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Bruce, Cain reveal NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots
RELATED: Photos of Voting Day, inductees NASCAR.com was privileged to have two ballots cast as part of NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day on Wednesday. Senior writers Kenny Bruce and Holly Cain each submitted their five nominations for induction in the Class of 2017 and a vote for the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. A spirited discussion and voting process created one of the most intriguing classes in the stock-car shrine's history with Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons selected as Hall of Fame members. Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles received the Landmark Award. Here are Holly's and Kenny's ballots cast Wednesday with their choices for induction: Kenny Bruce Ron Hornaday Jr. No one dominated NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series like Hornaday, the only four-time series champ. He remains the leader in career wins, top-five and top-10 finishes in Truck Series history. Mark Martin. The working man's racer; Martin finished second in the premier series points battle five times and earned 40 wins in 882 career starts. His XFINITY Series record wasn't too shabby, either. Benny Parsons. Folks who knew Benny the Broadcaster might not know just how talented Parsons was behind the wheel of a race car. The 1973 premier series champion, Parsons won 21 times, including victories in the Daytona 500 (1975) and World 600 ('80). Raymond Parks. The Atlanta-based businessman not only provided much-needed financial assistance as the newly formed NASCAR governing body got up and running, but Parks was a successful car owner as well. His career as an owner peaked in 1949 when driver Red Byron won NASCAR's first Strictly Stock crown. A year earlier, Byron had won the group's first Modified title in a Parks-backed entry. Robert Yates. As an engine builder, Yates helped power Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough to 77 victories. As a car owner, his drivers won three Daytona 500 titles, 57 races and 48 poles. Landmark Award H. Clay Earles. His Martinsville Speedway was there from the beginning (actually before NASCAR was formed) and it remains a popular stop today as one of three short tracks on the premier series schedule. Keeping up with the changing landscape of the sport wasn't easy, and no one did it better than Mr. Earles. Holly Cain These are the Hall of Fame votes I considered the most worthy and timely, considering a ballot of 20 of the sport's most deserving people. I tried to decide on a well-balanced group of drivers, owners and technical people and considered time on the ballot, too. Some I did not vote for this year I feel like will be definite choices in the upcoming Hall of Fame votes. Red Byron. NASCAR's first champion should be in its Hall of Fame for historic reasons. He won NASCAR's very first race on Daytona Beach in 1948, won NASCAR's first "season" championship and then its first Strictly Stock title, which is the modern era Sprint Cup crown. Raymond Parks . He owned the first championship car driven by Red Byron and for many of the same reasons Bryon needs to be in the Hall, so does Parks. Even after the two early titles he fielded cars for greats such as Bob and Fonty Flock. He is the sport's heritage, its beginning. Benny Parsons . Many current NASCAR fans know Benny from his ease and skill behind the television microphone and camera once he retired from driving a race car, but he was an amazing competitor, too, winning NASCAR's two biggest trophies -- the 1973 Cup championship and the 1975 Daytona 500 . Perhaps most amazingly, he finished among the top 10 in 54 percent of the races he ran. Waddell Wilson. It is impressive Wilson was so successful both as an engine builder and a crew chief. He built the motors that David Pearson and Benny Parsons drove to titles and as a crew chief led Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough (twice) to Daytona 500 wins. He built the first engine that broke 200 mph -- driven by Parsons in qualifying for the 1982 Winston 500. Robert Yates. This is another example of the ultimate in successful multi-tasking. Similar to Wilson, he built championship-quality engines (1983 with Bobby Allison) and then Yates owned a championship team, fielding the car with which Dale Jarrett won a title in 1999. He owns three Daytona 500 wins as part of a 57-win legacy as a team owner and won 77 races as an engine builder. Landmark Award Ralph Seagraves. This was a tough category. My selection was based on his contribution really being a turning point for the entire sport. Under Seagraves' leadership, RJ Reynolds provided top-dollar, high-promotion sponsorship of the sport that lasted for more than 30 years. It thrust NASCAR into another stratosphere as far as the American sports landscape was concerned and absolutely created a foundation that is still enjoyed today.
