200 MPH Record Run
Ken R. Noffsinger
PAGE UPDATE: Video highlights of the run are now available here. Jim McKay of ABC's Wide World of Sports
narrates. Thanks to Pedro in Brazil for making this rare video available!
On March 24, 1970, Buddy Baker guided the Chrysler Engineering #88 Dodge
Daytona to a closed course speed record of 200.447 MPH, becoming the first
stock car driver to officially exceed the magic 200 MPH mark. The
present owner of #88, Greg Kwiatkowski,
has made several photos available (some never before seen) of this historic
event. In addition, Greg has provided Chrysler's press release about this
record breaking effort.
Click on a photo to view the full size version.
Buddy Baker at Alabama International Motor Speedway during the afternoon hours
of Tuesday, March 24, 1970. Lap 30 was the first time that Baker actually broke
the 200 MPH barrier. Lap 34 was the fastest of the day, netting Buddy the 200.447
MPH record mark.
In the pits at Talladega, Alabama. At top right, the Chrysler Special Vehicles
Group's Larry Rathgeb and driver Buddy Baker review data about the Daytona's
performance. The bottom right photo finds Chrysler Engineering mechanics Fred
Schrandt (left) and the late Larry Knowlton (right) working on the 426 Hemi.
These two photos accompanied the press release text found below.
From: Cotton Owens Garage
7065 White Ave.
Spartanburg, S. C.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- There's a magic barrier in all sports:
the 4 minute mile in track, the 60 home runs in baseball, and the
200 mile lap in auto racing.
In 1954 Roger Bannister broke the record for the mile by
turning in a 3 minute 59.4 record run. Since then 6 other people
have cracked that magic barrier, but the name of Bannister still
stands in the record books as the man who did it first.
In 1961 Roger Maris hit 61 home runs eclipsing the record of
60 homers established by Babe Ruth in 1927. Maris now holds the
record, but oldsters will always remind us that Babe Ruth got his
runs in fewer games.
In auto racing, as in track, the distance and challenge never
change. The qualifying record at Indianapolis is 171.953 miles per
hour for the sleek, specially-built championship race cars.
But the magic goal has always been to run a 200 mph lap on a
closed course. Drivers have been tantalizingly close. Last year
Charlie Glotzbach moved the record up to 199.446 in a qualifying run
at the then new Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega,
- more -
- 2 -
Charlie's car was the new Dodge Charger Daytona, probably
the most aerodynamic stock car ever built. It featured a low,
pointed nose and had a high safety stabilizer mounted on the rear.
It was quickly nicknamed "the winged thing".....and when Charlie
won the pole, it became "the good winged thing".
The stage was set. This is where the magic barrier would
probably be broken. The 2.66 mile tri-oval track with its 33-degree
banking showed promise of a great future.
On March 24th Buddy Baker was at Talladega for a series of
engineering tests on transmission durability. He drove test car #88,
and it seemed possible that this all-out driver might break the 200
mile barrier. If he did he'd make history, but that history would
always be subject to question unless the timing was official.
The rain out of the Atlanta race forced postponement of three
other NASCAR Grand National races this week, and the officials were
available. Chief NASCAR Timer and Scorer Joe Epton brought his
timing equipment to Talladega....just in case.
The odds weren't good. Like the song says: "When it's a rainy
night in Georgia, it seems like it's raining all over the world".
Last week more than 10 inches of rain fell on Alabama. On Monday it
rained some more. On Tuesday morning there was another thunderstorm.
The track was not only wet, but any rubber which had been embedded
in the track was washed away. A washed down track is traditionally
- more -
- 3 -
But the skies cleared, the sun came out and patches in the
track started drying out. But it took a full dry track for tests
such as these. Noontime came and went, and by mid afternoon the
track looked fit. Epton and his observers and the clocks were in
First runs were good for testing, but looked bad on the
clocks. The speeds started at 194 and then moved up to 198.5 as
Baker "looked for the groove" and the pit crew kept adjusting to
get the right chassis set-up.
Buddy Baker, 29, the 6'5" son of one of stock cars most
colorful drivers, was ready and relaxed. He'd shot skeet the
afternoon before and expected to go fishing later in the day. He
loves the outdoors and this was a holiday.
On the 30th lap, Joe Epton let out a whoop. The time was
47.857 and the speed was 200.096. Buddy and his Dodge Charger
Daytona had done it. The barrier was broken and they flagged Buddy
in to tell him the good news. His name would now go into the world
record books as the first driver to break the magic 200 mile per hour
The crew, the engineers, officials and Goodyear Tire crew
went wild. History had been made, and they were all part of the
scene. A stock car racer -- their kind of racer -- had done it.
But after a few minutes of celebration, things returned to normal.
The engineers took over. The test was to go on. Buddy said: "you
better keep watching, maybe I'll do it again."
- more -
- 4 -
Engineer Larry Rathgeb reminded Buddy that he was here
for a test, not a race. "Just get out there and give us some
good, hard steady laps and forget about racing. You've already
got your record, so now help me get my test done. Then we'll
all go fishing."
Buddy climbed back into the car and started methodically
circling the track in "his groove". Joe Epton and his crew of
observers kept watching the clocks. It was obvious that Baker
was still deadly serious about running hard on every lap.
The numbers on the clocks flicked away. All laps were
close at 200 miles and two more were over. One was at 200.330
and a lap time of 47.807. Another was 200.447 and 47.773 seconds.
Not only had the 200 mile mark been broken, but Buddy had
bettered on three separate occasions. Now he settled down and ran
steadily. That was his job. Today he was a test driver, not a
# # #
PAGE UPDATE: The above press release incorrectly gives credit for the
200 MPH Dodge Daytona's preparation and performance to the Cotton Owens Garage. Below is the text
of a presentation that Larry Rathgeb gave to the Daytona Superbird Auto Club in
1994. In fact, Larry and a Chrysler crew from Huntsville were responsible for the car's preparation and
performance - Larry sets the record straight here. The Owens press release was
found between pages 2 and 7 of the Rathgeb presentation below, and was eliminated for the
sake of brevity.