To a accomplished bearing of NASCAR fans, Buddy Baker was for years the affable articulation and big personality on television chase broadcasts and a accepted SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show. He admired to beam and lift the admirers and his ability of the action was second-to-none.
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He had that enviable angle because he was such an important force as a NASCAR disciplinarian – acceptable 19 times admitting active alone two abounding seasons in 35 years of NASCAR Cup Series competition. He hoisted a Daytona 500 trophy, won four Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway races, was the aboriginal to about-face a 200-mph lap (in testing) and steered cars for an A-list of owners – abounding NASCAR Hall of Famers in their own appropriate – active the area from Ray Fox to Petty Enterprises to Bud Moore and the Wood Brothers.
And on Jan. 31, seven years afterwards allowance conscript his best ancestor Buck Baker into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the backward Buddy Baker will accept his own abode in the abundant Hall alongside Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Waddell Wilson as the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees.
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“I’ve consistently been appreciative to alarm Buck Baker dad,” Buddy Baker said as he emotionally batten at his backward father’s 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction. And now the Bakers will be abutting afresh assuredly amid the sport’s best acclaimed legends.
Buddy Baker anesthetized abroad from blight in August 2015 but his adulation of the action and the sport’s admiration of him is acutely axiomatic from drivers he competed adjoin to admirers that adored him to the media he formed alongside.
“I don’t apperceive if it’s accessible to abstracted the active allocation of his career from the TV allocation of his career because it’s all a allotment of the Buddy Baker adventure in racing,” longtime NASCAR television anchorperson Allen Bestwick said of his above advertisement partner.
“You could put [fellow NASCAR Hall of Famers] Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons in that class with Buddy. Aback the action was rocketing through the advance period, they were the bodies that were the experts that accomplished bodies who were watching at home in their active allowance and newer to NASCAR. They were the bodies who gave them amusement and alien them to the characters and the stories.
“And bodies that came into the action during the appendage end of his active career, maybe did not accept what a force Buddy Baker was in his active career.”
One of the best noteworthy characteristics of Baker’s active career was that he was so acknowledged admitting active alone fractional schedules for 33 of 35 years, including the majority of the time in the 1970s aback he accustomed himself as a acclaimed force on some of the sport’s best iconic advance in Daytona, Talladega, Darlington and Charlotte.
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He was decidedly acceptable on the superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega, which during the aiguille of Baker’s career in the 1970s, were still advised almost new forms of competition.
Before the backward Dale Earnhardt’s abundantly arbitrary accord advancing a Daytona 500 trophy, Baker was the affiche adolescent for abreast misses in the sport’s best acclaimed event. The 1970s were a archetypal affliction adventure band at Daytona for Baker who, for example, led 156 of the 200 laps in 1973 alone to ache an agent draft with 10 laps remaining. He accomplished runner-up in 1971 by 10-seconds to Richard Petty. Baker was third in 1977.
During a 20-year aeon from 1967-87, Baker had 14 top-10 finishes in the Daytona 500, highlighted, by his win from the pole position in 1980. That February afternoon Baker led 143 of 200 laps and his boilerplate acceleration of 177.602 mph charcoal one of the fastest Daytona 500s in the 61-year history of the “Great American Race.”
In 64 absolute contest at Daytona International Speedway, Baker becoming an amazing 31 top-10 finishes and is in dainty aggregation to accept won both the Daytona 500 and the 400-mile mid-season chase at the track.
His assignment on the Talladega aerial banks was no beneath impressive. He won three beeline Talladega contest in the 1975-76 seasons – the aboriginal to cord calm that abounding wins on the sport’s better track. He added a fourth bays there the aforementioned year he won the Daytona 500 (1980).
“In the aboriginal era of superspeedway antagonism – which we affectionate of balloon that a lot, that these advance were aloof congenital in the ‘60s – they were a aboriginal thing,” Bestwick said. “And Buddy was so acceptable at it and acclimatized so bound to it. He was one of the ascendant armament of the big advance aback the big advance became ‘a thing.’
“That was new arena for everyone. And Buddy was a adept at it.”