Bruce: Weighing racing careers is serious business
RELATED: Class of 2017 announced " See all the nominees NASCAR's latest group of Hall of Fame inductees has been determined, but as is often the case, there are questions that remain unanswered. The selection of car owners Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks, along with driver Benny Parsons, as four of the five inductees for the Class of 2017 means that 24 of the 25 names on the inaugural list of nominees are now members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The only nominee from that list who has not been chosen for induction is Red Byron, NASCAR's first Modified and Strictly Stock (the forerunner of today's premier series) champion. Eight classes in and Byron, who won two races in just 15 career starts, appears no closer to selection than he did when the original list of nominees was released in July of 2009. Byron, who passed away in 1960, has obviously been seen as worthy of consideration by the Nominating Committee, which meets annually to compile each year's list for consideration by the Voting Panel. While it is not a requirement that those not chosen for induction remain on the list of nominees for the following year, it has often been the case. Should there be a limit to how long a nominee can remain on the Hall of Fame ballot? If a nominee hasn't been selected for induction after, say, 10 years, should his or her name come off the ballot? It doesn't appear likely that there will become an increasingly long list of nominees who continue to be passed over, but the possibility exists. The formation of the Landmark Award, now in it's third year, has eased some of the concern there, although one can be on the ballot for Hall of Fame consideration as well as the Landmark Award. RELATED: Ty said grandfather is 'hero' " Childress, Hendrick, Parks chosen A second concern often voiced involves inducting those who remain active in the sport, particularly car owners. Childress, Hendrick and Jack Roush remain at the helm of their respective organizations. Their careers are not complete. Eligibility guidelines for drivers stipulate that he or she have competed in NASCAR for a minimum of 10 years and have been retired for two years. Additionally, any driver who has competed for 10 years and is 55 years old on or before Dec. 31 of the previous nominating year is eligible for consideration. Any driver competing for 30 or more years is automatically eligible, regardless of age. For non-drivers, the only requirement is that they have worked in the NASCAR industry for at least 10 years. Anyone who has made significant achievements in NASCAR, regardless of occupation, but did not meet the previously mentioned minimum requirements may also be considered. Should those still involved, in whatever fashion and to whatever extent, be considered when many others who are no longer active have yet to be nominated and/or inducted? Well, would that person be chosen if he or she was no longer active? In most cases, the answer has been yes. What then would be the purpose of delaying the inevitable? Childress, Hendrick or Roush may decide to step aside at some point and turn their organization over to someone else. But what if they don't? What if they remain at the helm until they are physically no longer able to do so? Should they, or anyone else, not be considered simply because they're still living? Fortunately, that is not the case. Should each year's group of nominees be categorized, with at least one driver, one owner, and one crew chief among those going into the Hall? Drivers have been the overwhelming choices in recent years -- nine of the last 10 members inducted have been selected for their accomplishments behind the wheel. The 2017 class favors car owners. RELATED: Martin calls selection 'crown jewel' of his career A crew chief hasn't been inducted since Leonard Wood's selection in 2013. And there are several worthy candidates on the list of nominees, led by Ray Evernham, a three-time champion with driver Jeff Gordon . Waddell Wilson was not only a successful crew chief, but was equally successful as an engine builder. Harry Hyde worked with some of the sport's most talented drivers, including Hall of Fame member Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker and Tim Richmond and is credited with 55 victories as a crew chief. Yes he was a colorful character. But he was also extremely successful. The most obvious drawback is that such a plan could penalize a deserving candidate or candidates based on nothing more than the number of nominees in a particular category during a given year. The current process is fair and it is deliberate. It is not easy. Spending several hours with many of NASCAR's legends and powerbrokers is a tremendous way to spend an afternoon. But at the end of the day, everyone understands the importance of the process. Each of us is being asked to rate the value of a particular person's career accomplishments. That's a pretty heavy undertaking. And it's something that none of us take lightly. MORE: Cain, Bruce reveal Hall of Fame ballots
Five legends unveiled as 2017 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Class
