ROSEVILLE, Calif. — By Jason Christley, NASCAR — Photo courtesy of Dave Smith — It started with chance encounter and a conversation on a plane ride.
The result is former Major League manager Dusty Baker’s name on the hood of Dave Smith’s No. 38 NASCAR K&N Pro Series car for Saturday night’s race at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. And with Baker planning to attend his first NASCAR event – the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150.
In retrospect, it was an easy sell.
Since Baker has retired, he’s been heavily involved in alternative energy solutions. His company, the Baker Energy Team, is a subsidiary of JLM Energy, which is dedicated to the idea of energy generation and conservation. Baker’s own house in northern California is completely energy self-sufficient.
“NASCAR is trying to lessen the carbon footprint and be more energy efficient,” said Baker. “There’s a spot and place in racing that could use alternative energy and this is perfect timing for all the parties concerned.”
Smith, a race driving instructor from Novato, Calif., has run a handful of NASCAR K&N Pro West events over the last five years. Prior to his start at Sonoma Raceway earlier this year, he happened to be on the same connecting plane from Dallas to Sacramento and seated next two Baker.
The two got to talking about their projects – Smith’s racing and Baker’s company.
“The number one thing we’re all trying to do in racing is be more green,” Smith said. “This is a huge promising endeavor, especially the connections we can mold through racing. Sometimes these things align with a little bit of luck.”
Baker’s company was first on the car for the Sonoma race.
“He was really thrilled with the logos on the car and that’s when it became very apparent there was something valuable here,” Smith said. “And here we are today.”
Baker is a native Riverside, California; his family moved to northern California and he went to high school in the Sacramento area. He played in the Majors for 19 years, and then managed for another 20. Since retiring, he’s moved back to northern California.
Farid Dibachi started JLM, and he and Baker’s son went to school together. After retiring from baseball, Baker bought a dealership through JLM and subsequently started his own team with guys he went to school with.
“I’m sold on it because I’m living on it every day,” Baker said. “I haven’t had an energy bill in 7-8 years. I’m very conscious on the world we’re leaving for our kids.”
While Baker said he’s never been to a NASCAR race, he could hear the cars from his house from nearby the old Riverside International Raceway. He’s always been interested in cars and was nearly the Grand Marshal for the race at Sonoma earlier this year but had to back out when it conflicted with his son’s baseball tournament he was attending.
“I was always curious about auto racing,” said Baker, adding that the underdog appeal of backing Smith was a natural fit. “I was a low-round draft choice, I was a long-shot guy. He seemed like he was the underdog long shot guy and we hit it off.
“He was so passionate about racing. And I’m always for the local to do well.”