click here .
Buddy Baker Remembered
NASCAR legend Buddy Baker , has passed away at age 74. Baker , the 1980 Daytona 500 Champion, was affectionately known as the “Gentle Giant”.
The life and career of NASCAR legend Buddy Baker
Baker announced on Tuesday he has inoperable lung cancer It’s difficult to write something personal about someone you’ve really only known professionally. And that’s the case with Buddy Baker . I’ve known Buddy for years but truthfully I don’t "know" him. And the fault in that, if there is any, is mine. Record books and media guides and the Internet can provide you with the following, that Baker won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier series and a slew of poles (38) in a career that ran the better part of three decades. You don’t need to know the man to know that he was a success on the race track. You don’t need to know the man to know that he was equally successful in the television booth, where he ventured when his driving career had ended and The Nashville Network (TNN) as well as CBS came calling. Baker was folksy, he was genuine and he was a perfect fit. Those same qualities helped him launch yet another career, this time on radio. Since ’07, he’s been heard on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, most recently as co-host of the program "Late Shift." Those broadcast efforts gave folks a glimpse into Buddy Baker . Fans who came to know Buddy through his TV and radio work probably feel as if they do know Buddy and they’re not entirely incorrect. All of this comes to mind because on Tuesday evening he told listeners that he was stepping away from the microphone for health reasons. Baker has inoperable lung cancer. I remember bits and pieces from the late ‘60s when Buddy ’s run with Ray Fox was coming to an end and a new one with Cotton Owens was beginning. I remember the stops with Petty Enterprises, the K&K No. 71 Dodge and the No. 15 of Bud Moore, too. And all that took place before he hooked up with car owner Harry Ranier and engine builder Waddell Wilson and finally won the Daytona 500 after 18 years of trying. He was "Leadfoot" and the "Gentle Giant" but until he finally pulled into the winner’s circle at Daytona, he’d also been "Bad Luck Buddy " due to the number of occasions when he won, as he often recalled "the Daytona 450" or some other number that always fell just short of the race’s 500-mile mark. It was probably 1985 and Bull Frog Knits. That might have been the first time I met Buddy and he was every bit as big as we’d always been led to believe. At six-foot six, Buddy didn’t climb out of a race car. He came out in a collection of elbows and knees. He and partner Danny Schiff had teamed up to field a green and white No. 88 Oldsmobile and for the next five years Baker made less than 100 starts. The results were mixed. It was a particularly bad wreck at Charlotte that sidelined Baker , and in August of ’88 he underwent surgery to have a blood clot removed from his brain. He not only recovered, but he raced again and in '92 made what would be his final start in NASCAR’s premier series. Highlights? He won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway three times with three different teams. He won the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. He won at Talladega on four occasions. He won at Atlanta and Texas World Speedway and Nashville and Ontario, Calif. And in 1980, he won the Daytona 500 . His victories came with seven different organizations; more than half the owners for whom he drove are already enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He won before radial tires, power steering and engineers. "We never had luxury of car that would turn in the corner, we had to make it turn … trial and error mostly," he once said. "We had to do that at the race track; we didn’t have the engineers and things like that." Add "driver coach" to the list of items on Baker ’s resume. It’s an often-overlooked part of his career. When team owner Roger Penske wanted someone to help a young Ryan Newman as he began to work his way into NASCAR, Penske turned to Baker . When Brendan Gaughan was giving Sprint Cup a try in '04, Baker got the call. Baker proved to be an excellent coach; he didn’t get too excited when working with youngsters. In '04, Gaughan was making his first Sprint Cup start at Darlington. He hit the wall, by his own admission, roughly a dozen times. Finally Baker came on the radio to provide a bit of advice. "After I’d hit the wall like the 12th time," Gaughan said, "… Buddy came over the radio and said, 'Hey man, why don’t you give that wall a rest for a few laps?'" "Do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name," he told listeners Tuesday evening. The smiles will continue to come easy. Baker often left listeners grinning, whether in person or across the miles and miles of airwaves. You don’t need to know Buddy Baker to understand he had a lasting impact on the sport. Here’s hoping we haven’t heard the last of him. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Junior talks Buddy Baker , following fathers
Dale Earnhardt Jr. joins SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and reflects on Buddy Baker and what it's like following a father into the sport of racing.