by Michael Lowrey
Well-known NASCAR driver and commentator Buddy Baker died earlier this month at the age of 74. Here’s a quick analysis on whether Baker should be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and, more importantly whether he’ll be elected. In both cases, it comes down to a single number.
The case against: The number five, as in fifth. Baker won 19 NASCAR races but never won a NASCAR-top division (current Sprint Cup) championship. In fact, the best he ever finished was fifth. And he finished in the top 10 in points only five times in his career. Baker was one of the last of NASCAR’s most-time drivers, someone that typically drove in about 2/3rds of the races each year. The modern NASCAR era began in 1972, when the series cut the number of races down to 28 to 31 a season (it’s since grown to 36). Baker was 31 years old during the 1972 season; he would race in all of a season’s races only three times (1976, 1977, 1985). Is a Hall of Fame driver really someone who never finished better than fifth in a season, particularly during NASCAR’s modern era?
The case for — and why Baker gets in the NASCAR HOF next year: The number three. Every year, five people get in the hall. The voters like top division drivers, with, on average, three a year being elected. Baker is the driver with the third most top-series wins that’s on the ballot. His resume just isn’t anywhere near as strong as that of Mark Martin (40 wins, finished second in points five times) or Benny Parsons (21 wins, 1973 champion) but is comparable or better than any driver that might get added to the ballot next year except for perhaps Ricky Rudd. So, yes, it’s likely that Baker gets elected in May.
Update: Fixed a typo in the post headline. I’ll let you guess what it was.