By AMANDA VINCENT
Legendary NASCAR driver and broadcaster Elzie Wylie “Buddy” Baker Jr., passed away Aug. 10, 2015, at the age of 74 after a battle with lung cancer. Baker most recently was co-host of the “Late Shift” show on SiriusXM NASCAR radio, a position from which he retired last month for health reasons. He announced his lung cancer diagnosis and immediate retirement on his radio show on July 7.
“Do not shed a tear,” Baker said on his final radio broadcast. “Give a smile when you say my name. I’m not saying goodbye, just talk to you later.”
Baker was a NASCAR competitor for 33 years. In 1970, he bacame the first driver to surpass the 200 mph mark on a closed course during a test at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Baker mastered Talladega, posting four wins at the track.
In all, Baker won 19 races at the Cup level. Among those wins was the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, a race in which he lapped the field. Other wins include back-to-back victories in the World 600, now known as the Coca-Cola 600, at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1972 and 1973. He retired from competition in 1992.
Baker won NASCAR’s premier race, the Daytona 500 in 1980 and finished a career-best fifth in the championship standings in 1977. After a career that included racing cars for his family’s team, Ray Fox, Cotton Owens, Richard Petty Nord Krauskopf, Bud Moore, Harry Ranier, Wood Brothers Racing and Danny Schiff, he was named one of NASCAR’s “50 Greatest Drivers” in 1998.
Baker is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
After retiring from driving, Baker transitioned to the broadcast booth, working NASCAR races for The Nashville Network and CBS Sports.
“Many of today’s fans may know Buddy Baker as one of the greatest storytellers in the sport’s history, a unique skill that eneared him to millions,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said. “But those who witnessed his racing talent recognized Buddy as a fast and fierce competitior, setting speed records and winning on NASCAR’s biggest stages. It is that dual role that made Buddy and absolute treasure who will be missed dearly.”
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