Buddy Baker, who won the 1980 Daytona 500, is 6-foot-6, a big guy. He talks about the time he and Tiny Lund took turns sending each other into the wall. Baker took more turns. After the race, Tiny came walking toward Baker. Thing about Tiny is he wasn’t. He was 6-5.
"He weighed 285 pounds and looked 9-feet tall," Baker says Friday. "Here comes this mountain. Dust was coming from both sides of his feet."
Baker looked down and found a conveniently placed axe handle. He thought about picking it up. He thought about Lund picking his teeth with it.
"I wimped out pretty quick," says Baker.
Tiny reached out and put Baker in a headlock and with his free hand rubbed the top of Baker’s head so hard Baker thought the hair would fall off.
"I didn’t care if I’m bald," says Baker. "If he’s doing that, he’s not hitting me."
If a young journalist asked me for advice I would say this – before you do a one-on-one or group interview, turn off your cell phone. And if for some reason you have to have it on, then turn it to vibrate.
Twice during a group interview Friday, a reporter’s phone loudly blasted a bad song. Since neither guy was young, I’d offer the same cell phone advice to an old journalist.
The unlikeliest of Daytona 500 winners is Derrike Cope, who won in 1990 when the race leader suffered a cut tire on the last lap. The leader was Dale Earnhardt. So Cope won the race six years before Earnhardt did.
Cope said Friday that he really thought, going in, he had a chance to take the race. His town didn’t. His family was watching the race in Seattle, but the local network preempted the 500 for the Seattle Supersonics NBA game. So the Copes headed south to a hotel where they saw their son win one of the greatest upsets in Daytona history.