Home » NASCAR - Nationwide Series

Woody: Baker Says Racing Climate Is ‘Brutal”

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 22 2010
The sponsorship for the Baker Curb car left the Nationwide Series after the 2009 season and team owner Gary Baker says more sponsors will be leaving.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

The sponsorship for the Baker Curb car left the Nationwide Series after the 2009 season and team owner Gary Baker fears more sponsors will be leaving. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Nashville – Gary Baker has had experience hitting hard walls.

During his driving days he once cracked the concrete at Talladega at over 200 mph.

Now Baker, speaking as a team owner, says stock car racing has hit an equally hard economic wall. He’s not sure when – or if – it will recover from the jolt.

“I’ve been involved in this sport for 40 years as a driver, track owner, marketing official and team owner,” says Baker, a Nashville attorney and co-owner of Baker Curb Racing. “It’s worse than bad. It’s brutal.”

Baker lost long-term sponsor Kimberly Clark at the end of last season along with veteran driver Jason Keller. He has signed Greg Biffle to drive a partial schedule in the Nationwide Series and is unsure about the remainder of the season.

Baker and other Nationwide team owners are struggling to survive in NASCAR’s second-tier series that is being smothered by Sprint Cup interlopers.

Cup drivers win all the championships and most of the races. They drain off the prize money and leave Nationwide regulars scratching for crumbs and leftovers. But Baker – who himself hired a Cupper for part-time duty – explained that sponsors like the idea of star drivers like Biffle in their cars. Nowadays what sponsors want, sponsors get.

NASCAR continues to twiddle its thumbs while the series collapses before its eyes.

“Anyone can see what the problems are,” says Baker who for years has lobbied to limit Cup-driver participation in Nationwide races. “You bet it’s frustrating.”

The presence of Cup stars boosts Nationwide media coverage and TV rating and helps sell tickets. But to what avail if it eventually kills the series?

Teams like Baker’s are hanging on by their fingernails, struggling to run part-time schedules with dwindling resources.

Baker has seen hard racing times in the past; he owned Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway during its glory years but saw the track’s fate sealed when the city let its two Cup races get away in 1984. He has landed sponsors and lost sponsors. He has worked tirelessly to help son Brad get his racing career off the ground.

He knows that frustration and setbacks are part of the sport, but he’s never seen a climate as grim as the current one.

So why does he press on, spending millions in hopes of finishing 10th on a good day?

“I’ve always been an optimist,” Baker says. “I got it from my dad who taught me to look on the bright side of things. I don’t see much sunshine right now but I’m not ready to give up. There’s always tomorrow.”

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 22 2010
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • A Bradley says:

    I also have to complain that more was not done to keep Jason Keller in the 27 car. Jason did a hell of a job last year with a car that was shall I say lacking in R & D. I used to enjoy watching and supporting the 2nd tier Busch or Nationwide, those days are over now. Team owners, if you can not be loyal to your drivers, then don’t expect the fans to be loyal to you.

  • patricia vetter says:

    i agree that nascar twiddles there thumbs they only want cup drivers i am sorry you lost kimberly clark as a sponsor and jason keller as a driver i have always been a fan of jason keller i cant understand why they want cup drivers because every race it was either carl edwards or kyle busch that was going to win it is getting boring i have quit watching the race because i know that the ones that are going to win is a cup driver i think the nationwide team owners should defend thereselves and dont let the cup drivers run over you they have a lot of money and can afford better cars but that is not fair to the nationwide drivers i mean the true nationwide drivers nascar we want our nationwide series back.

  • GARY VETTER says:

    MY SENTIMENTS EXACTLY. I THINK NASCAR HAS RUINED THE SECONDARY SERIES,(NATIONWIDE). JASON KELLER IS MY FAVORITE DRIVER, AND ITS A SHAME TO SEE HIM BOOTED OUT BECAUSE SPONSORS WANT CUP DRIVERS TO REPRESENT THIER PRODUCTS. SINCERLY GW VETTER