NASCAR legend Buddy Baker died today after a battle with lung cancer, according to reports from SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and nascar.com.
He was 74.
Baker had a decorated career, winning 19 races at NASCAR’s highest level, finishing in the top five 202 times, and in the top 10, 311 times. Baker, along with his father, Buck Baker, was named to NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1996.
“Many of today’s fans may know Buddy Baker as one of the greatest storytellers in the sport’s history, a unique skill that endeared him to millions,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement. “But those who witnessed his racing talent recognized Buddy as a fast and fierce competitor, setting speed records and winning on NASCAR’s biggest stages. It is that dual role that made Buddy an absolute treasure who will be missed dearly.”
Buddy Baker (a relative giant in motorsports, standing 6’6”) was dubbed the “Gentle Giant.” He excelled on big tracks. He was the first NASCAR driver to break 200 miles per hour on a closed course, averaging 200.096 miles-per-hour for a full lap at Talladega Superspeedway during a 1970 test run.
Between 1995-97, Baker was inducted into the Charlotte Motor Speedway Court of Legends, the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Baker finished his motorsports career in broadcasting where he was co-host of SiriusXM’s “Late Shift” program on NASCAR Radio.
It was there that he announced the discovery of a large tumor in his lung, and that he was stepping down because of it.
During that broadcast, Buddy Baker said this:
“I think I retired five different times. Why? Because you build this trust and love for a sport that I don’t care what anybody tells you, there is no other form of auto racing in the world that can entertain and bring the stars that we have in our sport. And to have a long career like I’ve had, do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name.
“I just want to say goodbye to everyone. Thanks for being a friend.”