Team’s owner expresses gratitude for outpouring of fan support
[media-credit name=”Steven Iles” align=”alignright” width=”289″][/media-credit]Amid little fanfare, Tommy Baldwin launched Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) in 2009. Baldwin hired experienced crew members from other teams, preventing people from becoming unemployed. After the 2008 season, several teams were in the process of closing up shop. In TBR’s first season, their high watermark was an 18th at Talladega. The team finished six of the races they entered that year; a considerable feat for a new start-up team. 2010 showed signs of improvement, highlighted by Steve Park’s 13th place run at Daytona. Some of the races were used as a “start-and-park”, something most owners truly don’t want to do, but are forced to do so because of the cost of racing.
In January of this year, Dave Blaney was named as driver for a full 36 race campaign. TBR defied the odds as an independent, underfunded team when they qualified for their third consecutive Daytona 500. Golden Corral came on board to sponsor the team for the race. After leading early, a promising run was scuttled when Blaney was forced into the grass during a multi-car accident late in the race.
Recently, the teams’ fortunes began to change. At Talladega, Golden Corral returned for their second stint as sponsor. Blaney led 21 laps, second-most among all drivers. Unfortunately, another promising run ended in disappointment when the #36 car was turned off the front bumper of Kurt Busch, resulting in a 27th place finish. The strong performance did not go unnoticed, as the team’s one-race deal turned into a multi-race sponsorship. Golden Corral extended their support for an additional 19 races. Big Red Soda also came aboard for an additional five races, leaving the team with a mere handful of races without major sponsorship. This marks a turning point from two year’s ago when the “sponsor” was listed as Tommy Baldwin Racing. Having well-known corporation adorn the hood and quarterpanels isn’t just a financial boost—it’s a motivational one as well.
Blaney has shown the sponsorship dollars are well-deserved. Following Talladega, the circuit headed to Richmond, where Blaney stormed home to a 13th place finish; beating the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, and Matt Kenseth. While Rick Hendrick, Roger Penske, and Jack Roush have hundreds of people working in their shops; Baldwin has slightly more than a handful. Whoever said you can do more with less was right.
The strong finish also propelled TBR into the coveted top-35 in owner’s points, guaranteeing the team a starting position each weekend. The 24th place finish at Darlington gave TBR a 16 point cushion in the owners’ standings.
Q: How much does the recent outpouring of fan support mean to you, as an independent team owner?
Baldwin: It’s meant a lot. I think most people out there can relate to what we are going through as it mirrors what most are going through with today’s economy.
Q: How does being in the top-35 in owner’s points change a team’s outlook come race weekend?
Baldwin: It’s been a big relief. Now, we can plan all week on racing instead of trying to make the race first and then shifting our focus to racing.
Q: Many fans don’t understand the true costs of racing and don’t understand a team’s decision when they do a so-called “start and park”. Can you outline how much it costs to operate a team from week-to-week and how unprofitable it can be? How frustrating was it knowing you had the equipment to compete, but not the financial resources?
Baldwin: The engine and tire cost per race is about $100,000, depending on where you race. Last week for example, we finished 24th at Darlington. The point money for that was $99,258, which obviously is less than $100,000. Now imagine if we were involved in an incident or had a problem and finished outside the top-30, the point money for that would be $70,000-80,000. So really if you run the entire race, it is impossible to cover your expenses without a sponsor. It’s been very frustrating not being able to compete at the level I know our team can, but if we work hard, we will succeed.
Q: You’ve successfully competed this season against some of NASCAR’s top teams, many who have large staffs. How many employees do you have working on the car?
Baldwin: We have 12 full time employees.
Q: With Golden Corral coming on board for Daytona, what are the plans for Steve Park and the “Ole Blue” car?
Baldwin: Dave Blaney will be driving the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet, and we will move Steve over to the No. 35 Chevrolet for the “Old Blue” tribute.