Stars align for new team owner Baldwin
Tommy Baldwin could be rolling the dice by starting a new Sprint Cup team in this depressed economy. But the longtime crew chief is feeling awfully lucky, writes David Newton.
Updated: January 7, 2009, 6:57 PM ETBy David Newton | ESPN.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tommy Baldwin could wallow in misery and complain that the tough economic times are keeping him from doing what he loves to do best -- race. He could be like many of the 700 or so people left without jobs in the NASCAR community, knocking on doors with his résumé in hand and hoping for an opportunity.
Instead, Baldwin is turning a negative into a positive.The longtime crew chief announced Tuesday he is starting his own Sprint Cup team under the banner of Tommy Baldwin Racing. He is taking advantage of the tough times, putting together an organization with top-quality people at a much lower cost than he could have two years ago when the sport and country were healthy. Whether he succeeds remains to be seen, but he deserves credit for trying."There's no way we could have afforded to do this a couple of years ago," Baldwin admitted, talking above the static on his cell phone from the bowels of his Mooresville, N.C., shop on Wednesday. "That's why the time is right. We don't owe any money. We have low overhead. There's a lot of teams struggling and a lot of good [equipment] you can buy really cheap."And there are a lot of good people that you can have at a really good cost. We can put together a really good team that can compete right away."Baldwin already has hired a crew chief who has won the Daytona 500. "I'll be the crew chief for it right now," said the 41-year-old who won NASCAR's grand jewel in 2002 with Ward Burton at Bill Davis Racing.The list of potential drivers is better than it has ever been at this time of the year. Dave Blaney, who worked with Baldwin at BDR, is available. So is 2000 Cup champion Bobby Labonte, who has yet to be named as the driver of the No. 41 car at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing as was anticipated after he left Petty Enterprises.Elliott Sadler also is on the street -- unless he wins a potential lawsuit to put him back in the No. 19 car at Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which is busy trying to merge with Petty Enterprises before it goes down the tubes.
AP Photo/Matt RourkeTommy Baldwin, who won the 2002 Daytona 500 with Ward Burton, will pull double duty as owner and crew chief, at least initially.
I've had over 150 people since 7 this morning come in looking for jobs. I know the economy is hurting, the job market is hurting.
-- Tommy Baldwin
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.