Is This Driver's Bad Luck Taking Much-needed Turn?


Mount Airy's Billbaker Steering Toward Better Days

September 29, 1991|By Stanley C. Dillion

The old cliche, "If I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luckat at all," fits Bill Baker of Mount Airy to a "T."

Until last week, the second-year driver has had his share of misfortune. It seemedhe was always at the wrong place at the wrong time.

When other drivers lost control of their cars in the turns, it was Baker they ran into. Big pile-ups would seem to find Baker, throughno fault of his own.

Baker is running his second car. He totaled one during his first season at Trail-Way Speedway, and Tom Blanton ofSykesville Auto Parts gave him a car to finish the year.

On a special Labor Day show at Lincoln several weeks ago, Baker ended up in the middle of yet another large pile-up that almost totaled his car. Most of the front frame rail had to be replaced.

The first time outthe following week, his wheel broke off.

Such is life on the track for Baker in his second year of driving in the thundercar division at the Lincoln Speedway and the eight cylinder division at Trail-Way,both in Hanover, Pa.

As the 1991 season draws to a close, Baker'scar no longer resembles a 1978 Chevelle Malibu. It looks more like ajalopy that raced in the 1950s.

Keeping the car going has been Baker's primary goal; the body work will come later.

In addition to his misfortune on the track, Baker has had his share of mechanical problems.

"All the old parts are beginning to wear out," said Jim Baker, Bill's brother. Jim has helped his brother whenever he can and someday hopes to have his own car.

"I want to drive someday, but there's a lot of money involved," said Jim, also of Mount Airy. "As long as Bill is in it, I'll probably help him. One day, I hope that we can make a team of it."

Bill Baker hasn't had much luck with his motors this year either -- but what else would you expect?

"We are on our fourth motor," said Bill, acknowledging that many drivers are able to get through a season with one. "My cousin built one, then my brother gave me one and this one Mark Pickett built."

All of his motors have been stock 350-cubic-inch Chevrolets.

But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Last Saturday night -- even with a full moon -- Baker jumped to an early lead where no one could clip him, and raced to his first heat win. Then, in the feature, Baker ran a strong race to finish fifth, his best of the year.

This could be what the young driver needs to get all the bad luck behind him. Propably no other area driver has had as much determination to overcome so much racing adversity.

The 26-year-old is a newcomer to racing. He had never been to a race until he started helping Bill Brown with his eight-cylinder car.

Baker might still be a crew member if Brown hadn't let him drive. One race and Baker decided he had to havea car of his own.

Like most drivers with limited financial resources, Baker started in the entry class at the two speedways. It has turned out to be much different than he expected.

"It looks easy, but it is a lot harder than I expected," said Baker, repeating what so many rookie drivers say. "Getting the turns down right has been the hardest."

Baker admits he still has butterflies before each race.

"I am scared every time I go out there," he said. "But when the green flag drops, I forget it all."

Bob White of Mount Airy has been a big supporter of Baker's racing efforts. He is building a garage towork on the car over the winter.

Baker's wife Lisa and their son Bill Jr. attend every race and she has the talent to do mechanical work on the car; two weeks ago, she helped install a new transmission.

Northwest Radiators in Reisterstown, Baltimore County, and Sykesville Auto Parts are Baker's major sponsors.

During the week, he works as a carpenter for Biden Builders in Mount Airy.

Baker has not had much time to look beyond next year, but says he is hooked on racing and plans on a new body for his car.

Baker is looking forward to winning his first feature. Until recently, that looked like just a distant dream. Coming off last week's performance though, it could just be around the corner.

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