Cotton Owens may have only had nine wins as a driver, but he was known for being a team owner for a group that included David Pearson and Junior Johnson. Owens died just days after he was announced as a member of the 2013 class.
Owens was more than successful behind the wheel, winning nine times in NASCAR's premier series competition.
Cotton Owens grandson, Kyle Davis accepts award on his behalf.
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- NASCAR competitors have driven with good luck charms for probably as long the sanctioning body has been in existence. A rabbit's foot here, a four-leaf clover there, lucky shoes for some, specific pre-race rituals for others. The lucky penny that rode with Dale Earnhardt to his lone victory in the Daytona 500 in 1998 can still be found glued to the dash of the familiar black No. 3 Chevrolet. After winning back-to-back Daytona 500 titles in 1994-95, former driver Sterling Marlin refused to vary from his pre-race routine leading up to the season-opening event. Marlin stayed in the same hotel, in the same room, wore the same T-shirt under his uniform and dined on the same pre-race meal -- a bologna sandwich and soft drink. More of an early marketing stunt than an attempt to reverse his fortunes on the race track, former series champion Tim Flock raced with a monkey named Jocko Flocko riding shotgun for several races in 1953. Which brings us to this weekend's Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and the Stock Car Racing Museum located on the grounds of the historic track. Among the several cars on display inside the museum is the race-winning entry from the very first Southern 500 held in 1950. Johnny Mantz, an open-wheel racer who made just 12 NASCAR starts between '50-'56, piloted the black No. 98 Plymouth. Burlington, North Carolina, businessman Hubert Westmoreland was the car's owner. Riding along with Mantz in the car that Labor Day was a child's doll that belonged to the daughter of Alvin Hawkins, a race promoter and flagman. According to reports, the team wanted to remove the doll before the start of the race -- how it got in there in the first place isn't known -- but Lottie Westmoreland, Hubert's wife, convinced them to leave it in the car for good luck. Mantz, in just his third NASCAR start, won by nine laps in a 75-car field that included future Hall of Famers Fireball Roberts, Lee Petty, Cotton Owens and Flock. The doll was taken out and placed in storage following the race, where it stayed forgotten for several years. When track officials donated the car to the museum in 1965, the story of the doll resurfaced; it was located and returned to its rightful place inside the car where it has remained all these years. An arm is missing and the shoes have disappeared as well. Time has taken its toll, understandable given her age. Sixty-five years after Darlington Raceway ushered in a new era in NASCAR and Johnny Mantz roared to a surprising victory, a child's toy is a silent reminder of yesterday.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 31, 2015) – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina going into the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on September 6 (7 p.m. ET on NBC). DARLINGTON-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Ford) · Two wins, three top fives, six top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 12.800, eighth-best · Average Running Position of 10.597, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 105.7, fifth-best · 296 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.175, fifth-fastest · 2642 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7), seventh-most · 326 Quality Passes, second-most Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota) · One win, two top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 13.600, 11th-best · Average Running Position of 8.995, third-best · Driver Rating of 106.1, fourth-best · 236 Fastest Laps Run, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.348, third-fastest · 3134 Laps in the Top 15 (85.1), third-most · 374 Quality Passes, series-most Dale Earnhardt Jr (No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet) · Four top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 11.200, sixth-best · Average Running Position of 11.404, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 94.3, eighth-best · 110 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.954, ninth-fastest · 2650 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9), sixth-most · 312 Quality Passes, fourth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 ARRIS Toyota) · Three top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 13.100, ninth-best · Average Running Position of 13.732, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 91.0, 12th-best · 151 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.807, 12th-fastest · 2262 Laps in the Top 15 (61.4), 12th-most · 287 Quality Passes, eighth-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 3M Chevrolet) · Seven wins, 19 top fives, 23 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 7.400, second-best · Average Running Position of 7.629, series-best · Driver Rating of 112.7, series-best · 262 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.593, series-fastest · 3356 Laps in the Top 15 (91.1), series-most · 314 Quality Passes, third-most Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 6.889, series-best · Average Running Position of 8.644, second-best · Driver Rating of 107.1, second-best · 186 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.315, fourth-fastest · 2849 Laps in the Top 15 (86.0), second-most · 303 Quality Passes, sixth-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/ Budweiser Chevrolet) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 16.300, 12th-best · Average Running Position of 14.772, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 93.1, 10th-best · 167 Fastest Laps Run, second-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.885, 10th-fastest · 2531 Laps in the Top 15 (68.7), ninth-most · 267 Quality Passes, 10th-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Three wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 8.800, third-best · Average Running Position of 9.992, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 106.8, third-best · 256 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.443, second-fastest · 2789 Laps in the Top 15 (75.7), fourth-most · 291 Quality Passes, seventh-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 HendrickRideAlong.com Chevrolet) · Three top fives, four top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 17.500, 13th-best · Average Running Position of 10.665, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.9, sixth-best · 230 Fastest Laps Run, series-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.069, seventh-fastest · 2597 Laps in the Top 15 (70.5), eighth-most · 233 Quality Passes, 13th-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · One win, three top fives, ten top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 10.100, fourth-best · Average Running Position of 13.487, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 93.2, ninth-best · 123 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.814, 11th-fastest · 2382 Laps in the Top 15 (64.7), 11th-most · 264 Quality Passes, 11th-most Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · Seven top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.300, seventh-best · Average Running Position of 11.409, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 95.8, seventh-best · 64 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.086, sixth-fastest · 2778 Laps in the Top 15 (75.4), fifth-most · 259 Quality Passes, 12th-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet) · Four top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 10.900, fifth-best · Average Running Position of 14.805, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 88.1, 13th-best · 105 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.791, 13th-fastest · 2153 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4), 13th-most · 311 Quality Passes, fifth-most Martin Truex Jr (No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet) · One top five, three top 10s · Average finish of 13.111, 10th-best · Average Running Position of 13.116, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 92.1, 11th-best · 127 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.992, eighth-fastest · 2153 Laps in the Top 15 (65.0), 10th-most · 278 Quality Passes, ninth-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 10 at D arlington Raceway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 18 1 1 4 7 1 17 93.1 2 Joey Logano 6 0 0 0 2 1 23 77.9 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr 20 0 0 4 9 1 14.3 94.3 4 Brad Keselowski 6 0 0 1 2 0 14.3 84.7 5 Jimmie Johnson 16 0 3 9 12 1 8.4 106.8 6 Martin Truex Jr 9 0 0 1 3 0 13.1 92.1 7 Matt Kenseth 21 1 1 3 10 1 16 93.2 8 Kurt Busch 18 2 0 2 5 1 17.9 81.6 9 Denny Hamlin 9 0 1 4 7 0 6.9 107.1 10 Jamie McMurray 14 1 0 3 5 1 16.1 82.6 * – Based on last 10 races at Darlington Raceway (2005 – 2014). Darlington Three Year Average Finishes Of Drivers Currently 17th – 30th In The Standings Points Pos. Driver 3 Yr. Average Finish (2012 - 2014) 17 Aric Almirola 21.0 18 Kasey Kahne 20.7 19 Greg Biffle 10.0 20 Austin Dillon 11.0 21 Kyle Larson 8.0 22 Danica Patrick 27.0 23 Casey Mears 25.7 24 AJ Allmendinger 24.0 25 David Ragan 33.0 26 Sam Hornish Jr . * 0.0 27 Tony Stewart 9.0 28 Trevor Bayne * 0.0 29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr . 19.0 30 Justin Allgaier 23.0 * Sam Hornish Jr . and Trevor Bayne have not made starts in the last three seasons at Darlington in the NSCS. Statistical Advance At Darlington Raceway : History · Darlington Raceway was built as a 1.25-mile paved superspeedway in 1949-1950. · Darlington Raceway hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt on Sept. 4, 1950 – 75 cars competed in the event - Curtis Turner won the pole at 82.034 mph, and the race was won by Johnny Mantz (Plymouth, 75.250 mph, 6:38:40) . · The track was re-measured to 1.375 miles in 1953. · The track was re-configured to 1.366 miles following the spring race in 1970. · The track was repaved in 1995. · The 2005 race was the first Saturday night race at Darlington. · The track was repaved again prior to the 2008 season. Starts · There have been 111 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington Raceway . The 1.366-mile track has hosted the fifth most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying races. · 709 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway ; 428 in more than one. · NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Darlington with 65. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 34 starts; followed by Tony Stewart with 22. