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
This week the gang looks back at the weekend in New Hampshire, looks ahead towards an action packed week at both Eldora and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and debates which era in NASCAR they would like to visit.
Burton wins his sixth pole of the 2013 season
Danny Bohn Rides on Roof at UNOH Battle At the Beach.
Mike Wallace explains how his family will make NASCAR history at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
NASCAR.com's Costner Merrifield recaps the Lakes Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as Denny Hamlin grabs his second XFINITY Series win of 2015 and is the cause of some frustration for Austin Dillon and teammate Kyle Busch.
NASCAR.com's Chuck Bush, Jonathan Merryman and Matthew Dillner break down the weekend in Daytona, look ahead towards Kentucky, and discuss the finer points of eagles in the debut episode of the Dirty Air Podcast.
Danny 'Chocolate' Myers makes an emotional return to Daytona with a rare chance to drive the car his father, Bobby, once raced in the 1950's on the shores of Daytona Beach.
Organization earns second NASCAR premier series title Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John's Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship tonight at Homestead-Miami Speedway . It is Harvick's first Sprint Cup championship and the second for SHR since its inception in 2009. SHR won the 2011 Sprint Cup title with driver-owner Tony Stewart . The following are some anecdotes regarding the 2014 Sprint Cup Series Champions. · This is Kevin Harvick 's eighth driving title in his 33 years of racing. His other titles are: -- 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship -- 2006 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship -- 2002 IROC Series Championship -- 2001 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship -- 1998 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Championship -- 1993 Late Model Track Championship at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California -- 1987 World Karting Association National Championship -- 1985 World Karting Association National Championship · This is Rodney Childers first championship as a crew chief in NASCAR. · This is the second Sprint Cup championship as a car owner for team co-owners Stewart and Gene Haas. -- 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship with the No. 4 team of Harvick -- 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship with the No. 14 team of Stewart · This is Stewart's 21st overall championship as a car owner. -- Two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championships: -- 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship with Harvick -- 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship via himself -- Five World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Championships: -- 2014 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Championship with Donny Schatz -- 2012 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Championship with Schatz -- 2009 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Championship with Schatz -- 2008 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Championship with Schatz -- 2001 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Championship with Danny Lasoski -- Fourteen USAC Championships: -- 2013 USAC Sprint Car Championship with Bryan Clauson -- 2013 USAC Silver Crown Championship with Bobby East -- 2011 USAC Sprint Car Championship with Levi Jones -- 2011 USAC Silver Crown Championship with Jones -- 2010 USAC Sprint Car Championship with Jones -- 2010 USAC Silver Crown Championship with Jones -- 2008 USAC Sprint Car Championship with Jones -- 2007 USAC Sprint Car Championship with Jones -- 2006 USAC Sprint Car Championship with Josh Wise -- 2005 USAC Silver Crown Championship with J.J. Yeley (Stewart co-owned team with Bob East) -- 2004 USAC Silver Crown Championship with Yeley (Stewart co-owned team with Bob East) -- 2003 USAC Sprint Car Championship with Yeley -- 2003 USAC Silver Crown Championship with Yeley (Stewart co-owned team with Bob East) -- 2002 USAC Silver Crown Championship with Yeley (Stewart co-owned team with Bob East) Anecdotes: · Harvick joins Bobby Labonte and Brad Keselowski as the only drivers to earn both a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship and a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Harvick is a two-time Nationwide Series champion (2001 and 2006). · Harvick is only the third Sprint Cup driver since 2000 to lead more than 2,000 laps in a single season. Harvick led 2,137 laps in 2014. Jimmie Johnson led 2,238 laps in 2009 and Jeff Gordon led 2,320 laps in 2001. Both Johnson and Gordon went on to win the championship in those years. · Harvick led a lap in 27 of the 36 Sprint Cup races in 2014. His longest streak of consecutive races with at least one lap led was nine, beginning Aug. 23 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and continuing through the Oct. 19 race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. His longest stretch of races without a single lap led was three, starting June 28 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta lasting through July 13 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. · The most laps Harvick led in a single Sprint Cup season prior to 2014 was 895 laps in 2006. · In nine seasons prior to 2014, teams led by crew chief Rodney Childers led a total of 879 laps. Among the seven drivers Childers worked with during this span, Mark Martin was the leader