Out on the course, Baker had the run of his life. "It was an extremely bumpy, narrow two-lane road, and the bounce at 200 mph was something. We went up and down hills and through a canyon where the stone walls went straight up." On the 90-mile course from Hiko to Lund, he averaged 181 mph, crossing the finish line at 201 mph to take the win. Baker would go on to enter several other open-road events in Nevada, winning two more.
The Latest Chapter
In 1997, Baker married his wife, Patricia, who urged him to take on yet another racing challenge: NASCAR. "Kim is such an enormous talent in this sport, I couldn't see him retiring at such a young age," Patricia says. "I suggested that he race in the regional NASCAR Bush series, and, to no one's surprise, he proved himself a winner in stock-car racing." In just a handful of starts with a small team with no prior NASCAR experience, Baker had numerous top three finishes and a win at Watkins Glen International.
"That win was monumental," Patricia says. "Kim was racing against Cup and Busch racers and beat them all. One of our crewmembers was a gymnast, and when Kim won the race he did backflips down pit lane. That was captured by the ESPN cameras and was broadcast on ESPN and local news stations nationally. That was a terrific win for Kim and all his sponsors. The ultimate success of Kim in that one race illustrates perfectly the power of motorsports marketing."
Patricia's successful career in marketing and public relations, and Kim's understanding of all aspects of motorsports, allow the Bakers to offer a unique service: working with corporations that want to create a motorsports marketing presence. The Big Picture Agency LLC works closely with corporate representatives to ensure that every dollar they spend in motorsports comes back to them multiplied. Kim provides the additional services of team and driver evaluation for corporations who are already team sponsors, and Patricia lends her marketing expertise to design programs that create better branding and increase sales.
One of Big Picture's clients, Panasonic, works closely with the Bakers to ensure a positive return on investment from all things motorsports related. Susie Ogihara, a director in Panasonic's North American office, approached the Bakers last year to help the company make the jump into the world of NASCAR.
"We ran two hospitality events at the California [now AutoClub] Speedway during the Sprint Cup events this year," Ogihara says. "Not only did our partner, Warner Brothers, and our guests have a fabulous time, we were inundated with sales requests from other major corporations. At the outset we knew very little about the sport, but [with] NASCAR being so family centered and so exciting, it was a big hit with everyone."
Kim attended both events as the company's race consultant and motorsports expert, leading all the Panasonic and WB execs on tours through pit lane, the garages, and even to the Cup racers' RVs for personal introductions. Along the way, he explained the role of tire pressure, what "loose" and "tight" mean in racing parlance, the basics of car engineering, and numerous other aspects of the motorsports business.
It's obvious that Kim Baker's love of the sport is contagious, a trait that's sure to serve him well in this latest chapter of his long and storied career. Still, as my time with this legendary figure in Corvette motorsports comes to an end, the inevitable question arises: "Will you race again?"
"Yes," he answers without hesitation.