Elzie Wylie “Buddy” Baker Jr., (1941-2015) was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver from 1959 to 1992. He was the son of “Buck” Baker, NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee. Baker was also a member of the NASCAR Media. He mentored many of the drivers racing today in NASCAR, including Ryan Newman. He is on the NASCAR Hall of Fame nomination list for the class of 2017.
Baker competed in 699 races over his 33-year career. He won 19 races, including the Daytona 500. Baker won 38 poles throughout his career. Baker won the 1980 Daytona 500, a race that had the average race speed of 177.602 mph. Baker became the first driver to win the Coke 600 (then World 600) back to back in 1972 and 1973. Baker became the first driver to ellipse 200 mph at Talladega Superspeedway on a closed course in 1980. Baker is named as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
Baker raced for many teams. He started out racing for his father. He then moved on to race with Ray Fox, Cotton Owens, Richard Petty, Nord Krauskopf, Bud Moore, Harry Rainer, the Wood Brothers, and Danny Schiff.
When he retired in 1992, Baker made the seamless transition from race car driver to television analyst. He started with The Nashville Network, and then moved to CBS. In 2007, he joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio as a co-host of The Late Shift and Tradin’ Paint.
In July 2015, Baker announced that he was suffering from inoperable lung cancer. Doctors noticed the real cause of Baker’s problems during a rotator-cuff surgery in November 2014. Baker described that moment on SiriusXM, the day he announced his departure from the channel, "As they started to really get inside me, the problems, the pain was getting worse and worse and worse," Baker said. "They went, 'Wait a minute, what is this on the righthand side here?' And they said, 'My God, it's a huge tumor' in my lung." Baker passed away on August 10, 2015.
“Buddy was always wide open and that's the way he raced and lived his life. He was always full of energy. He was a person you wanted to be around because he always made you feel better. He raced with us, shared his stories with us and became our friend. Buddy loved the sport and he made a lasting impression on the sport on the track, in the television booth and on the radio,” said Richard Petty on the day of Buddy’s passing.
NASCAR Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, Brian France, said this about Baker: “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.
On his final broadcast with SiriusXM, Baker said, “"I think I retired five different times," Baker told listeners. "Why? Because you build this trust and love for a sport that I don't care what anybody tells you, there is no other form of auto racing in the world that can entertain and bring the stars that we have in our sport. And to have a long career like I've had, do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name."
Red Byron (1915-1960) was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver from 1949 to 1951. He is named as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, despite his brief career. Byron’s hometown is Anniston, AL. He is on the NASCAR Hall of Fame nomination list for 2017.
Red Byron was the first Modified (1948) and Strictly Stock (1949) champion. He also won the first ever NASCAR race in Daytona Beach on the beach. Byron only competed in 15 NASCAR races. In his three years of racing, he won two races and two poles over his brief career.
Byron drove for Raymond Park over his career.
He was a World War II veteran, in which he was injured. Due to a leg injury from the war, he drove with a brace attached to the clutch pedal to assist him. His brief career was attributed to the leg injury.
Although the injury ended his driving career, Byron remained faithful to motorsports. Before he passed, he was developing an American automobile to compete in the coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Kevin Harvick continued his dominance at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday afternoon. Harvick wins the Good Sam 500 by edging out Carl Edwards by .010 seconds in NASCAR overtime. This became the closest race in Phoenix International Raceway’s history, edging out the 2010 margin of .013 seconds. The race went 313 laps for 313 miles.
Harvick explains the final lap of the race “I felt like coming off of Turn 4 I had some momentum but I needed to do everything I could to try to scrub some momentum off of his car, and it just worked out timing, and I needed to get away, and by the time he realized that I had that momentum and he tried to do the same thing, scrub the momentum off my car, we were too far towards the start-finish line. It all worked out. Sometimes I can tell you that you plan it all that way, but sometimes you're just lucky as hell.”
Harvick continued to praise the low downforce package. “I think as drivers and as a sport, that's really the benefit -- one of the benefits of the low downforce package and the tire situation. The tire situation being the biggest thing is so you have those different strategies with the late cautions to where you have two tires, you have no tires, you probably have four tires, I'm sure, to have the comers and goers and the exciting finishes.”
