Buddy Baker Always Has A Story

Brandon Reed

Brandon Reed

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Columns 10/1/10

A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to get to play chauffeur to a person I consider to be one of the all time great wheel men in NASCAR, Buddy Baker.

Buddy was kind enough to serve as the grand marshal at the Mountain Moonshine Festival, the annual gathering of race and old car enthusiasts centered around the square in downtown Dawsonville that particular year.

The event always brings out veteran racers, including David Pearson, Cotton Owens, Rex White and Junior Johnson.

Now, I would be misleading you if I didn’t tell you right off the bat that Buddy Baker has always been one of my favorite racers, but not just for his driving prowess.

In my opinion, Buddy is one of the three all-time greatest storytellers in NASCAR. The other two are two-time champion driver Tim Flock and veteran sports writer Tom Higgins.

Prior to meeting him face to face, I had heard a lot of Buddy Baker stories over the years.

Buddy Baker is interviewed by Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Jimmy Mosteller at Atlanta International Raceway in the early '70s.

For example, sometime in the late 60s, Buddy agreed to make an appearance at a dirt track run by his friend Don Naman. During the race, Buddy had a pretty hard crash, demolishing his car, and leaving him with some injured ribs.

The ambulance crew hustled around, got Buddy strapped down good and tight to the stretcher, and loaded him in the ambulance. The driver jumped in and took off.

It was at this moment that Buddy made a startling discovery – his rescuers had forgotten to latch the ambulance’s back door.

The stretcher, with Buddy still strapped down tight, exited the ambulance, and took off down the backstretch.

To make matters worse, as Buddy was attempting a land-speed record on this stretcher, a dozen race cars came around the turn at caution speed.

Buddy managed to get one arm free, and started waving like mad, hoping the drivers would spot him.

The stretcher finally reached the inside of the track, dug into the mud, and somersaulted. Down came Baker, face first into the mud.

The paramedics, having been notified that they had lost their cargo, reached the scene moments later.

As they turned the stretcher over, Buddy, covered in mud, looked up at one of them, and said “When I get off this thing, I’m gonna kill you first.”

Another story involves one of Baker’s best friends, the late Tiny Lund, who was a notorious practical joker.

The two were attending a pre-race party one night, and Lund, without Baker noticing, had slipped away early.

Buddy was tired when he returned to his hotel room later that evening, so he didn’t even turn the lights on. He just stripped down au natural, and jumped into bed.

He was just about to drift off to sleep when he thought he heard something growling. Hearing the noise again, Buddy reached over and flipped on the lamp to investigate.

When the light came on, Buddy found himself nose-to-nose with the mascot of one of the race sponsors – a live cheetah.

It was at this point that Baker attempted another speed record – the fastest naked man to travel down a hotel hallway.

Buddy, fearing the cheetah was on his heels, ran screaming like a mad man – a naked mad man – down the hallway. The cheetah, just as scared as Baker, had actually run off in the other direction.

Halfway down the hallway, he met Lund. Thinking Baker was coming after him, Lund ran quickly into his hotel room.

Baker instead thought Lund was running away from the cheetah, making Buddy run that much faster.

Finally, he chanced a quick glance behind him, and saw that there was no cheetah. Baker quickly returned to his hotel room, only to find the door had slammed shut behind the exiting cheetah, and had locked.

Buddy grabbed a nearby wastepaper basket, busted the bottom out, and wore it down to the front desk to get a passkey.

I’ve never heard how he got even with Tiny, but I’m sure it was a doozy.

I got to hear these and a few more stories over the two days that I hustled Buddy around Dawsonville.  He was as nice in person as you would have hoped for, and very accommodating for all the fans who came out to meet him.

Thanks again, Buddy, and here’s hoping that you can come back out to Dawsonville sometime soon a be with us.

My offer of buying you the biggest steak in town in exchange for more of those great racing stories still stands.

Editor’s note: Portions of this column were originally published in the July 17, 2008 edition of The Jackson Herald.

Brandon Reed is the editor and webmaster of Georgia Racing History.com.

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