with 295 laps led during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. · Of the 24 track qualifying records set during the 2014 Sprint Cup season, Harvick accounted for six of them. No other driver had more than four. -- April 5 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Round 1: 27.234 seconds at 198.282 mph) -- May 9 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas Speedway (Round 2: 27.741 seconds at 194.658 mph) -- June 13 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (Round 3: 35.198 seconds at 204.557 mph) --This was the fastest pole-winning speed since April 1987 when Bill Elliott set the all-time Sprint Cup qualifying record of 212.809 mph at Talladega Superspeedway . -- July 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Round 1: 47.753 seconds at 188.470 mph) -- Aug. 22 at Bristol Motor Speedway (Round 2: 14.607 seconds at 131.362 mph) -- Oct. 3 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (Round 2: 27.304 seconds at 197.773 mph) · Harvick won a career-high eight poles in 2014. In his previous 13 years as a Sprint Cup driver, Harvick won a total of six poles. -- April 11 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway -- May 9 at Kansas Speedway -- June 13 at Michigan International Speedway -- July 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- Aug. 22 at Bristol Motor Speedway -- Aug. 29 at Atlanta Motor Speedway -- Sept. 26 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway -- Oct. 3 at Kansas Speedway · Harvick finished among the top-five in the Sprint Cup championship standings six times prior to 2014. His previous career-high point finish was third, which he did three times (2010, 2011 and 2013). · Harvick finished 25 of 36 Sprint Cup Series races with a driver rating better than 100.0, including four races with a driver rating better than 140.0. Harvick scored his only perfect driver rating (150.0) Nov. 9 at Phoenix International Raceway where he led three times for a race-high 264 laps en route to the victory. · Harvick ended the 2014 season as the leader in the following loop data categories: -- Driver Rating: 110.5 -- Fastest Early in Run: 4.710 -- Fastest Laps Run: 1,233 -- Fastest Green Flag Speed: 4.387 -- Most Laps Led: 2,137 -- Mileage Leader: 2,716.86 · Harvick's championship is the 30th driver title for Team Chevy in the Sprint Cup Series. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
RCR No. 3 driver has two points between himself, second-place Regan Smith RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Ty Dillon is aware of his points situation, but the numbers aren't the focus for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, nor his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team. "We're looking at them, but we're looking at trophies first," Dillon, 22, said Oct. 4, moments after finishing fifth in the Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway . "We've got to get wins." Dillon, younger brother of Sprint Cup Series driver Austin Dillon and grandson of team owner Richard Childress, sits third in the series' standings, trailing JR Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Regan Smith . The Kansas finish allowed Dillon to close the gap on the two somewhat -- he now trails Elliott by 40 and Smith by only two points. The series travels to Charlotte Motor Speedway next, site of Friday night's Drive For the Cure 300. It's one of three Nationwide Series races in the final four events of the season that will be contested on 1.5-mile tracks, with stops at Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami also remaining. The only non 1.5-mile venue is Phoenix International Raceway. "We've been really strong on these mile-and-a-halves the second half of the year," Dillon said. "Ever since Paul (Menard) kind of kicked it off with a win at Michigan." Menard competes full-time for RCR in the Sprint Cup Series; Michigan is a 2-mile track, but it's the intermediate-track program that Dillon has in mind. Short tracks haven't been the team's bread and butter; the bigger circuits fall more into its wheelhouse. Dillon scored his first Nationwide Series win earlier this year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , a week after finishing fifth at Chicago. He was ninth at Atlanta, seventh on a return trip to Chicago and third a week later in Kentucky, all -- except for Indy -- 1.5-mile stops. In 2012 and 2013, he competed in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series , scoring three wins and finishing fourth and second in the points standings. He and crew chief Danny Stockman Jr. know what is required to run competitively, and what it takes to win. His team hasn't gotten "complacent" since moving up to the Nationwide Series, he said. "I think in the past we would come to the track, win a race and maybe get complacent with our cars," Dillon said. "The guys have just kept their heads down and kept digging and digging. We're getting faster and faster each week. "We've got some work to do on the short tracks, for sure, but we've got some mile and a halves left to go and we've got a lot of confidence going into (them)." All three of Dillon's poles this season have come on 1.5-mile tracks -- he scored his first at Las Vegas in the series' third race of the season, added another at Kentucky and the most recent last week at Kansas. "Getting the pole ... was a huge boost and running the way we did, having a car that was capable of me making mistakes and still coming back through the field was a nice relief," he said. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule