Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

He was known as the “gentle giant” due to his 6 foot 6 stature and his easy going demeanor. He was also known as “leadfoot” due to his aggressive driving style, often coming into victory circle with no brakes left in the race car. Buddy Baker, son of NASCAR Hall Of Fame Inductee Buck Baker, passed away on Monday morning at the age of 74. It was inoperable cancer in his lungs. Buddy was honored in 1998 as one of the 50 Greatest Drivers. Baker won 19 races, took home 30 pole awards, including winning the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, The Coca Cola 600 in 1968, ’72 and ’73, and went to victory circle at Daytona in 1980.

Buddy started his sprint cup career in 1959 and ran his final race in 1992. He was born Elzie Wylie Baker Jr, and was often teased in the garage area about his first name. NASCAR driver and co-hall of fame nominee Cale Yarbrough often ribbed him about the name, until Baker got irate. They had an on again/off again fued, both at the track and elsewhere.

The King Remembers a Giant

Richard Petty, The King of Motorsports, issued a statement on the passing of Buddy Baker to the NASCAR fans:

“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. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Baker family at this time.”

Beaming with Pride

Buddy won the September 1979 race at Martinsville Speedway, picking up his very first grandfather clock trophy. He was beaming when he won that clock, according to Fox Sport analyst Jeff Hammond.

“I still remember seeing all six-foot, six-inches of Buddy Baker get out of his car and it hit him that he finally was the proud owner of one of Martinsville's famous Grandfather clocks that he was beside himself. Here was a guy that won the Daytona 500, won at Talladega and the World 600 at Charlotte, and here he was with his first Martinsville clock. I honestly don't ever remember seeing him so happy and proud of himself. I swear he talked about winning at Martinsville for the next month.”

Ledgends of Today and Yesteryear

NASCAR drivers both former and current took to social media today paying their respects to Buddy Baker. Here are the tweets today from the Twitter Universe:

Good Morning America, twitterville, race fans, sad day for the racing community, #buddybaker has gone to be with the Lord, RIP #GentleGiant – Darrell Waltrip, Fox Sports