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Buddy Baker Pilots Hemi-powered Dodge Charger Daytona to 200 MPH Record!

From Cotton Owens Garage Press Archives

March 24, 1970



From the book "Flat Out and Half Turned Over - Tales From Pit Road with Buddy Baker" - Chapter 12, "The 200 mph Man": "Dodge picked me to run the first official 200 mph lap at Talladega. We had all run 200 mph before, but not officially. When they did pick me to be the one, there was a lot of bellyaching from the rest of the guys driving Dodges. We got a lot of press. It wasn't a big deal for me back then, but it became a big part of my life."



From: Cotton Owens Garage
7065 White Ave.
Spartanburg, S.C.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
24th March, 1970

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- There's a magic barrier in all sports: the 4 minute mile in track, the 60 home runs in baseball, and the 200 mile lap in auto racing.

In 1954 Roger Bannister broke the record for the mile by turning in a 3 minute 59.4 record run. Since then 6 other people have cracked that magic barrier, but the name of Bannister still stands in the record books as the man who did it first.

In 1961 Roger Maris hit 61 home runs eclipsing the record of 60 homers established by Babe Ruth in 1927. Maris now holds the record, but oldsters will always remind us that Babe Ruth got his runs in fewer games.

In auto racing, as in track, the distance and challenge never change. The qualifying record at Indianapolis is 171.953 miles per hour for the sleek, specially-built championship race cars.

But the magic goal has always been to run a 200 mph lap on a closed course. Drivers have been tantalizingly close. Last year Charlie Glotzbach moved the record up to 199.446 in a qualifying run at the then new Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega, Alabama.

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Charlie's car was the new Dodge Charger Daytona, probably the most aerodynamic stock car ever built. It featured a low, pointed nose and had a high safety stabilizer mounted on the rear.

It was quickly nicknamed "the winged thing".....and when Charlie won the pole, it became "the good winged thing". The stage was set. This is where the magic barrier would probably be broken. The 2.66 mile tri-oval track with its 33-degree banking showed promise of a great future.

On March 24th Buddy Baker was at Talladega for a series of engineering tests on transmission durability. He drove test car #88, and it seemed possible that this all-out driver might break the 200 mile barrier. If he did he'd make history, but that history would always be subject to question unless the timing was official.

The rain out of the Atlanta race forced postponement of three other NASCAR Grand National races this week, and the officials were available. Chief NASCAR Timer and Scorer Joe Epton brought his timing equipment to Talladega....just in case.

The odds weren't good. Like the song says: "When it's a rainy night in Georgia, it seems like it's raining all over the world". Last week more than 10 inches of rain fell on Alabama. On Monday it rained some more. On Tuesday morning there was another thunderstorm. The track was not only wet, but any rubber which had been embedded in the track was washed away. A washed down track is traditionally slower.

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But the skies cleared, the sun came out and patches in the track started drying out. But it took a full dry track for tests such as these. Noontime came and went, and by mid afternoon the track looked fit. Epton and his observers and the clocks were in position.

First runs were good for testing, but looked bad on the clocks. The speeds started at 194 and then moved up to 198.5 as Baker "looked for the groove" and the pit crew kept adjusting to get the right chassis set-up.

Buddy Baker, 29, the 6'5" son of one of stock cars most colorful drivers, was ready and relaxed. He'd shot skeet the afternoon before and expected to go fishing later in the day. He loves the outdoors and this was a holiday.

On the 30th lap, Joe Epton let out a whoop. The time was 47.857 and the speed was 200.096. Buddy and his Dodge Charger Daytona had done it. The barrier was broken and they flagged Buddy in to tell him the good news. His name would now go into the world record books as the first driver to break the magic 200 mile per hour lap barrier.

The crew, the engineers, officials and Goodyear Tire crew went wild. History had been made, and they were all part of the scene. A stock car racer -- their kind of racer -- had done it.

But after a few minutes of celebration, things returned to normal.

The engineers took over. The test was to go on. Buddy said: "you better keep watching, maybe I'll do it again."

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Engineer Larry Rathgeb reminded Buddy that he was here for a test, not a race. "Just get out there and give us some good, hard steady laps and forget about racing. You've already got your record, so now help me get my test done. Then we'll all go fishing."

Buddy climbed back into the car and started methodically circling the track in "his groove". Joe Epton and his crew of observers kept watching the clocks. It was obvious that Baker was still deadly serious about running hard on every lap.

The numbers on the clocks flicked away. All laps were close at 200 miles and two more were over. One was at 200.330 and a lap time of 47.807. Another was 200.447 and 47.773 seconds.

Not only had the 200 mile mark been broken, but Buddy had bettered on three separate occasions. Now he settled down and ran steadily. That was his job. Today he was a test driver, not a racer.

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