NASCAR LEGEND DIES: Buddy Baker poses with his mother Susan, during his induction to the Nascar Hall of Fame in 2013.Image: AP / Bob Leverone
HOUSTON, Texas - Buddy Baker, the 1980 Daytona 500 champion who became a popular commentator after his racing career ended in 1992, has died of lung cancer on Monday, reports Nascar.
Baker, known as the "Gentle Giant" for his affable demeanor and 2m frame, was a 2015 Nascar Hall of Fame nominee and named in 1998 one of its 50 greatest drivers.
Nascar Chairman and CEO, Brian France, called Baker "an absolute treasure who will be missed dearly."
France said in a statement: "Many of today's fans may know Buddy Baker as one of the greatest storytellers in the sport's history, a unique skill that endeared him to millions."
"But those who witnessed his racing talent recognized Buddy as a fast and fierce competitor, setting speed records and winning on Nascar's biggest stages."
'TALK TO YOU LATER'
Baker, the son of son Nascar Hall of Famer Buck Baker, became the first driver to surpass the 200-mph mark on a closed course while testing at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama in 1970.
The 285km/h Baker averaged in winning the 1980 Daytona 500 is a record that still stands. He recorded 19 wins in Nascar's premier series, including a victory in the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina where he lapped the field.
Baker left his co-hosting position on SiriusXM Nascar Radio's "The Late Shift" in July 2015 after announcing he had an inoperable tumor in his lung.
"Do not shed a tear," he said in signing off. "Give a smile when you say my name. I'm not saying goodbye. Just talk to you later."DON'T SHED A TEAR: Race car driver Buddy Baker at Daytona Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. in 1975. Baker, a former Daytona 500 winner and Nascar Hall of Fame nominee, has died after a brief battle with lung cancer on August 10 2015. Image: AP