After winning his first American Flat Track championship in 2019, Cory Texter will return to the G&G Racing for the 2020 season to defend his title in the AFT Production Twins class.

 

Texter scored three wins during the 2019 season and earned eight top-five finishes in route to the championship. Texter will once again team up with G&G Racing.

 

G&G Racing is a father-and-son-owned team based in Southern California. John and John “LJ” Gronek are pleased to bring Texter back on board for the 2020 season.

 

“We are really happy to bring Cory back to the team,” LJ Gronek said. “We learned a lot about setup last year, and we are adding a few new components to our program this year that should be a real benefit in our efforts. ‘CTex’ has a never-quit attitude and works hard. He was talking about the 2020 season just days after he won the Production Twins title at the Meadowlands Mile in New Jersey, so that says a lot about his will to win and improve.”

 

Texter is excited about the opportunity to stay on the Yamaha MT-07 DT in his return to G&G Racing.

 

“It has been a long off-season so far, but I feel that staying on board the Yamaha MT-07 gives me the best opportunity to make another run at a championship,” Texter said. “The Yamaha is a great motorcycle, and I am very excited about the new aspects to our program that we are working on for 2020. We’re a small team, but we are very efficient and work hard every day. John and LJ have been like family to me, and those are the type of dudes you want to go into battle with every weekend.”

 

Roof Systems of Dallas, Texas will be joining the team as a sponsor. Roof Systems owner Jerry Stinchfield is a major asset to the sport of flat track and had this to say about his partnership with Texter and G&G Racing:

 

“As many know, I am very passionate about the American Flat Track series, and I really want to get more involved in the Production Twins class. I really like the work ethic of Texter and his team. Cory does a lot for amateur racing and frequently gives back to the sport, so I wanted to do the same for him. I am excited about joining his efforts and helping his team contend for another championship.”

 

In addition to a new partnership with Roof Systems, Texter welcomes aftermarket motorcycle parts and accessory titan Parts Unlimited / Drag Specialties to his list of partners for 2020.

 

Texter will also be joined once again by many of his 2019 sponsors, including Holeshot Powersports, Motul Oils, Kicker Audio, Stay The Course, Fredericktown Yamaha, Alpinestars, and Bell Powersports.

 

G&G Racing is sponsored by TDFJ.com, Twisted Development, Graves Motorsports, Yamaha Motor Corp. USA, Motion Pro, GPS Racing, and Hickory Ranch.

 

Tickets for the first-ever doubleheader - DAYTONA 200 and DAYTONA TT - at the legendary Daytona International Speedway are on sale now. Watch both historic motorcycle racing events during Bike Week at DAYTONA for just $35 when you purchase an advance General Admission ticket online. Get yours at www.americanflattrack.com.

 

For more information on American Flat Track visit www.americanflattrack.com.

 

To get the latest American Flat Track clothing and merchandise visit www.americanflattracker.com.

 The start of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – and essentially the entire auto racing calendar – is upon us.
 
The 58th rendition of the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona gets under way next week on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway. Practice and qualifying starts Thursday, Jan. 23, with the green flag flying on the twice-around-the-clock battle just past 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25.
 
NBC will have live network coverage of the start of the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25, and also will televise the race finish beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 26 as part of NBC Sports’ complete coverage of the event that includes windows on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
 
IMSA Radio also will have live coverage throughout race weekend on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, with complete race coverage also airing on SiriusXM Radio.
 
Tickets for the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona are available on DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com.
In the second of a four-part series detailing the four classes that will compete in the 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona, let’s take a closer look at the LMP2 category.
 
No. 8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks
ORECA LMP2
Ryan Dalziel/David Heinemeier Hansson/John Farano/Nicolas Lapierre
Tower Motorsport by Starworks kicks off its 2020 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup campaign at the Rolex 24 with the potential of adding other WeatherTech Championship races later in the season. Spearheaded by Farano – a 2012 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) champion who also competed in the Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 Am class this winter – the No. 8 ORECA will be run in partnership with Peter Baron’s Starworks program.
 
