LOUISVILLE -- Four-time ARCA Racing Series winner Jesse Lee Baird, 87, passed away Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Jesse was born in Louisville, Kentucky May 24, 1930. He and his former wife, Margaret, raised six children. He also has 10 grandchildren (2 deceased) and 2 great-grandchildren. Not only did he take pride in his family, but also the auto parts business he started in 1959 - Baird's Auto Parts. The reins have since been passed to sons, Rusty and Randy and 2 grandsons, Travis and Branden. Jesse was an avid boater his entire life and loved being on the river.
Jesse won 3 national ARCA races at Fairgrounds Speedway in Louisville, the first of which was on May 27, 1962. He also won at Fairgrounds Speedway June 1, 1963 and August 18, 1963, a 500-lap main event. His final and fourth national ARCA win was on the dirt at West Virginia Motor Speedway October 4, 1964, another 500 lapper. His racing career began in a Sprint car owned by Jimmy Fenn. In 1948 he drove his own car (an older Chevy Coup) at the Sportsdrome, and was approached by Harry Hyde and drove several of his cars there.
"Thundermug" became one of Jesse's favorites. It was unique in the way Hyde designed it and Jesse won his first 500 lap race in that car. The "Kopper Kat" followed and Jesse won his second 500 lap race at the Sportsdrome in September of 1957. The car was owned by Bill Clary. The Fairgrounds Speedway produced two more 500 lap wins. In 1963 (ARCA race) in a Hyde owned Pontiac, and in 1969 in a car owned by Jesse with Kenny Zoeller as mechanic (9th Annual International 500). The West Virginia Huntington 500 (ARCA race) became his fifth 500 win in 1964. The car was a Hyde-owned 64 Pontiac and Jesse led 303 laps in that race. He was the Late Model Division Champion at Fairgrounds Speedway in 1963 and 1969 and he was voted The Fans Most Popular Driver in 1988. Jesse was inducted into the Kentucky Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2011.
He is preceded in death is his daughter; Sandy Tolle and 2 grandchildren, Josh and Zach Baird; and former wife, Margaret.
Left to cherish Jesse's memory is his loving wife of 26 years, Carol Baird; his children, Sherry Heil (Tom), Becky Murphy (Pat), Rusty Baird (Diane), Randy Baird (Kelli), Jenny Perkins; 10 grandchildren; and 2 great-grandchildren.
The Funeral Service will be Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 12 p.m. at Evergreen Funeral Home. Visitation will be Friday from 1 - 8 p.m. at the funeral home.
A special thank you to the staff at Norton Brownsboro Hospital for their excellent care.
Memorial contributions in Jesse's memory may be made to Parkinson's Foundation.
Please visit www.Evergreen-Louisville.com to share memories and condolences with Jesse's family.
Credits to The Courier-Journal