Against a backdrop of team downsizing, sponsorship pullouts and economic doom and gloom, this would appear to be the WORST time to start a new NASCAR Sprint Cup team. At first glance, you would think Tommy Baldwin would know better. He most recently worked for Bill Davis, whose departure from NASCAR has been one of the surer signs of difficult times. Is he crazy?
Or is Baldwin crazy like a fox?
The man knows his NASCAR. The New York native broke in with Bill Davis during the owner’s better days back in 1998. Baldwin cut his teeth on motor sports at the side of dad Tommy Sr.- so he’s no Johnny-come-lately.
The 42-year old has tasted success.It was Baldwin sitting atop the pit box when Ward Burton won the 2002 Daytona 500. He also played a role in launching the career of Kasey Kahne at NASCAR’s top level in 2004 at Evernham Racing- with Kahne capturing Rookie Of The Year honors. Baldwin’s resume also includes a stop at the venerable Yates organization before returning to BDR to work with NASCAR journeyman Dave Blaney.
Here’s another argument Baldwin has for jumping in with single car team…low overhead. It’s not just the economy that has hurt veteran teams, it’s the overhead that’s killed them. It can be argued that the mad throwing of money at every team problem has injured NASCAR teams, along with knee-jerk personnel personnel decisions that have proven costly.
Baldwin comes in with a clean slate and technical know-how.
Occupying Baldwin’s #36 is not some untested neophyte, but a veteran who knows a thing or two about the hard knocks…Scott Riggs. Yeah, he got knocked around some during his days in the #10 ride over at Evernham and he muddled through a thankless season in the seat of the #66 at Haas-CNC. The North Carolinian has enjoyed success in the Busch Series, was a late model stallion before moving up.
While Riggs isn’t the first guy you think of when it comes to NASCAR skill, he’s proven he can get a car into the front row. He’s won 3 poles and finishing 31st with the ride he had in 2008 is actually pretty impressive in my book.
Riggs will keep Tommy’s cars on the track, and Baldwin will offer the support Riggs needs to be competitive.
Some call this crazy. I call it shrewd.
Baldwin will be racing Toyotas- a manufacturer who’s been committed to success at the Sprint Cup level. Across the board, Toyota teams- led by Joe Gibbs Racing- made improvements in 2008. In spite of cutbacks, They will keep moving ahead.
What a great story this will be if Tommy Baldwin launch a successful organization in 2009. Change has been the operative word on the political front, I think fans wouldn’t mind some change in NASCAR. Success by Baldwin and Riggs would certainly harken fans back to the days of Alan Kulwicki and other dark horse teams.
Tommy Baldwin is a clean slate as an owner. He’s not saddled by the baggage of failure and floundering finances.
This team and teams like Stewart- Haas could very well provide that breath of fresh air, that feel good story that NASCAR needs.
So to my original question…Tommy Baldwin may very well be crazy like a fox.
PHOTO CREDITS- (Tommy Baldwin by huskie25, Riggs by Walter G. Arce. More of the photography can be found at flickr.com)