Dalziel, a longtime Starworks driver, and Farano are considered the full-time drivers of the car, with Heinemeier Hansson set for the four enduros. Lapierre, a two-time winner of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and a four-time 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 class winner, will join the team at Daytona.
 
Dalziel is the only driver of the four who owns a previous Rolex 24 victory, an overall win in 2010 with the Action Express Riley-Porsche. Starworks as a team is also in search of its first win at the Daytona endurance race.
 
No. 18 Era Motorsport
ORECA LMP2
Kyle Tilley/Dwight Merriman/Ryan Lewis/Nic Minassian
New to the IMSA grid is Era Motorsport with its No. 18 ORECA. Not new to IMSA are drivers Ryan Lewis and Nic Minassian. Lewis has six WeatherTech Championship starts with his best finish coincidentally coming in an ORECA at the 2017 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park round in the Prototype Challenge class.
 
Minassian – a former Peugeot LMP1 factory driver – has a decent amount of experience between the American Le Mans Series, Rolex GRAND-AM Sports Car Series and WeatherTech Championship. In fact, he participated in the 2016 Rolex 24 a race, in which his car started first in the Prototype category in the hands of then co-driver Mikhail Aleshin.
 
Newcomers Tilley – Era’s team principal – and Merriman are tabbed as the full-season drivers for 2020. The two co-drove together in historic racing, where Era Motorsport got its start.
 
No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports
ORECA LMP2
Cameron Cassels/Robert Masson/Kyle Masson/Don Yount
Performance Tech looks to improve one position on its runner-up finish at the 2019 Rolex 24 and to collect the team’s second Rolex watch in four years. Of the team’s four drivers entered this year, only Kyle Masson was part of the 2017 winning lineup in the Prototype Challenge class.
 
The younger Masson will run the twice-around-the-clock race for the second consecutive year with his father, Dr. Robert Masson, and also returns with his full-season co-driver from 2019, Cameron Cassels, the 2019 Jim Trueman Award winner as the top sportsman driver in the LMP2 class. Meanwhile, Yount returns to a prototype for the first time in the Rolex 24 since 2016 after competing in the GT Daytona (GTD) class the last three years.
 
No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports
ORECA LMP2
Ben Keating/Simon Trummer/Nick Boulle/Gabriel Aubry
PR1 Mathaisen Motorsports may be looking for some redemption at this year’s Rolex 24. Before storming to six straight victories to win the 2019 WeatherTech Championship LMP2 championship, the team finished last in the Daytona endurance race to start the year.
 
Aubry is the only returning driver to the team’s lineup and will be joined by former JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi driver Simon Trummer. Seeking his second Rolex 24 win is Nick Boulle, who previously scored the victory with now-competitor Performance Tech Motorsports in 2017.
 
Pulling double duty in the Rolex 24 – not for the first time, however – will be Texan Ben Keating, who will jump between the No. 52 ORECA LMP2 and the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GTD class. This will be his fifth time competing at Daytona in two different cars and it was in the GTD class in 2015 where Keating scored his first and only Rolex watch to date.
 
No. 81 DragonSpeed USA
ORECA LMP2
Ben Hanley/Henrik Hedman/Colin Braun/Harrison Newey
The 2019 Rolex 24 LMP2 winning team looks to defend its title, albeit with a different lineup. Both Hanley and Hedman ran in a second DragonSpeed entry last year and took the third and final step on the Rolex 24 podium. Entered as the team’s full-season drivers, these two will look to start the year off right with a win.
 
Braun, meanwhile, returns to the cockpit of an LMP2 machine after running for several years with a now-shuttered CORE autosport program. He owns one Rolex 24 victory – in Prototype Challenge machine – from 2014 and still holds the record set in October 2013 for the fastest lap ever recorded on the Daytona oval with a speed of 222.971mph (40.364 seconds) in a Michael Shank Racing Ford EcoBoost Prototype.
 
Completing the driver lineup is Newey, the 2018 Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 champion who competed in Super Formula and the Japanese endurance racing series Super Taikyu in 2019. He is the son of renowned Formula 1 and IndyCar engineer, Adrian Newey, who is now the Chief Technical Officer for the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team.
 