RELATED: See all of the nominees DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 25, 2016) – NASCAR announced today the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017. The five-person group -- the eighth since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 -- consists of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. In addition, NASCAR announced that Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles won the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met today in a closed session at the Charlotte Convention Center to debate and vote upon the 20 nominees for the induction class of 2017 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton announced the class and Landmark Award winner, respectively, this evening in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's "Great Hall." The Class of 2017 was determined by votes cast by the Voting Panel, including representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the third year, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion ( Kyle Busch ). In all, 54 votes were cast, with four additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Ricky Rudd, Robert Yates, Waddell Wilson and Ken Squier). The accounting firm of EY presided over the tabulation of the votes. Voting was as follows: Benny Parsons (85%), Rick Hendrick (62%), Mark Martin (57%), Raymond Parks (53%) and Richard Childress (43%). The next top vote-getters were Robert Yates, Red Byron and Alan Kulwicki. Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Buddy Baker , Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Benny Parsons and Larry Phillips. The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included, in addition to the five inductees chosen: Buddy Baker , Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Ron Hornaday Jr., Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki, Hershel McGriff, Larry Phillips, Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd, Ken Squier, Mike Stefanik, Waddell Wilson and Robert Yates. Nominees for the Landmark Award included Earles, Janet Guthrie, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier. Class of 2017 Inductees: Richard Childress Long before he became one of the preeminent car owners in NASCAR history, Richard Childress was a race car driver with limited means. Childress, the consummate self-made racer, was respectable behind the wheel. Between 1969-81 he had six top-five finishes and 76 top 10s in 285 starts, finishing fifth in the NASCAR premier series standings in 1975. Having formed Richard Childress Racing in 1972, Childress retired from driving in 1981. He owned the cars that NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt drove to six championships and 67 wins between 1984-2000. In addition to Earnhardt’s championships, Childress drivers have given him five others. Childress was the first NASCAR owner to win owner championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series, and his 11 owner titles are second all-time. Childress also owned the vehicles driven by NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champions Clint Bowyer (2008) and Austin Dillon (2013), as the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver champion Austin Dillon . Rick Hendrick The founder and owner of Hendrick Motorsports , Rick Hendrick’s organization is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most successful. Hendrick Motorsports owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles -- six with Jimmie Johnson , four with Jeff Gordon and one with NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte . Hendrick also has 14 total NASCAR national series owner championships, most in NASCAR history. Gordon and Labonte combined to win four consecutive titles from 1995-98. In 2010, Johnson won a record-extending fifth consecutive championship. Hendrick also owned the car driven by 2003 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champion Brian Vickers . Hendrick’s 242 owner wins in the premier series rank second all-time. Mark Martin He is often described as the "greatest driver to never to win a championship," but Mark Martin 's legendary career is so much more than that. He came incredibly close to that elusive title many times -- finishing second in the championship standings five times. Over the course of his 31-year premier series career, Martin compiled 40 wins (17th all time) and 56 poles (seventh all time). Martin saw success at every level of NASCAR. He won 49 times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, holding the series wins record for 14 years. He retired with 96 wins across NASCAR’s three national series, seventh on the all-time list. In 1998, Martin was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Raymond Parks Raymond Parks is one of stock-car racing’s earliest -- and most successful -- team owners. Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938 with drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. His pairing with another Atlantan, mechanic Red Vogt, produced equipment good enough to dominate the sport in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Red Byron won the first NASCAR title (modified, 1948) and first premier series title (1949) in a Parks-owned car. Parks’ team produced two premier series wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 events. Benny Parsons Benny Parsons won the 1973 NASCAR premier series championship and could be called an everyman champion: winning enough to be called one of the sport’s stars but nearly always finishing well when he wasn’t able to reach Victory Lane. He won 21 times in 526 career starts but finished among the top 10 283 times -- a 54 percent ratio. One of Parsons’ biggest victories came in the 1975 Daytona 500 . He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Parsons also was known as a voice of the sport making a seamless transition to television following his NASCAR career. He was a commentator for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 65. Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR: H. Clay Earles One of the original pioneers of stock car auto racing, H. Clay Earles played an integral role in the early years of NASCAR's development. Earles built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, and the short track remains the only facility to host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year since the series’ inception in 1949. The speedway held its first race on Sept. 7, 1947 -- three months before the creation of NASCAR. That initial race drew more than 6,000 fans to the track, which had just 750 seats ready. In 1964, Earles decided it was time for a "different" type of trophy for his race winners. He gave winners grandfather clocks, a tradition that continues today.
