I feel truly blessed and speaking of father and son racing families today was another awesome day in that I got to visit with one of the all time great NASCAR drivers, Buddy Baker who is the son of two time winner of the NASCAR Championship and a Hall of Fame member Buck Baker.
Buddy began his NASCAR career in 1959 and in 1970 he became the first driver to ever exceed 200 mph on a closed course. The same year, with a victory at the Southern 500, he became the first NASCAR driver to win the same race at the same venue as his father. (His father did it in 1953.)
During his career, Baker won nineteen races including the 1980 Daytona 500, NASCAR's most prestigious race. His victory remains the fastest Daytona 500 ever run, with an average speed of 177.602 mph.
Buddy is one of eight drivers to have won a Career Grand Slam by winning the sport's four majors... the Daytona 500, Aaron's 499, Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500. Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson are the other seven to have accomplished the feat. He is the only one of the eight to not win the championship.
Buddy and I had an incredible visit but you should have heard how excited Buddy got when I told him Hershel McGriff was going to race again at the age of 85. I didn't think Buddy was ever going to stop talking about Hershel and his many amazing accomplishments and he said he had never met a man with bigger..... (Well, let's just say, "tires") than Hershel. But what really surprised me was how much Buddy knew about Hershel. I was really surprised when Buddy told me Hershel had driven for Buddy's dad, Buck Baker. He has so many gvreat and colorful stories about Hershel but one of them was about the time Buck went north for the weekend to race and he sent Hershel to the south. When the weekend was over the two of them had won five major races in a single weekend, a NASCAR record that still stands to this day.
Buddy told me that Hershel was well known to be the sort of driver that never burnt the candle at both ends; meaning, while other drivers were up celebrating in each town they came to, Hershel did what ever it took to be ready to beat anyone he came up against which he did most of the time.
What a privilege it was to spend time with one of the most recognizable and colorful NASCAR drivers of all time. Funny thing was, when I talked to Hershel this afternoon he told me he remembered Buddy being only 5 years old when he first met him.