The 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series iHeart 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway underwent an exciting new change today – for the third time. First, the race was moved from June to August to create WWTR’s INDYCAR-NASCAR doubleheader weekend. Second, NASCAR announced new pit stop rules for select races, including WWTR’s 200. Today, NASCAR officials announced the expansion of the Truck Series playoffs, adding two more drivers to the eight-team playoffs, and making the WWTR 200 the first race in the Round of 10.

Three races comprise the Round of 10: WWTR (Aug. 21), Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario (Sept. 6) and Bristol (Sept. 17). Two teams will be eliminated at the conclusion of the Round of 10.

“The NASCAR playoffs always produce incredible drama and we’re excited that our event will play such an important role in the championship chase,” said Chris Blair, Executive Vice President and General Manager of World Wide Technology Raceway.  “Our venue is unlike any other on the schedule and the spectacular racing that we always deliver will make quite an impact to kick start the Round of 10.”

The playoff format previously followed an opening Round of 8, another three races in the Round of 6 and the Championship 4. Brad Moran, managing director for the Gander Trucks Series, said that the emergence of more top-level teams and the heightened degree of competition made the decision to increase the playoff field a natural one.

“The way the format was structured in the Gander Truck Series with the Round of 8, Round of 6, Round of 4, we were leaving some excitement on the table,” Moran said. “Maybe three or four years ago, not so much, but certainly the last couple of years with the series strengthening to the position it’s in right now, we really felt putting 10 teams into the playoffs for a Round of 10 is just going to make it that much more exciting and interesting, and will put a lot of emphasis on winning races, which is what we try to do.”

Moran said that competition officials had been weighing a potential expansion by comparing final standings from previous seasons, ultimately arriving at a 10-driver field for the Gander Trucks tour. It also provides some late-season cohesion: Now all three national series will feature a Round of 8 that cuts the playoff fields in half before the championship finales.

“It seemed like the right number,” Moran said. “We only start 32 trucks, we have a great group of owners, and we did not want to water down our playoffs, but the two additional trucks kind of changes the whole layout. It changes the whole ecosystem of the playoffs. People are going to be that much more aggressive to get one of those 10 spots, and it does marry up with the other two series when we get to the Round of 8.”

WWTR’s Aug. 21-22 NASCAR-INDYCAR Doubleheader Weekend now includes:

  • Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline for the NTT IndyCar Series
  • iHeart 200 for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
  • ARCA Midwest Series (Super Late Models)
  • Indy Lights Series
  • Indy Pro 2000 Series
  • Vintage Indy Registry/Open Wheel Icons exhibitions

For tickets and information, please call World Wide Technology Raceway at (618) 215-8888 or visit www.wwtraceway.com. Follow WWTR on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

WWTR PR

Micro Sprint teams from around the world will descend on California this June, when the sixth annual Hoosier Tire California Speedweek hits the dirt.  Series officials have announced the 2020 slate, running from June 23-27 at the four weekly Micro Sprint tracks in the golden state.  Lucrative prizes including the coveted carved wooden bear trophies will be on the line for 130 competitors.
 
The series begins on June 23rd at Dixon Speedway, 42 miles west of the state Capitol in Sacramento.  On Wednesday June 24th, competitors will travel south to Delta Speedway in Stockton.  A rest day on June 25th gives teams the opportunity to reload before Friday’s jaunt at Keller Auto Raceway Plaza Park in Visalia.  The finale is Saturday June 27th, just 25 miles west of Visalia at Lemoore Raceway.
 
2019 champions Mitchel Moles in Super 600, Tristan Guardino in Non-Wing, and Gauge Garcia in Restricted will try to keep the championship titles within the California. Nearly two dozen states have sent their best to California over the years along with drivers from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Only one championship has been claimed by an out of state contender, when Oklahoma’s Chris Andrews won the Non-Wing division in 2016.
 
Entry lists are capped to 50 Super 600s, 40 Non-Wing, and 40 Restricted competitors. Registration will open on the series website in April.  Registration opens early for drivers who finished within the top-ten of the 2019 series before being available to all drivers the following week.
 
Hoosier Racing Tire returns as the primary sponsor for the globally recognized series, which attracted over 500,000 social media impressions and a 34% increase in pay per view sales in 2019.
 
