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Idle chatter: Buddy Baker


By KEN WILLIS
Sports Columnist

Q. What will be your duties during the weekend in Daytona?
A. "I'll be working with Brendan Gaughan during the week, then spotting for Ryan Newman on race day. I'll be up on the backstretch spotting for Ryan."

Q. When you're talking with Brendan, do you ever have to say, "Easy does it, it's my turn to talk?"
A. "You have to pull the plug wire every once in a while on him. He's so much fun to be around. He played college basketball and football, and I can't ever imagine him sitting on a bench. He'd vibrate right through the seat. He's just totally different from Ryan Newman. With Ryan, every once in a while you feel like saying, 'You listening?' "

Q. When NASCAR comes to Daytona in February and July, are those the times when you most miss driving?
A. "Oh yeah. It's never been a secret, Daytona is my favorite racetrack. I won the 'Daytona 475' 11 times. Love the racetrack. Tested 10 million miles on it, it seems like. When they crank 'em up, it's like, 'Wait a minute, I ought to be there.' "

Q. When you hear about these minor driver confrontations, such as Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers, doesn't it make you laugh when you think about the things that happened in your early years?
A. "Yeah, if I get beat up, I want to get beat up like that. Tiny Lund would've jerked the door off and dragged you through it. The average driver was 200-and-some-odd pounds when I started. They were some pretty wicked men. That kinda thing couldn't happen now. It'd be the end of your career. To me, it's almost comical, it really is. Shouldn't say this, but if there had been an egg between the two (Stewart and Vickers), it wouldn't have gotten broke."

Q. When someone calls your house and asks for Elzie Wylie Baker, do you assume it's a solicitor?
A. "I just automatically want to hang up because they don't know me. I was a junior, you know. But by the time I started walking, I think I was a Buddy. But I tell you, when I go to a flight now . . . I used to fly under Buddy Baker, but not anymore; 9-11 has changed everything. Nowadays, your drivers license has to coincide with your ticket."

Q. You remember what it was like to drive without restrictor plates here. How frustrating is it to mash the gas pedal and nothing happens?
A. "The first time I did that, I thought, 'This thing's coming in second.' But you know, we all complain about it, but the nice part is, the race cars have been staying on the ground pretty good. And the people in the grandstands don't have to duck every time you go by."

Q. As big as you are, could you fit in one of today's shrunken cockpits?
A. "I tested Rusty's car last year in Talladega, and it's not a problem. I can hop right in the cars and be pretty comfortable. After all, Michael Waltrip is my height."

Q. But with his hair, he's actually two inches taller.
A. "Exactly, but that's like an extra spring if he gets in trouble. That helmet has something to cushion it"






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