Buddy Baker’s Big Breakthrough
by Tom Jensen October 05, 2022
It took Buddy Baker 216 races to win for the first time, but the wait was worth it.
With Charlotte Race Week here, it’s time to turn the clock back 55 years to 1967 to the running of the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The 1967 National 500 was historic for several reasons, including the fact that it was the first NASCAR premier series race victory for driver Buddy Baker, a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020. Baker began racing in 1959, but his first premier series win did not come until his 216th career race. The 216-race total is the equivalent of six full seasons today. Baker’s victory was a testament to his determination to win, no matter how long it took or who he had to beat to get it done.
And on that fall day, Baker had to defeat a field of eight Hall of Fame drivers with names like Petty, Pearson, Yarborough and Allison, as well as open-wheel legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. There were also a dozen more Hall of Famers at the race working as team owners, crew chiefs, engine builders and NASCAR officials.
Despite the stiff competition, Baker led 160 of 334 laps. His win earned him $18,950 for himself and car owner Ray Fox, who fielded the white No. 3 Dodge that Baker drove. Impressively, Baker lapped the entire field at Charlotte.
Baker’s victory stopped Richard Petty’s (2010) 10-race winning streak, a mark that has never been approached, let alone surpassed, and probably never will. That day at Charlotte, Petty never led a lap and finished 18th after retiring with engine failure after 268 laps. In fact, Petty was just one of 30 DNFs in a field where only 14 cars were still running at the end of the race.
The next time Baker raced at Charlotte was in the 1968 World 600, NASCAR’s longest race. Once again driving a Dodge owned and prepared by Ray Fox, Baker led a race-high 98 laps to score his second career victory and his second consecutive win at the 1.5-mile North Carolina track.
That was then and this is now.
On October 9, Charlotte Motor Speedway will host the Bank of America Roval 400. If you’re in town for the race, be sure to stop by the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For a complete list of Charlotte Race Week activities at the Hall of Fame, view our Upcoming Events.