In celebration of historic accomplishments by the famous winged cars at Talladega Superspeedway 45 years ago, the track will host more than 75 of the special edition vehicles during the “Aero Warrior Reunion” parade laps around the 2.66-mile mammoth track prior to the start of the CampingWorld.com 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this Sunday, Oct. 25.
Prior to Sunday's CampingWorld.com 500, two parade laps will be run as a tribute to the late Buddy Baker, who became the first driver in history to eclipse the 200-mph barrier on a closed course circuit at Talladega on March 24, 1970, driving the No. 88 Dodge Charger Daytona. In addition, the Aero Warrior Reunion at Talladega will be an acknowledgment of Pete Hamilton’s sweep of both 1970 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, piloting the No. 40 Plymouth Superbird for Petty Enterprises.
Designed specifically for NASCAR racing, the winged car had a smoothed-out body, a sleek, front nosecone and an iconic rear aluminum wing, mounted on tall vertical struts. This wing towered above all other production spoilers, allowing the cars to be superior aerodynamically. Richard Brickhouse actually won the first NASCAR race at Talladega in 1969, piloting a winged Dodge Daytona.
The Aero Warrior’s Reunion consists of street-legal vehicles, as well as a collection of winged stock cars that competed at Talladega. The stock cars scheduled to be at Talladega include the 1970 No. 71 Dodge driven by NASCAR and International Motorsports Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac, the famed No. 43 Superbird driven by NASCAR’s “King,” Richard Petty and the No. 7 Superbird of Ramo Stott, who swept both ARCA races at Talladega in 1970. Other significant race cars are also expected.
Before heading to Talladega, the Aero Warrior’s Reunion will begin on Friday at the Wellborn Musclecar Museum, owned by car enthusiasts’ Tim and Pam Wellborn, in Alexander City, AL. The fun-filled day will feature some of the most legendary names in Aero Warrior history.
On Sunday, the attention will be on Baker, who passed away in August at the age of 74. Each car in the parade laps will sport a special Buddy Baker sticker affixed to the windshield, honoring the man known as “Lead Foot”. Baker’s monumental official record speed of 200.447 mph in 1974 made him a legend, something that he was especially proud of in his career.
“We had the winged cars and the big question was who could get to 200 mph first,” remembered Baker, an International Motorsports Hall of Famer. “Dodge called and asked me if I was interested in going to Talladega to try to accomplish it and I said ‘you bet.’ Bill France (builder of Talladega Superspeedway and President of NASCAR) was there also. I think it was the third lap around the track where we hit 200.447 mph.”
“I came in and said ‘let’s dial this thing up, really set the timing on up, and set a record they will remember.’ The crew said ‘no because the next big criteria would be 300 mph.’ I said ‘put it back on the truck.’ It is one of those records no one can take away from you.”
While he didn’t win in 1970 in a winged car (finished 12th and fifth at TSS), Baker won four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at NASCAR’s biggest and baddest track. He became the first driver in history to win three consecutive events at Talladega, sweeping both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 1975 and the spring event in 1976. He topped it off with an impressive triumph in 1980, driving his infamous No. 28 “Gray Ghost” paint scheme.
Talladega’s weekend kicks off on Friday, Oct. 23 with practice sessions for both the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola and the Camping World.com 500. Saturday’s slate includes Foodland/Food Giant qualifying for the NSCS, as well as qualifying for NCWTS. The high-noon green flag for the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race will be followed in the evening by Talladega’s traditional infield concert, featuring award-winning Mercury Nashville recording artist Easton Corbin. Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 gets the green flag at 1:30 p.m. CDT.