Buddy Baker, a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee and former Daytona 500 winner, died early Monday morning at 74 after a brief battle with lung cancer.
SiriusXM NASCAR Radio announced his death. Baker stepped down as co-host of his show on the network, “The Late Shift,” last month after learning he had an inoperable tumor in his lung.
Baker, a Charlotte, N.C., native, won 19 races in the Sprint Cup Series, including the 1980 Daytona 500. Known throughout the racing world as the “Gentle Giant,” the 6'6" Baker was a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee in each of the past two years and was named one of its 50 greatest drivers in 1998.
Baker was also famously revered as “Leadfoot” for his penchant for reaching high speeds. During his 1980 Daytona 500 win, his average race speed was 177.602 MPH, a track record that still stands. Also that year, Baker became the first driver to eclipse the 200-MPH mark on a close course during testing at Talladega Superspeedway. Baker went on to win that that race four times in his career.
After retiring in 1992, Baker transitioned into broadcasting as a television commentator for CBS and The Nashville Network, and a radio co-host on “Late Shift” and “Tradin’ Paint” for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Baker’s father, Buck Baker, was a NASCAR Hall of Famer (2013 class) and two-time champion.
- Mike Fiammetta