The Sandy Grady column of Saturday, July 15, 1950: A ride with Buck Baker


All I can say is, any red-blooded American boy with a lust for the adventurous life would have done it. It’s these sportswriters with tomato soup drippling thru their veins that don’t care for it.

I refer to a 90-miles-per-hour whirlwind around the Fairgrounds track in a rattling stock car with an unpredictable citizen like Buck Baker at the wheel.

As the brew ads in the magazines say: “I was curious. I tried it. I liked it.”…except you do some rewriting on that last phrase. Curiosity is something you read about in journalism books, but it is known to be quite fatal to cats and dangerous to the health of inquiring reporters.

Or perhaps you have a Super Dynamic Clutchless Wonder in your garage. You think it has some pretty fancy speeds in it. You’ve watched these cigar-smoking heroes get rich steering a stock car for a few laps and think it a crime to the economic system to let them snatch all that easy money. You think anyone who has driven thru the five-o’clock traffic on Fourth Street would have a cinch on a racetrack.

Unless you own the fatalistic attitude of a Sioux warrior and the nerves of a high-trapeze artist, you would lose such delusions quickly in the cockpit of one of Bill France’s coupes. For home research, climb into the family washing machine, rev it up to top speed, have someone pour dust and gas fumes and oil smoke over you and roll the thing down three flights of stairs. Or go over Niagara Falls in a square barrel. Or forget the whole thing.



Because – for most denizens who ride a fast-moving stock car for the first time – there is only one constant emotion: He wants out of the thing, and with as much dispatch as possible.

This agent feels confident of the above information because of some bruising research on the floor of one of these gasoline gallopers.

The quest for empirical knowledge began over a soggy egg earlier this week. You ask Buck Baker how it feels to jockey a stock car and he says come on out to the Fairgrounds and I’ll show you, and what can you say, being a loyal reader of Fearless Fosdick and wearing your club badge for the world to see.

A question like this lands you on the Fairgrounds track watching with great buckets of misgivings as Baker and his burly mechanic, Ike Kiser, unhitch a beat-up coupe from Baker’s cream convertible. The coupe looks as though is has been massaged by a fast-moving locomotive: the mud of several wild rides is flecked over its gaudy sides. One of the knot of onlookers which has gathered ominously at the trackside remarks: “Fastest car on the East coast. I mean that’s a really hot Ford.”

Baker snaps a safety belt, jostles a few switches on the dashboard, bends an ear down as he listens to the motor go pocketa-pocketa-pocketa, and pronounces all in readiness. “I’ll feel out the track first,” he says.

The exhaust roars and the coupe chugs around the track, building up speed until it hits the turn in a cloud of dust. Another car which is warming up on the oval, pulls into the sidelines with commendable common sense. The reporter watches Baker blast into the turns with the enthusiasm of a man trying to destroy himself, and he reminds himself to stick his fist in his mouth the next time an idea like this comes along. Crude remarks such as “Hey, boy, you trying to dodge the draft by getting kilt?” and “You got your insurance paid up?” float from the stands.

They make you sign a release saying you won’t sue if you happen to leave this mortal sphere in Baker’s chariot, and that doesn’t look too good, and Kiser hands you a big business-like helmet. “In case you roll,” he explains, grinning. The helmet folds your ears back like the top of a Wheaties box and it sinks your little pointed head into your shoulders.

And off Sandy Grady went…

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