Hall of Fame preview: Mark Martin among contenders
RELATED: Meet 2017's nominees " Live stream of reveal, 5 p.m. ET Mark Martin will be one of 20 people considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when the Voting Panel convenes in Charlotte on Wednesday to determine the 2017 class. (TV coverage: NBCSN, 5 p.m. ET) Three of those on the ballot are former premier series champions -- Red Byron, NASCAR's first Strictly Stock champion in 1949; Benny Parsons, the 1973 winner who went on to enjoy a successful second career in the broadcast booth; and Alan Kulwicki, killed in a plane crash just four-and-a-half months after capturing the 1992 crown. There was no championship trophy for Martin, who retired from competition at the end of the 2013 season. But that doesn't diminish the accomplishments the Batesville, Arkansas, native garnered during a career that spanned more than three decades. Martin, 57, won 40 times in the premier series, with victories coming at 21 different tracks. He finished 10th or better 453 times, in more than half of his 882 career starts. He also won 56 poles. RELATED: Live stream, 5 p.m. ET, Wednesday In the battle for the championship, Martin placed second five times, a mark he shares with current Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison, and he scored 17 top-10 points finishes during his career. "It makes me proud I was able to be as successful as I was and grateful for the opportunities I had," Martin told Little Rock, Arkansas, radio station KABZ-FM recently. "To be real honest I didn't enjoy a … significant part of my career because I was trying so hard to get that championship because I wanted it, and even more than that, the people who supported me wanted it for me so badly. I saw time running out. "I spent too much of my time focused on that and not enjoying the opportunities I had. Today, when I look back on it I wish I hadn't done that." Martin lost the 1990 title by 26 points to Dale Earnhardt and finished second to the Richard Childress Racing driver again four years later. Other runner-up finishes through the years came against Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson . "My life would not be different one bit had I won one of those or not," Martin said. "I had a great career. … I don't think it would have changed a thing in my life had I won one of those trophies. I was very close. I got beat by only four of the greatest of all time in NASCAR in my opinion. … "I'm not embarrassed." Earnhardt was one of five members inducted into the Hall’s inaugural class in 2010. Gordon, a four-time series champion with 93 career victories, retired from driving at the end of 2015 and won't be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration until 2018 and possible induction until '19. Stewart, winner of three premier series titles and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , will cease to compete full time in the series following the 2016 season. Johnson is a six-time champion and boasts 77 career wins, including two thus far this season. In addition to his premier series exploits, Martin held the XFINITY Series record for career wins for 14 years and is also a seven-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series. It is his second consecutive appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. First-year nominees for the 2017 ballot are former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr ., team co-owner Jack Roush, driver Ricky Rudd, noted crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson and broadcaster Ken Squier. Rounding out the list of nominees are Buddy Baker , Richard Childress, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Raymond Parks, Larry Phillips, Mike Stefanik and Robert Yates. Also to be determined by the Voting Panel is the 2017 recipient of the Landmark Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to NASCAR. The five nominees are Martinsville Speedway track founder H. Clay Earles, driver Janet Guthrie, team owner Raymond Parks, former RJ Reynolds executive Ralph Seagraves and Squier. The Voting Panel is scheduled to begin the selection process Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET at the Charlotte Convention Center. The announcement of those chosen will take place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Great Hall (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN). NASCAR.com will also live stream the event: You can watch it live here.
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
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
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.