Perhaps one of Baker’s best important contributions to the action as a disciplinarian was his assignment with no bays on the line: testing tires, and specifically, developing annoy close liners. It was aerial speed, aerial crisis assignment but Baker was accommodating to do it because he knew the aftereffect would potentially save so abounding lives. And it has.
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“All the things he did, developing the [tire] close liner, I beggarly alarming out tires and hitting the bank on purpose in tests – those are aloof things bodies don’t do anymore,” three-time Cup Series best Darrell Waltrip recalled of Baker, addition who was both acquaintance (off-track) and foe (on-track).
“So, he was a attenuate brand and a actually abundant chase car driver. Aback it came to Daytona and Talladega, especially, I’d booty him over anybody. He was that good.”
In all, Baker becoming 19 Cup Series wins, adulatory in Achievement Lane at atomic one time in 11 altered seasons. He won 38 pole positions, including a career-best six poles in 1980. He accomplished with an alike 700 starts finishing top bristles in 202 contest and top 10 in 311 races.
He alone competed abounding time in the 1976 and 1977 seasons. Perhaps his best division statistically came in 1973 aback he ran 27 of 28 contest and accomplished in the top-five a claimed best 16 times, and top 10 in 20 of the 27 races. He won alert and becoming bristles pole positions that year.
His best accomplishment in the Cup Series championship was fifth in 1977. Three times he accomplished in the top 10 in the championship afterwards active a abounding season’s slate of races. His final bays elevate came abundantly abundant at Daytona International Speedway in the summer of 1983, aback he denticulate a 29-second achievement over Morgan Shephard.
Baker’s run of surpassed expectations and shake-your-head achievements about came to an end afterward a astringent arch abrasion in 1988 afterwards aggressive in the celebrated Charlotte Motor Speedway 600-miler. Baker was complex in a blast but didn’t apprehend the admeasurement of his abrasion anon afterwards the race. Three months later, he appropriate emergency academician surgery.
While Baker fabricated a few added accidental chase starts, he anon apparent a additional career – broadcasting.
Fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Waltrip appreciates Baker’s different abode in NASCAR lore. Both Waltrip and Baker confused from the driver’s bench to the television commentating armchair afterwards their antagonism careers and again blossomed in the heyday of NASCAR’s big media personalities.
“A lot of bodies don’t alike apperceive I drove, they anticipate all I’ve done is television,” Waltrip said. “It’s alluring to me, but that’s a fact. I’ll acknowledgment article I did aback in my heyday, and addition will say, ‘I didn’t apperceive you did that. I didn’t apperceive you drove.’”
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Ask any of the abundant radio and television broadcasters Baker formed with what it was like to alarm a chase alongside him and accordingly they smile. There is consistently a balmy laugh. Not at Baker but because of Baker. He had such a way of putting bodies at ease. He was aboveboard in his advertisement descriptions, oftentimes eliciting a “that is actually what I was thinking” activity from his audience.
His alpine 6-foot-5 ability may accept accustomed off an alarming vibe, but Baker was actually absolutely balmy and affectionate to bodies and had a way of putting bodies at ease. His attendance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio was a key affiliation amid Baker and an adherent admirers that admired his accomplished and accepted his present.
“He had a affiliation with bodies and a affection for the sport,” Bestwick said.
“Broadcasting really, to go on television, is a accomplished new apple from active a chase car,” Bestwick reminded. “Nowadays, guys abound up actuality media-trained. That didn’t abide aback then. But Buddy’s adulation for the action and his accustomed amusement and his affable attributes at the racetrack was able to flash through on television.
“People can acquaint appropriate abroad if you’re appearance it or you’re absolute and Buddy was as absolute as they got. He admired the sport, he admired talking about it and he admired actuality about it. And that all came beyond through television and radio.”
The affiliation amid Baker and NASCAR admirers was actually real. So real, that in the summer of 2015, he absitively to allotment his best claimed account with his adherent media audience. He appear his blight analysis during his final SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show.
“Do not afford a tear,” Baker calmly asked of his audience. “Give me a smile aback you say my name.”
He died a ages later, Aug. 10, 2015, at the age of 74. But in these abutting weeks – abnormally as the action celebrates Baker’s achievements on-track and off – there will absolutely be not aloof smiles, but advanced cool adage his name and canonizing his abundant attendance in the sport.
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