Buddy Baker Returns To Martinsville as Grand Marshall
Buddy Baker experienced a cheering crowd at Martinsville Speedway 31 years ago. He’ll get to experience it again on March 28 prior to the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500.
Baker, the winner of the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway, has been named Grand Marshal for the Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
“I’m so honored by this. When you think of NASCAR, you think of Martinsville,” said Baker, who has stayed close to the sport since retiring in 1992 as a TV and radio commentator. He currently can be heard on Sirius Radio. “This is like when I got my invitation to go into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame … it knocked my socks off.”
“We are thrilled to have Buddy Baker join our “Old School” fan celebration. We are proud to have been a part of the roots of NASCAR with our Goody’s Headaches Powders,” said Steve Kapur, brand manager for Goody’s. “Fans attending the Goody’s 500 at Martinsville will be treated to an immersion in “Old School” racing. They will have the opportunity to hear Buddy and other greats of our sport at a Goody’s Fan Forum on Saturday evening and even meet several of the greats at the Goody’s Fast Relief Zone on Sunday morning.”
Baker was known as a speed demon during his career, a master of the long, fast tracks. In 1970 he became the first person to top 200 mph on a closed course, a feat he accomplished at Talladega Super Speedway. He went on to win four times at Talladega and in 1980 captured the Daytona 500.
But the 1979 victory on Martinsville’s short, .526-mile layout remains a milestone in his career.
“As good as Bobby Allison was, he never won at Martinsville. He told me one time that the Martinsville win was something I should be proud of and I told him not to worry…I was plenty proud of it,” recalled Baker. “It’s kind of like when I won at Darlington. It’s not all about the car at either one of those places. It’s about 50 percent car and 50 percent driver.”
Baker admits he had some coaching the day before his Martinsville win that helped him make the trip to victory lane.
“Before the race ever started, I sat down with Junior Johnson. I said ‘what am I doing wrong. I’m not getting around this race track and I’ve got all the horsepower in the world’,” Baker remembered. “He said ‘you’re running too hard. He said back off earlier and don’t get into it so soon.’ I went back out and did what he said and I was the quickest out there.”
He put crowd-favorite Richard Petty a lap down early in the race, and the two raced side-by-side for much of the afternoon as Petty tried to get his lap back.
“I got Richard a lap down and we must have raced 210 laps side-by-side. The caution would come out and I’d beat him back to the start-finish line,” said Baker. “Every time I went down the backstretch, all of his fans let me know I was number one.”
Baker came close to two more wins at Martinsville. In 1974 head had a straight-away lead over eventual winner Earl Ross when his brakes went away. Later in his career he was leading during a rain delay when a tire went flat as his car sat still on the track.
“I had Ross beat, but I just used my brakes up. I was going so fast I used them up. You know your brakes are gone when you have to pump them coming out of a turn,” Baker said.