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Buddy Baker
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Auto Racer
    (January 25, 1941-August 10, 2015)
    Born in Florence, South Carolina
    Birth name was Elzie Wylie Baker, Jr.
    NASCAR driver (1959-92)
    Won 19 races
    First driver to win NASCAR's 'Big Four': Daytona (1980), Talladega (1975-76,1980), Darlington (1970-71) and Charlotte (1967-68,1972-73)
    Racing commentator for the Nashville Network (1994-2000) and Sirius Satellite Radio (2007- )
    His car was nicknamed the 'Grey Ghost' because it blended in with the track.
    Following protests from other drivers, NASCAR officials forced him to put pink Day-Glo stripes on the car so it could be seen in rearview mirrors.
    He said about his sometimes reckless driving, 'If it seemed like there was a space between two cars that maybe the driver's seat would fit in, I'd take the whole damn car through' and 'Some parts that nobody ever heard of seem to have flown off my cars.'
    Sports Illustrated noted, 'If Baker had been content to back off just a bit when running out front, he might now be NASCAR's alltime winningest driver.'
    He was the first NASCAR driver to exceed 200 mph on a closed course (March 24, 1970).
    At Penske racing, he became a mentor to Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman.
    After a crash at the Smokey Mountain Raceway (June 6, 1968), the ambulance drivers taking him to the hospital forgot to latch the rear door, with the result that the stretcher rolled out the back and onto the track.
    He recalled, 'I told myself, 'Ain't this something. Here I survive a crash head-on into a cement wall and now I'm gonna get killed on a rolling stretcher.' (Fortunately, the other drivers dodged him until the paramedics caught up with him.)

Credit: C. Fishel


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