On Tuesday, NASCAR legend Buddy Baker announced via his “Late Shift” SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show that he has inoperable lung cancer and was unsure how long he had left. As a result, he’s stepping away from his radio hosting duties.
I admit, I never had the privilege of watching Baker race, as I didn’t start following NASCAR until later in the 1990s, a few years after Baker ran his last race in 1992. I do, however, have fond memories of watching and listening to his commentary on TNN and CBS. Nonetheless, in honor of Wylie “Buddy” Baker, here’s a look at some of the most memorable moments of Baker’s illustrious NASCAR career:
1959 race at Columbia, S.C. — Baker’s first premier series race. He battled a shock issue and finished 14th after starting 18th
1967 National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway — Baker’s first NASCAR premier level win. The Charlotte race was the second-to-last race Baker ran that season. After starting fourth, he led nearly half the race, running up front for 160 laps of the 334 that made up the event.
1968 World 600 — Baker claims his first of three wins in NASCAR’s marathon event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He started 12th and led 98 laps.
March 24, 1970 test at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway — Baker became the first driver credited to surpass the 200 mph mark on a closed race course during a test at Talladega. His speed from behind the wheel of a No. 88 Charger was clocked at 200.447 mph. The record stood for 13 years.
1970 Southern 500 — Baker started second and led 88 of the 367 laps that made up the race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
1972 World 600 — Baker claimed his second-career win of the .600-miler. He started six and led 39 laps in the 400-lap race.
1973 World 600 — Baker’s second-straight win of NASCAR’s longest race. It was his third-career win of the event. This time around, he started from the pole and led over half the race, running up front for 220 laps.
1980 Daytona 500 — Baker not only won the 1980 Daytona 500; he did so in record-making fashion. To this day, his win of the “Great American Race” is the fastest Daytona 500 on record with Baker’s race-winning average race speed of 177.602 mph.
1983 Firecracker 400 at Daytona — Baker’s final Winston Cup Series win. He led 45 laps after starting from the eighth position.
1992 Winston 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway — Baker’s last race. He was credited with a 31st-place finish after completing 176 of the 188-lap race. He was plagued by a wheel bearing issue.
1997 International Motorsports Hall of Fame induction — Baker joined his father, Buck Baker, in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala., on the grounds of Talladega Superspeedway.
1997 National Motorpsorts Press Association Hall of Fame inductee.
One of NASCAR’s greatest in 1998 — In celebreation of its 50th anniversary, NASCAR released a list of its 50 all-time greatest drivers. Baker was on that list.
I’ll end this with a wise statement from Baker, made yesterday on his radio show:
“Do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name.”
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