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This week in NASCAR History: Buddy Baker cracks 200 mph barrier

Buddy Baker Tribute Toyota before Southern 500 qualifying at Darlington Raceway in 2015. Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images.
Buddy Baker Tribute Toyota before Southern 500 qualifying at Darlington Raceway in 2015. Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images.
Ted Fleming
EXPERT
Modified 23 Mar 2021
Feature

In a closed-course test at Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR Hall of Famer Buddy Baker etched his name in stock car racing history. The Florence, South Carolina native clocked over 200 mph on a lap at the 2.66-mile track on March 24, 1970.

Baker would return to the superspeedway in April for the Alabama 500, driving for Cotton Owens in a 1969 Dodge and led a race-high 101 laps. This wasn’t good enough because a spin and fire doomed any chance for a victory. He finished P12 behind race winner Pete Hamilton.

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As part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020, Buddy Baker had 19 wins in a career that spanned 33 years. At the track where he set a new speed standard, he won four times, including three straight, twice in 1975, and the Winston 500 the following year, all in a Ford. His final victory at the venue formerly named the Alabama International Motor Speedway was in an Oldsmobile in 1980.

Buddy Baker was nicknamed 'Leadfoot'

Known as the ‘Gentle Giant’ at 6-foot, 6-inches, Buddy Baker holds the record for winning the Daytona 500 with an average speed of 177.602 mph. He was also durable, winning the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in consecutive years (1972-73). It earned him an induction into the Charlotte Motor Speedway Court of Legends. The Memorial Day race is now known as the Coca-Cola 600.

Buddy Baker’s last victory came in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway in 1983, and the last time he was in a stock car was the Winston 500 at Talladega. He is a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in that city.

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Named as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, Buddy Baker successfully transitioned into the television booth, working for the Nashville Network and CBS. His career ran from 1993 to 2015, and he was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.

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The same year he was named as one of the greatest drivers, his father, Buck Baker, received that same recognition. He preceded his son into the Hall of Fame in 2013 after a career that didn’t end until he was 57 years of age. He won championships in consecutive years, becoming the first NASCAR driver to do so. He would pass away in 2002 at 83.

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Buddy Baker was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. After his lung cancer diagnosis, he retired from broadcasting in July 2015 and passed away the next month at his North Carolina home at the age of 74.

Published 23 Mar 2021, 19:23 IST
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