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Curator's Corner / Exhibits

The 200 MPH Dodge

Buddy Baker’s record-breaking Dodge Charger Daytona is now on display in the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of our “NASCAR 75: Moments and Memories” exhibit.

One of the six featured cars in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s newest Great Hall exhibit, “NASCAR 75: Moments and Memories” is a very special 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. Known to Chrysler Corp. engineers as serial No. DC-93, this is the first car to lap a closed course at more than 200 miles per hour.

On March 24, 1970, during testing at Alabama International Motor Speedway (now Talladega Superspeedway), Buddy Baker (NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020) turned a lap of 200.447 mph in this high-winged, swooped-nosed Dodge. Baker’s lap not only broke the once-unthinkable 200-mph barrier, but it was also more than 30 mph faster than the pole speed for the 1970 Indianapolis 500.

Now owned by Scott Borchetta, DC-93 was the subject of a meticulous, multi-year restoration by Hall of Famer Ray Evernham (Class of 2018) and his team of craftsman. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is extremely grateful to both men for allowing us to display this priceless piece of racing history.

Buddy Baker, nicknamed “Leadfoot,” was Chrysler Corp.’s choice to attempt to exceed 200 mph on a closed course, which he did. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center

DC-93 has a long and colorful history. It began life as a 1969 Dodge Charger 500 that was used as a magazine test car on the West Coast. Unfortunately, it was stolen, stripped of many of its parts and later found perched on cement blocks in the Watts section of Los Angeles.

Chrysler officials reclaimed the stolen car and shipped it out for repair. Nichels Engineering in Indiana rebuilt the hulk and made it into a proper NASCAR stock car, intended to be used for research and development. Fitted with the Daytona’s rear wing and special aerodynamic nose, DC-93 was tested on the 4.75-mile oval at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan, where it purportedly topped 205 mph in the summer of 1969.

The huge rear wing on the back of the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona smoothed out airflow at the rear of the car on fast NASCAR superspeedways. Photo courtesy of Tom Jensen

The chassis for this car was also raced at NASCAR superspeedway events by a variety of different drivers, including Hall of Famers Bobby Allison (Class of 2011) and Bobby Isaac (Class of 2016), as well as Dan Gurney, Paul Goldsmith and Charlie Glotzbach. But it’s main claim to fame was Baker’s barrier-smashing 200 mph run at Talladega.

Baker, characteristically, was humble after running his record-setting lap. “Gosh, it’s the best feeling I’ve had in a long, long time,” said Baker. “This is something that no one can ever take away from you, being the first guy to run 200 mph on a closed-course circuit.”

Talladega was built by NASCAR founder and Hall of Famer William H.G. France (2010) in part to be a track where speed records would be set. That’s why the track is the longest oval in the sport, and why it was banked 33 degrees in the corners, something Baker said he didn’t even notice at speed.

“Well, believe me, when you’re running 200 (mph), it feels just like it’s flat, because it takes every bit of the banking to run this speed,” said Baker. “We’re just tickled to death to be able to come down here and break the record.”

The smile on Buddy Baker’s face says as much about his accomplishment as the speed recorded on a tire that came off his record-setting Dodge. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

France himself was on hand to witness Baker’s record-setting run, as was NASCAR’s chief timer and scorer, Joe Epton, who brought his timing equipment from Atlanta International Raceway (now Atlanta Motor Speedway), where a NASCAR Grand National Series race had been rained out the previous weekend. If Baker was going to set the record, NASCAR wanted to make sure it could certify the mark. The sanctioning body even inspected Baker’s Dodge prior to the test to ensure it was legal.

The morning began wet, but the weather improved and the track dried by early afternoon, allowing the test to proceed. Baker patiently brought his Dodge Daytona up to speed during the full day of testing, eclipsing the 200 mph mark with a lap of 200.096 mph on his 30th circuit around Talladega. Four laps later, Baker hit 200.447 mph, which became the track record.

When Buddy Baker broke the 200-mph barrier, his car carried No. 88 on the right-side door, but no number on the left side, so that’s how Ray Evernham and his crew restored the car – exactly as it set the record in 1970. Photo courtesy of Cassie Townsend

Getting the record run certified by NASCAR played a key part in the story, as Baker would tell The Huntsville (Alabama) Times in a 2010 interview. “There’s a lot of people say they climbed Mt. Everest on the backside and nobody saw it,” Baker told the newspaper. “To be the first official (lap above 200 mph), that’s what matters to me.”

Baker was accompanied to his record-setting Talladega run by a cadre of Dodge engineers, who fine-tuned the winged Dodge Daytona as the day went on, trying to coax ever more speed out of it. In a 2001 interview, Baker recalled a conversation he had with Dodge personnel on the day he eclipsed the 200-mph mark.

“After we broke the 200-mph barrier, I said: ‘Let's go to it and really set 'em a record,’” Baker recalled telling Dodge officials. “They said the next barrier is at 300 mph and asked me, ‘Do you want to break that one?’ I said, ‘No. Scratch my name off that trophy.’”

quote icon

After we broke the 200-mph barrier, I said: Let's go to it and really set 'em a record.

— Buddy Baker

Powering the 200 mph Dodge Charger Daytona was one of Chrysler Corp.’s legendary 426-cubic-inch engines known as the Hemi. Photo courtesy of Tom Jensen

That day in Talladega turned out to be one that would stick with Baker for the rest of his racing career, an important accomplishment in the sport’s history and one that no one else could claim. Other folks would eventually go faster, but Baker was the first to eclipse the 200-mph mark.

“Dodge picked me to run the first official 200 mph lap at Talladega,” Baker said in the book “Flat Out and Half Turned Over – Tales from Pit Road with Buddy Baker.” “We had all run 200 mph before, but not officially. When they did pick me to be the one, there was a lot of bellyaching from the rest of the guys driving Dodges. We got a lot of press. It wasn't a big deal for me back then, but it became a big part of my life.”

Plan a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and purchase tickets at nascarhall.com/tickets.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

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