Monday, January 18, 2010

Buddy Baker

Elzie Wylie “Buddy” Baker, Jr. was born on January 25th of 1941 in Florence, South Carolina. Buddy is the son of two time NASCAR Grand National (Sprint cup) champion Buck Baker. Buddy began his NASCAR Grand National (Sprint Cup) career in 1959.

In 1970 Buddy became the very first driver to win a race at the same track as his father when he won the Southern 500 at Darlington 17 years after his father Buck was victorious. On March 24th of that same year he became the first driver to ever exceed 200 mph (320 km/h) on a closed course which just happened to be at Talladega, Alabama. That speed earned him the nickname “Leadfoot”.

In 1975 Buddy won both of the races at NASCAR’s longest track, Talladega, Alabama.

In 1980 Buddy won the season opening Daytona 500 with a blazing fast record average speed of 177.60 mph; that record still stands today. The reason he won that race, some envious drivers say, is because of his Oldsmobile commonly known as the “Gray Ghost”. The “Gray Ghost” was a gray and black painted car that some say would blend into the track and some drivers wouldn’t catch it when they glanced in there mirrors which caused Buddy to be able to surprise them when he passed them. NASCAR made him put Day-Glo on his car because of that reason. He also won at Talladega later on that year for the third time in his career.

Buddy co-owned a team with Danny Schiff from 1985 to 1989 in the NASCAR Winston (Sprint) Cup series.

In 1992 Buddy decided to call it quits as he drove in his last NASCAR sanctioned race.

Buddy raced 34 years with 699 starts but only competed a full season only 3 times. Throughout his career Buddy had 19 wins, 202 top fives, which is ninth on the all time list, 311 top ten finishes, $3,995,300 in career winnings, and is tenth on the all-time list for pole positions with 40. His father is ninth on that list with 44. Within his career he really helped Jimmy Spencer make a name for himself in the world of NASCAR. He also competed in two International Race of Champions (IROC) seasons. Another one of his career highlights is that he has led the most laps at Talladega with 1,099.

Baker is one of only eight drivers to have a Career Grand Slam or the “Big four”, by winning the sport's four major races, the Daytona 500, the fall race at Talladega, the 600 at Charlotte, and the Southern 500 at Darlington. The only other drivers to do so are Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson. He is the only one of the eight to not win the championship.

In 1995 Buddy was inducted into the Charlotte Motor Speedway Court of Legends in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In 1997 Buddy was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama joining his father Buck as an inductee.

In celebration of NASCAR’s 50th anniversary in 1998 Buddy was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers.

From 1991 to 2000 Buddy was a commentator for The Nashville Network for specified NASCAR races.

In 2001 and 2002 Buddy and Bob Dillner called American Speed Association (ASA) races for TNN. TNN was later renamed to Spike TV.

Now that Buddy is retired he, his brother, and his father, runs the Buck Baker Racing School in Rockingham, North Carolina. He also enjoys fishing and golf.
He spent almost a decade with Penske Racing mentoring drivers such as Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman after his retirement. He has also been a spotter for Newman and the No. 12 Alltel Dodge and still does test driving when needed. During 2007, Buddy could be heard as the part-time co-host of The Driver's Seat with John Kernan on Sirius Satellite Radio's NASCAR channel 128 and as of 2008, Buddy now the co-hosts “Late Shift” along with Alex Hayden on Sirius Satellite Radio.