Fast Track to Fame has been one wild ride, to say the least. We received nearly 1,000 applications from extremely talented drivers from all over the country. But the votes have been cast, and the four finalists are in.
John Baker is one of our stellar finalists hailing from French Lick, Indiana. He wasn’t born into racing, but through hard work and determination he has made a name for himself. Keep reading to find out more about John and see if he has your vote!
At what age did you begin your racing career?
I started with go-karts when I was eight years old, but that only lasted a couple of years because my mom got scared. As soon as I became old enough, at the age of 13, we built a mini stock and I ran it for a couple of years. Then I moved up to the sportsman late models and have been running late models and modified ever since.
How did you feel when you received the call from Valvoline letting you know you were a finalist?
It was incredible. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders, I guess you could say. I was very anxious wondering how that situation was going to go, because I really didn’t expect much out of it. I didn’t expect to make it to the finals at all. There were a lot of good competitors and good people from the beginning. It was a relief and I was full of excitement.
When you’re not on the racetrack how are you spending your time?
Working. Trying to figure out how to pay for being on the racetrack. I usually put 70-75 hours in a week. I work for my dad’s automotive shop and I do machine work on the side to make racing money. So I pretty much just work. Though I like to shoot a little pool or go fishing every once in a while. I work to race. Racing is my thing. I don’t spend much money on anything else.
How has working as an ASE technician played a role in your racing career?
I don’t know if being a technician has played a role, but when I first decided to be a mechanic, I went to NASCAR Tech in North Carolina. I originally went there for the automotive side of it, not any of the racing stuff. While I was there, I scheduled the fabrication and the high performance classes that they had. That added to my drive because at that point it was the learning experience of being able to do the repairs instead of having to pay someone to do it. I couldn’t afford to do any of this if I didn’t do the repairs myself, and that’s really what led me to the upper classes where I am now.
What have been your biggest accomplishments as a racer?
I would have to say my favorite accomplishment was just being competitive when we went to Volusia for Speedweeks. I went to the Gateway Dirt Nationals this year, and I built a brand new car in 35 days. That is one of my best accomplishments. It took a massive amount of drive and determination to start with nothing and end up with a race-ready car in 35 days.
How did you guys manage getting that built in such a short time?
Lots and lots of three- or four-in-the-morning nights. My girlfriend, Kayla, helped when she could. My friend Cody lives in Kentucky and would come up on weekends, and we would work until four in the morning and then sleep a couple hours and start all over. Putting the time in was the most important part.
Do you have any role models or people who have inspired you along the way? How have they helped you in your career?
I have to put my dad as #1. He’s instilled the level of drive in me that it takes to do this. As a child, when everyone else was out throwing a baseball or horsing around with other kids, I was in the shop working on race cars.
If you win Fast Track to Fame, what are your plans for the prize?
Upgrading the equipment that I have. I’m on old equipment, though I’ve got a good chassis. I lost an engine about a month and a half ago in my late model, so I’m running an under-powered engine right now just to stay out there. I have to upgrade some stuff and make what I have more reliable. Failed breakdowns have been my downfall. I was actually leading at Brownstown Speedway Indiana when the engine let go. That was the first laps I’ve lead in a super late model, and to end it like that was very disappointing. Mechanical failures are definitely the nightmare because old equipment breaks…and I have old equipment.
What’s your experience working in the garage?
As far as general repairs go I’ve done everything from minor maintenance to oil changes and brakes, to the highest level of electrical diagnostics. Then in race cars I’ve come far enough that I actually have people reach out to me for help now. They want me to build bodies for their cars or help with chassis repairs, or even set up the chassis tuning for their suspension and such. That makes me proud to know that I’m making enough of a name for myself that people will reach out to me to help them.
Throughout your career, who have been your biggest fans and supporters?
My family has been my biggest fan and my biggest critic at the same time. There are a lot of people who have recently become fans because I’m doing well. And people are quick to jump on the wagon when you’re doing well. But the people who have stuck with me when I’m not doing well is my family, my girlfriend, and my close friends. As far as a large fan base, they come and go with your success.
What’s something you want your fans to know about you?
I would say the hard work and determination that I put in. If people know you're willing to put the effort in and that you’re not just riding along, I guess that’s a good thing for your fans to know. I don’t race for second place. You have to be determined and hard-working to race for a win. I think fans like to see someone who doesn’t just cruise along.
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