Edwards, finished second, was impressed by the efforts of his team. “Well, I'm really proud of my guys for giving me a shot to win the race. We were a third-place car there at the end. Dale and Kevin were both really fast. Caution came out, Dave rolled the dice, and we got a shot at it. We made him work for it. That's more than we've been able to do here the last few times. Just a lot of fun. I really wish it would have worked out a little bit differently, but it's a good race. I ran into him about as hard as I thought I could without wrecking him, and it ended up being a drag race. It was kind of fun coming to the line because I thought, man, I got him, and then he doored me real hard and then he got a little run and then I tried to door him and slow him down, but it just didn't work.”
The caution waved five times for 30 laps during the race because of tire issues. Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., all experienced tire issues. Goodyear states that tire problems were because of melted beads due to brake heat.
The Sunoco Rookie of the year battle is shaping up to be between Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. Elliott and Blaney both finished in the top-10 of the Good Sam 500. Elliott, in his first start at Phoenix, was excited about his finish today. “First off, my guys have been bringing such fast race cars to the racetrack every week since Daytona, and I haven't been doing a very good job of getting the finishes that they deserve. I'm just happy today that we could finally finish one of these things and get a solid top-10 finish. I felt like we made gains throughout the day. The guys did a great job on pit road picking up spot there. Alan made good adjustments and gave up a couple spots on that last restart, but I was proud of the effort and hopefully we can take it and try to get a little better in Fontana.”
The race went on for 2 hours 45 minutes and 43 seconds. The average speed of the race was 113.212 mph. There were no issues in post-race inspection, but the cars of Harvick and Edwards will be taken back to the R&D Center. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch unofficially lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points followed by Jimmie Johnson, who is 14 points behind.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for the final race of the West Coast Swing. The first practice will begin on Friday March 18 at 1:30 pm Eastern on Fox Sports 1.
Kyle Busch wins the pole for the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. He wins the pole with a speed of 138.287 mph. This would be Busch’s first pole of the 2016 season after the pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway was taken away. With the pole being taken away at Atlanta, Kyle was more hesitant about celebrating in post-qualifying interviews, waiting for the car to go through the “room of doom”.
Joe Gibbs Racing continues to show dominance in qualifying. All four Joe Gibbs Racing teams made the final round of qualifying. Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin will start in the next two positions.
In his media availability, Carl Edwards mentioned, “The race is so different from qualifying. After about eight laps long in final practice, we will know who is fast.”
Kyle Busch had an itch of confidence coming into qualifying today. “I wasn’t going out there strutting my stuff like I was going to sit on the pole. I was trying to get a good lap in, get a good effort in, and get a good pit selection. It all transpired into being a really good day though.”
Qualifying went south for Hendrick Motorsports as two of their teams will be switching to backup cars after qualifying. Kasey Kahne posted a blazing lap in the first round of qualifying, but as he was heading back to pit road, the engine was engulfed in smoke. Kahne told Motor Racing Network’s Kim Coon, “Something happened after I shut it off. Something inside the engine. We will have to change engines,” moments after the accident occurred. Jimmie Johnson hit the wall in turn one during the final round of qualifying. He will also go to a backup car. He is not sure what happened going into the first turn. “Not so sure. Definitely a hard hit. We have a very fast racecar, I know my team will bring me a fast race car, at least we have tomorrow to work on it.”
Many notable drivers did not make the final round of qualifying. In the first round, Bowyer (35), Dale Jr. (26), Casey Mears (25), and Danica Patrick (36) failed to make the top 24 to enter the second round. In the second round, Chase Elliott (17), Kevin Harvick (18), and Brad Keselowski (19) failed to make it into the final round
A strong performance was shown from Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sebates in qualifying. Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray made it into the final round of qualifying. Both drivers will be starting inside the top 12 on Sunday.
On-track activities resume for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the first of two practices on Fox Sports 1 at 10:30 am.