The California Speedweek is available online at www.HoosierCASpeedweek.com  or on Facebook and Twitter. For sponsorship information, contact Steven Blakesley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (916) 316-4854

California Speedweek PR

One of the most anticipated events on the 2020 Martinsville Speedway schedule was unofficially kicked off today when former NASCAR Modified Tour champion and current NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece tested his modified car today.

Preece was joined by modified veteran Gary Putnam who also brought his car out to prepare for Ryan Newman to drive in the first race for the modified division since 2010 at Martinsville Speedway.

Preece is already excited to be back at Martinsville in his modified.

“I drove my old box truck through the gate this morning and that was pretty cool,” said Preece. “That is a memory I’ll never forget.

“As far as modified goes, it’s the history the modifieds have at this track … you want to come and race here. (Martinsville) is just a special place.”

Also joining Preece was former Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, who added this idea to test a modified car was a long time in the making stating that Preece has been talking to him about it for about two years.

“I told Ryan this is his fault,” said Harvick. “I’m taking a lot of grief from my other half, but obviously this is a great experience for me. It’s way outside my normal, everyday routine and things that I’ve raced.

“I’ve never raced anything like this. Just to drive it was a lot of fun for me and it definitely put a smile on my face. It’s definitely a good experience for me.”

Harvick, whose company KHI Management lists Preece as a client, said today was a result of the relationship he started with Preece a while back.

“For me, we’ve had a great relationship that (Preece) started with Stafford Speedway. Between Ryan and Stafford Motor Speedway, that’s why I drove three hours up here today to come up here and do this,” Harvick said.

“I wouldn’t drive it if I didn’t want to race it. Let’s just make that clear. We’ve talked about that. It’s something that will definitely be on my bucket list to go do.”

Tickets to the MAXPRO Windows Films 200 modified race and the first NASCAR Cup Series race under the lights can be purchased by calling 1-877-RACE-TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

Martinsville Speedway PR

When the ARCA Menards Series makes its 2020 return to Lucas Oil Raceway Indianapolis, fans will be treated to some open wheel racing in addition to the stock cars, making for a great doubleheader.

The Friday, July 3 event will see a return of Sprint Cars, of the non-wing variety, running rules similar to those that are run at the nearby Anderson Speedway, in Anderson, IN.  The non-wing sprints were popular for years at the track, before USAC became dirt only with their Sprints and Midgets.

Pit gates are scheduled to open at 9:00 AM, with grandstands at 1:30 PM, practice at 2:00, ARCA General Tire Pole Qualifying at 5:00, the Sprint car feature at 6:00 and the ARCA race at 8:00.

The event will be promoted by Track Enterprises, which has a total of eight ARCA events on its schedule this year.  For more information, feel free to contact them at 217-764-3200 or visit the website at www.trackenterprises.com.