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Darlington with a 6.824. · Jeff Gordon (6.8), Ryan Newman (8.6) and Kasey Kahne (9.1) are the only active three drivers with an average starting position in the top 10. · 125 different drivers have made NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career debut at Darlington Raceway . Poles · Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light Pole Award at Darlington in 1950 in an Oldsmobile with a speed of 82.034 mph. · 48 drivers have Coors Light poles at Darlington, led by David Pearson with 12. Kasey Kahne leads all active drivers with four. · Nine drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Darlington. Kasey Kahne is the only active driver with consecutive Coors Light poles (2005-2006). · David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Darlington with five (1975 - 1977). · Youngest Darlington pole winner: Kurt Busch (09/02/2001 – 23 years, 0 months, 29 days). · Oldest Darlington pole winner: David Pearson (09/06/1982 – 47 years, 8 months, 15 days). · Eight drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole at Darlington Raceway : Cotton Owens (1957), Fred Lorenzen (1961), Bill Elliott (1981), Ken Schrader (1987), John Andretti (1995), Kurt Busch (2001), Elliott Sadler (2003) and Clint Bowyer (2007). Wins · 47 different drivers have won at Darlington Raceway , led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins; followed by his HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson with three. · Six drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Darlington Raceway : Johnny Mantz (1950), Nelson Stacy (1961), Larry Frank (1962), Terry Labonte (1980), Lake Speed (1988) and Regan Smith (2011). · Youngest Darlington winner: Kyle Busch (05/10/2008 – 23 years, 0 months, 8 days). · Oldest Darlington winner: Harry Gant (09/01/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 22 days). · Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Darlington in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 14. Manufacturer Wins Chevrolet 41 Ford 28 Mercury 10 Oldsmobile 6 Dodge 5 Pontiac 5 Buick 4 Plymouth 4 Hudson 3 Toyota 3 American Motors Company 2 · 11 different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Darlington; led by Chevrolet with 41 victories; followed by Ford with 28 and Toyota has three. · 20 of the 111 (18.02%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kevin Harvick in last season’s event. · NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson has won from the pole four times at Darlington – the series’ most. · The Coors Light pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Darlington. The outside front row (second-place) has produced the second-most wins (17). Wins · 37 of the 111 (33.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the front row: 20 from first-place and 17 from second-place. · 96 of the 111 (86.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Darlington have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Six of the 111 (5.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Darlington is 43rd by Johnny Mantz in 1950 – the inaugural NSCS event. · 13 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Darlington; Dale Earnhardt (1989-1990) and Jeff Gordon (1995-1996) are tied for the series-most in consecutive wins at Darlington with three each. · All seven active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Darlington Raceway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Among active drivers, Kyle Busch won at Darlington in the fewest previous appearances (three). · Matt Kenseth competed at Darlington Raceway 19 times before winning last season; the longest span of any the six active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. · Tony Stewart leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Darlington without visiting Victory Lane at 22. Additional Finishing Position Stats · Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty are tied for the series most runner-up finishes at Darlington with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in second-place finishes at Darlington with four. · Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Darlington with 25. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19; followed by Jimmie Johnson with nine. · Bill Elliott leads the series in top-10 finishes at Darlington with 35. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 23; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with 12 each. · Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Darlington with a 6.889. · Three active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have an average finish in the top 10 at Darlington: Denny Hamlin (6.8), Kyle Larson (8.0) and Jimmie Johnson (8.4). Track/Event Specific Stats · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington Raceway is the (03/16/2003) race won by Ricky Craven with a MOV of 0.002 second over Kurt Busch . The MOV is tied with the 2011 Talladega race as the closest finish in the NSCS since the inception using electronic timing and scoring. · There have been four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting in a green-white-checkered finish at Darlington Raceway : 2005 (367/370), 2011 (367/370), 2012 (367/368) and 2014 (367/374). Additional Finishing Position Stats · Eight of the 111 races at Darlington Raceway have been shortened du
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.
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
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.
Herb Thomas, Leonard Wood, Rusty Wallace, Cotton Owens and Buck Baker are selected for the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Relive the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in this classic NASCAR race.