1. Kyle Busch
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Kurt Busch
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Kyle Larson
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Joey Logano
10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
11. Jamie McMurray
12. Ryan Blaney
13. Greg Biffle
14. Aric Almirola
15. Austin Dillon
16. Paul Menard
17. Chase Elliott
18. Kevin Harvick
19. Brad Keselowski
20. Ryan Newman
21. Trevor Bayne
22. AJ Allmendinger
23. Matt DiBenedetto
24. Kasey Kahne
25. Casey Mears
26. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
27. Landon Cassill
28. Ty Dillon
29. David Ragan
30. Brian Scott
31. Regan Smith
32. Chris Buescher
33. Michael McDowell
34. Cole Whitt
35. Clint Bowyer
36. Danica Patrick
37. Josh Wise
38. Michael Annett
39. Joey Gase
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into the Valley of the Sun for the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Thirty-Nine cars are scheduled to compete in Sunday’s race at the short-track. Kevin Harvick has dominated the spring race there over the last couple years.
Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) is a one-mile oval with a dogleg on the backstretch. PIR was completed in January 1964. The backstretch dogleg and turns one and two are banked at 10 to 11 degrees. Turns three and four are banked from eight to nine degrees. The frontstretch is banked at three degrees, while the rest of the backstretch is banked at nine degrees. The length of the frontstretch is 1,179 feet in length, while the backstretch is 1,551 feet in length. Pit Road is 1,140 feet in length. The Good Sam 500 is 500 kilometers in length, 312 laps long.
This will be the eleventh spring race at Phoenix International Raceway, but it is the fortieth race at the speedway since its inception in the 1988 season. Kevin Harvick leads active drivers with three wins. Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Neman, Carl Edwards, and Denny Hamlin all have one win at Phoenix in the spring. Kevin Harvick won last year’s race from the pole. Jimmie Johnson holds the qualifying record set last year in the fall race at 143.158 mph.
Last year’s race experienced eight lead changes among seven different drivers, and only two cautions. Will that happen again with the low-downforce package being run for the first time at Phoenix?
Goodyear will be bringing the same tire for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Xfinity Series. This will be the first time that the tire codes will be run at Phoenix giving the cars more grip. The teams will not run liners in the tires this weekend. Sprint Cup Series teams will be allowed five sets for practice and qualifying, and nine sets for the race. Teams participated in a Goodyear Tire Test last year at Phoenix International Raceway in October with the new rules package to help Goodyear.
Drivers are excited to be returning to Phoenix International Raceway for the first time in 2016.
Michael McDowell will be racing in front of a hometown crowd this weekend. “It’s fun to race at Phoenix in front of a hometown crowd. The track makes for really good racing with a lot of side-by-side action. The new pavement and dogleg create a whole new level of excitement,” said McDowell in a release. “This race in particular is very competitive – there are usually a lot of cautions and plenty of opportunities to pass. It’s a good race for our Thrivent Racing team to come to after being at the mile and a half tracks for two weeks.”
“Phoenix is a really flat racetrack where you want to have the freshest tires possible, but track position is really important. A lot of what happens at Phoenix depends on the weather and how hot it is – how much fall-off and how you have to manage track position throughout the day. The cooler the day is, the more you have to manage your track position. The hotter the day, the more you have to manage the fall-off. Better-handling cars will have a little easier time of getting through the field,” says Kevin Harvick, defending race winner of the Good Sam 500 in a release.
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevy, believes Phoenix is tricky. “It’s tricky. It’s gotten a little slicker. The grip is not quite there. It’s always a fun place because it is unique. We don’t go to really any other track like it. It makes the setup and driving it a bit different. I think over the last couple of years the gears that we’ve used, we’ve been downshifting. So, when do you use the downshift to help turn the car and when does that over slow the car? There’s a lot of stuff that goes into racing at Phoenix. I think it’s going to be the same thing.”
"Phoenix is so unique. The key is to have your car good in both ends of the track and that's not easy to do. I think it's a fun track. It's so unique that it makes it a little bit of a different kind of fun. It really about finesse, too. You really can't take your car past its limit because there is no banking to catch you,” says Ryan Newman, driver of the Grainger Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in a release.
Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott will be performing double-duty this weekend.
Coverage for the NASCAR Spring Cup Series from Phoenix International Raceway will begin on Friday, March 11, 2016, at 12:30 pm Eastern on Fox Sports 1 and the Motor Racing Network.
TV and Radio Schedule
Friday, March 11
12:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1, MRN
6:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS2, MRN
Saturday, March 12
10:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1, MRN
1 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1, MRN
Sunday, March 13
2 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
2:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500, MRN
3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX
3:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500, FOX