Track Enterprises PR

Looking at a slate of 17 nights of racing, the Brodix ASCS Frontier Region has laid out its 2020 lineup of events with shows in Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
A short season of racing between the snow-melt and the snowfall, the series' eighth year of touring will begin Friday, June 5 at Gallatin Speedway in Belgrade, Mont. and Saturday, June 6 at Big Sky Speedway in Billings, Mont.
Five overall stops at Gallatin Speedway, including the Grizzly Nationals with the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series presented by the MAVTV Motorsports Network, Big Sky Speedway will share the spotlight in Montana total of four times in 2020.
A pair of trips into South Dakota, the half-mile Black Hills Speedway will take center stage on June 12 and July 31.
A half-dozen trips through Wyoming will see Gillette Thunder Speedway in action on June 13 and August 1 with Rock Springs' Sweetwater Speedway taking a pair of doubleheader weekends. First, on August 7 and 8, the series returns on September 4 and 5.
One goal for the 2020 lineup has been to limit the number of single-race weekends in order to make the travel teams have to face more economical. Gallatin and Big Sky are a common pairing in addition to their double-header weekends with Gillette and Black Hills going back to back on their weekends.
Heading the Brodix ASCS Frontier Region will be Nick Whalen. Stepping in towards the middle of the 2019 season to help with running shows after Cary Smith stepped away for most of the season to tend to her family, the Montana native has agreed to remain for the 2020 season. Nick can be reached at (406) 565-6181 as well as by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Updates for the 2020 lineup will be posted to http://www.ascsracing.com. The Brodix ASCS Frontier Region can also be found at https://www.facebook.com/ascsfrontier/
For other news, notes, and information on the American Sprint Car Series, from the National Tour to any of the Regional Tours that make up ASCS Nation in 2020, log onto http://www.ascsracing.com, follow on Facebook, on Instagram, and Twitter (@LucasOilASCS).
2020 ASCS Frontier Schedule of Events
6/5/2020-Gallatin Speedway - Belgrade, MT
6/6/2020-Big Sky Speedway - Billings, MT
6/12/2020-Black Hills Speedway - Rapid City, SD
6/13/2020-Gillette Thunder Speedway - Gillette, WY
6/26/2020-Big Sky Speedway - Billings, MT
6/27/2020-Big Sky Speedway - Billings, MT
7/10/2020-Gallatin Speedway - Belgrade, MT
7/11/2020-Gallatin Speedway - Belgrade, MT
7/25/2020-Big Sky Speedway - Billings, MT
7/31/2020-Black Hills Speedway - Rapid City, SD
8/1/2020-Gillette Thunder Speedway - Gillette, WY
8/7/2020-Sweetwater Speedway - Rock Springs, WY
8/8/2020-Sweetwater Speedway - Rock Springs, WY
8/28/2020-Gallatin Speedway - Belgrade, MT
9/4/2020-Sweetwater Speedway - Rock Springs, WY
9/5/2020-Sweetwater Speedway - Rock Springs, WY
9/11/2020-Gallatin Speedway - Belgrade, MT
ASCS PR

Pull those straps tight! The NASCAR Racing Experience returns to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, January 25-26, and the track has announced additional dates racing enthusiasts can experience the ride of a lifetime.  

Below is Talladega Superspeedway’s 2020 NASCAR Racing Experience schedule:

 

January 25-26, 2020

March 21-22, 2020

May 2-3, 2020

September 19-20, 2020

October 10-11, 2020

 

With the NASCAR Racing Experience, fans can get the thrill of driving a stock car or by taking a NASCAR Ride Along as a passenger. NASCAR Racing Experience offers timed racing sessions, and those who choose to drive will have no lead car to follow and no instructor riding along. Everyone must attend a mandatory drivers meeting with their crew chief for training and instructions prior to hitting the track.

 

To purchase your next NASCAR Racing Experience, for questions or more information, please visit www.nascarracingexperience.com.

 

Talladega Superspeedway kicks off its 2020 season on April 24-26 with a tripleheader race weekend featuring the GEICO 500 (NASCAR Cup Series), the MoneyLion 300 (NASCAR Xfinity Series) and General Tire 200 (ARCA Menards Series), along with the spring debut of the all-new Talladega Garage Experience. For additional ticket information, call 855-518-RACE (7223) or log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.

TSS PR

To a whole generation of NASCAR fans, Buddy Baker was for years the gentle voice and big personality on television race broadcasts and a popular SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show. He loved to laugh and lift the audience and his knowledge of the sport was second-to-none.

He had that enviable perspective because he was such an important force as a NASCAR driver – winning 19 times despite running only two full seasons in 35 years of NASCAR Cup Series competition. He hoisted a Daytona 500 trophy, won four Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway races, was the first to turn a 200-mph lap (in testing) and steered cars for an A-list of owners – many NASCAR Hall of Famers in their own right - running the gamut from Ray Fox to Petty Enterprises to Bud Moore and the Wood Brothers.

And on Jan. 31, seven years after helping induct his champion father Buck Baker into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the late Buddy Baker will have his own place in the great Hall alongside Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Waddell Wilson as the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees.

“I’ve always been proud to call Buck Baker dad," Buddy Baker said as he emotionally spoke at his late father’s 2007 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction. And now the Bakers will be joined again permanently among the sport’s most celebrated legends.

Buddy Baker passed away from cancer in August 2015 but his love of the sport and the sport’s adoration of him is clearly evident from drivers he competed against to fans that adored him to the media he worked alongside.

