NASCAR Great Buddy Baker Dies at 74

The 1980 Daytona 500 winner suffered from lung cancer.

Pioneering NASCAR driver and 1980 Daytona 500 winner Buddy Baker has died. The 74-year-old racing legend recently announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

The burly, six-foot-six Baker was the son of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Buck Baker. Buddy won 19 races in NASCAR’s top-level series during a 33-year career that saw him named one of the sport’s  50 greatest drivers.

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In 1970, Baker became the first driver to lap a closed course at more than 200 mph while testing at Talladega Superspeedway, a track where he would win four times.

During his victory at Darlington Raceway in 1970, Baker lapped the entire field of his competitors.  Baker retired in 1992, swapping the cockpit for a microphone, as he became a NASCAR commentator for The Nashville Network and CBS Sports. More recently, he has worked for Sirius XM NASCAR radio.

Younger fans may only know Baker from his commentary, but it is important to remember how he earned the credibility to comment, said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France.

“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,” said France.

“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.”

Photos by International Speedway Group