Buddy Baker was the son of Buck Baker (1919–2002), a two–time winner of the NASCAR Championship and a Hall of Fame member. Baker began his NASCAR career in 1959. In 1970, he became the first driver to ever exceed 200mph (320kph) on a closed course. The same year, with a victory at the Southern 500, he became the first NASCAR driver to win the same race at the same venue as his father. (Buck did it in 1953.)
During his career, Baker won nineteen races including the 1980 Daytona 500, NASCAR's most prestigious race. His victory remains the fastest Daytona 500 ever run, with an average speed of 177.602mph (285.809kph).
Baker is one of eight drivers to have won a Career Grand Slam, by winning the sport's four majors (Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, and Darlington); Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson are the other seven to have accomplished the feat.
He generally raced part-time, competing in every race in only three seasons. He owned a car with Danny Schiff from 1985 to 1989, and was instrumental in the career of Jimmy Spencer. He competed in two International Race of Champions series. His final race in NASCAR was in 1992.
From 1991 until 2000, he became a television commentator on The Nashville Network and later (1994-2000) races produced by their World Sports Enterprises division, including CBS races.
Baker resigned effective immediately on July 7, 2015 due to inoperable lung cancer, stating "Do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name". He died on August 10, 2015 at his home in Catawba County, North Carolina. During the August 2015 race weekend at Michigan International Speedway, all three NASCAR series honored Baker by placing stickers on their cars side to remember the legacy that Baker had left behind.
- Buddy Baker appears in the 1968 Elvis Presley movie, Speedway.
- He also serves as a spotter for Travis Kvapil abd other Penske drivers.
- He was a mentor of Ryan Newman.
- Rumors abound that he used to "wife swap" with David Pearson.
In 1997, Buddy Baker joined his father as an inductee in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama. He was inducted into the Charlotte Motor Speedway Court of Legends in 1995, and into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame inductee in 1997. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
Buddy had run the Buck Baker Racing School with his brother.