“I don’t know if it’s possible to separate the driving portion of his career from the TV portion of his career because it’s all a part of the Buddy Baker story in racing," longtime NASCAR television announcer Allen Bestwick said of his former broadcast partner.

“You could put [fellow NASCAR Hall of Famers] Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons in that category with Buddy. When the sport was rocketing through the growth period, they were the people that were the experts that educated people who were watching at home in their living room and newer to NASCAR. They were the people who gave them enjoyment and introduced them to the characters and the stories.

“And people that came into the sport during the tail end of his driving career, maybe did not understand what a force Buddy Baker was in his driving career."

One of the most noteworthy characteristics of Baker’s driving career was that he was so successful despite running only partial schedules for 33 of 35 years, including the majority of the time in the 1970s when he established himself as a renowned force on some of the sport’s most iconic tracks in Daytona, Talladega, Darlington (S.C.) and Charlotte.

He was particularly good on the superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega, which during the peak of Baker’s career in the 1970s, were still considered relatively new forms of competition.

Before the late Dale Earnhardt’s famously fickle relationship pursuing a Daytona 500 trophy, Baker was the poster child for near misses in the sport’s most famous event. The 1970s were a classic heartbreak storyline at Daytona for Baker, who for example, led 156 of the 200 laps in 1973 only to suffer an engine blow with 10 laps remaining. He finished runner-up in 1971 by 10-seconds to Richard Petty. Baker was third in 1977.

During a 20-year period from 1967-87, Baker had 14 top-10 finishes in the Daytona 500, highlighted, by his win from the pole position in 1980. That February afternoon Baker led 143 of 200 laps and his average speed of 177.602 mph remains one of the fastest Daytona 500s in the 61-year history of the “Great American Race.”

In 64 total races at Daytona International Speedway, Baker earned an amazing 31 top-10 finishes and is in rarefied company to have won both the Daytona 500 and the 400-mile mid-season race at the track.

His work on the Talladega high banks was no less impressive. He won three straight Talladega races in the 1975-76 seasons – the first to string together that many wins on the sport’s biggest track. He added a fourth trophy there the same year he won the Daytona 500 (1980).

“In the early era of superspeedway racing - which we kind of forget that a lot, that these tracks were just built in the ‘60s - they were a brand-new thing," Bestwick said. “And Buddy was so good at it and adapted so quickly to it. He was one of the dominant forces of the big tracks when the big tracks became ‘a thing.’

“That was new ground for everyone. And Buddy was a master at it."

Perhaps one of Baker’s most important contributions to the sport as a driver was his work with no trophy on the line: testing tires, and specifically, developing tire inner liners. It was high speed, high danger work but Baker was willing to do it because he knew the outcome would potentially save so many lives. And it has.

“All the things he did, developing the [tire] inner liner, I mean blowing out tires and hitting the wall on purpose in tests – those are just things people don’t do anymore," three-time Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip recalled of Baker, someone who was both friend (off-track) and foe (on-track).

“So, he was a rare breed and a really great race car driver. When it came to Daytona and Talladega, especially, I’d take him over anybody. He was that good."

In all, Baker earned 19 Cup Series wins, celebrating in Victory Lane at least one time in 11 different seasons. He won 38 pole positions, including a career-best six poles in 1980. He finished with an even 700 starts finishing top five in 202 races and top 10 in 311 races.

He only competed fulltime in the 1976 and 1977 seasons. Perhaps his best season statistically came in 1973 when he ran 27 of 28 races and finished in the top-five a personal best 16 times, and top 10 in 20 of the 27 races. He won twice and earned five pole positions that year.

His best finish in the Cup Series championship was fifth in 1977. Three times he finished in the top 10 in the championship without running a full season’s slate of races. His final trophy hoist came fittingly enough at Daytona International Speedway in the summer of 1983, when he scored a 29-second victory over Morgan Shephard.

Baker’s run of surpassed expectations and shake-your-head achievements essentially came to an end following a severe head injury in 1988 after competing in the prestigious Charlotte Motor Speedway 600-miler. Baker was involved in a crash but didn’t realize the extent of his injury immediately after the race. Three months later, he required emergency brain surgery.

While Baker made a few more random race starts, he soon discovered a second career - broadcasting.

Fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Waltrip appreciates Baker’s unique place in NASCAR lore. Both Waltrip and Baker moved from the driver’s seat to the television commentating chair after their racing careers and then blossomed in the heyday of NASCAR’s big media personalities.

“A lot of people don’t even know I drove, they think all I’ve done is television," Waltrip said. “It’s fascinating to me, but that’s a fact. I’ll mention something I did back in my heyday, and someone will say, ‘I didn’t know you did that. I didn’t know you drove.’”

Ask any of the numerous radio and television broadcasters Baker worked with what it was like to call a race alongside him and inevitably they smile. There is always a warm laugh. Not at Baker but because of Baker. He had such a way of putting people at ease. He was candid in his broadcast descriptions, oftentimes eliciting a “that is exactly what I was thinking” feeling from his audience.

His tall 6-foot-5 stature may have given off an intimidating vibe, but Baker was actually unfailingly warm and kind to people and had a way of putting people at ease. His presence on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio was a key connection between Baker and an adoring audience that respected his past and appreciated his present.

“He had a connection with people and a passion for the sport," Bestwick said.

“Broadcasting really, to go on television, is a whole new world from driving a race car," Bestwick reminded. “Nowadays, guys grow up being media-trained. That didn’t exist back then. But Buddy’s love for the sport and his natural enjoyment and his gregarious nature at the racetrack was able to shine through on television.

“People can tell right away if you’re faking it or you’re real and Buddy was as real as they got. He loved the sport, he loved talking about it and he loved being around it. And that all came across through television and radio."

The connection between Baker and NASCAR fans was absolutely real. So real, that in the summer of 2015, he decided to share his most personal news with his adoring media audience. He revealed his cancer diagnosis during his final SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show.

“Do not shed a tear," Baker calmly asked of his audience. “Give me a smile when you say my name."

He died a month later, Aug. 10, 2015, at the age of 74. But in these next weeks - especially as the sport celebrates Baker’s achievements on-track and off - there will indeed be not just smiles, but wide grins saying his name and remembering his great presence in the sport.

As the Rolex 24 At Daytona draws near to officially begin the 2020 International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) season, the sanctioning body and top driver Katherine Legge will be taking part in a two-day tour of New York City.
 
Legge, the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD runner-up, moves to the new GEAR Racing Lamborghini for the 2020 season alongside co-driver Christina Nielsen – a two-time WeatherTech Championship GTD champion – to form the series’ only all-female driver lineup. They will be joined by Chile’s Rahel Frey and Colombia’s Tatiana Calderon for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
 
The twice-around-the-clock classic endurance race marks the start of the IMSA season and will be run on Jan. 25-26. The race starts on the NBC network on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 1:30 p.m. The network also will carry the dramatic final two hours of the race on Sunday.
 
GEAR stands for Girl Empowerment Around Racing, and it is the organization’s mission to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold in racing and in life. The team has joined forces with the Grasser Racing Team to field the No. 19 for the 2020 season. Grasser has won the Rolex 24 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in each of the past two years, as well as last year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
 
This team certainly brings a winning combination to the WeatherTech Championship. Legge was the 2018 GTD class runner-up and has four career IMSA victories. She also has competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Formula E and IndyCar, including two Indianapolis 500s. Nielsen won the GTD Championship in 2016 and 2017, and is entering her second year co-driving with Legge.
 
"It was amazing to see how fast this program came together and will be great to drive with Christina again,” Legge said. “This is about more than just racing. This is about the next generation and making a difference. IMSA has been home to me for many years now and I cannot wait to get this season underway at the Rolex 24 At Daytona."
 
Legge and the Lamborghini Huracán will be part of special event at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan on Monday starting at 6 p.m. The event is open to the club’s members and media and will feature a program of Legge talking about her racing career and look ahead to this year’s Rolex 24.
 
The tour continues Tuesday with stops at “Good Day New York,” Road and Track, CNN, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and a live appearance on Cheddar.com at 4:30 p.m. from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
 
To follow the entire tour use the hashtag #IMSAinNYC.
 
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