Baldwin looking to tell best story yet. MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 3, 2003) - With good race cars come good stories. They are the kind that make you reminisce; the kind that never lose its fervor; the kind Tommy Baldwin is telling right now about...
Baldwin looking to tell best story yet.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 3, 2003) - With good race cars come good stories. They are the kind that make you reminisce; the kind that never lose its fervor; the kind Tommy Baldwin is telling right now about a car he and his father built in four days.
It should be noted that had Jimmy Spencer, new driver of the No. 7 Sirius Racing Team, not walked through the doors of the Ultra Motorsports race shop barking about the time the Baldwins beat him in a national modified race back in the late 80s, this story-telling time would not be happening. It was 15 years ago, to be exact, although Spencer remembers it like it was yesterday. It was the first points race of the season at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway, and most of the fans who packed the stands were there to see Mr. Excitement begin his title defense the same way he won it - rough, tough, and wicked fast.
As the story goes, the Baldwins (Tommy as the crew chief and his father driving) turned the highly anticipated affair into a stinker of a show. They won the pole, led every lap of the race, and took the checkers in dominating fashion. The reigning champion finished second and was never a factor.
Spencer says that was the moment his eyes were opened to Tommy Baldwin. Baldwin says that was the moment his eyes were opened to The Bronx Bomber.
"We bought the car off a guy in the Bronx, so that's where the name comes from," Baldwin says, now in throw-back mode. "We bought it, loaded it up on a trailer, towed it to the shop, stripped the whole thing down and completely rebuilt it in four days. We then took it to Riverhead and just dominated - best car we ever had."
The Baldwins continued winning races with The Bronx Bomber. And although Tommy cannot recall its eventual whereabouts, its memory will forever be logged for him to rehash when the appropriate time comes.
The spirited Spencer has just arrived at Ultra Motorsports, where Baldwin and team members have been applying the final touches to a car they'll race at Daytona in a few weeks. The guys at Ultra have been working obscene hours, which is to be expected a month before the biggest race of the season. Spencer, likewise, has been busy. He has bounced around to several media-day events, handled a handful of autograph sessions, appeared at the mammoth International Consumer Electronics Show for Sirius Satellite Radio in Las Vegas, and spoke at a business meeting for Kenwood Corporation. Somewhere in between he tested the No. 7 car at Daytona, Talladega and Las Vegas - all this in a three-week span. Spencer, however, is showing no ill effects of life in the fast lane.
"How are your workouts coming?" Baldwin asks his driver.
"Real good," Spencer said. "I'm poetry in motion on the NordicTrack."
Laughter erupts but not enough to drown out Baldwin's Long Island accent that has withstood years of southern persuasion. "Yeah, I can believe that. How about we become poetry on the race track first?" Funny, yes, but you get the feeling he isn't kidding, which is why Spencer finds such a profound respect for his new crew chief.
"I'm telling you, he's sharp," Spencer said later. "I knew that the moment he and his dad spanked us in the modifieds. Everyone was hyping me up because I was the champion at the time, and these guys went in there and smoked us."
Oh yes, the Bronx Bomber, the best car Baldwin says he's ever owned, most likely for how it raced. But 15 years after the fact, you get the idea the value of the Bomber is still going up since it appears to be the source of a mutual respect that, until just recently, didn't matter a whole lot. Now Baldwin and Spencer are the mold of a race team looking for respect itself, and they are undeniably the most intriguing driver/crew chief combination in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series line-up.
"Jimmy and I respect each other, and that's very important if you want your race team to succeed," Baldwin said. "Our families have known each other for a long time, and our teams always worked together in the modifieds - don't really know why. I guess it's because we just respected each other's capabilities."
Which is why team owner Jim Smith brought the two aboard when he had the chance late last year - that and also because they are proven winners. Baldwin has won four times and Spencer twice. Both have landed in Victory Lane at Daytona, which ironically will be the stage they'll make their debut as teammates.
"Just think about it - Tommy Baldwin, Jimmy Spencer, Jim Smith, and a whole group of guys at the shop who have something to prove," Spencer said with a grin. "You've got to admit, this team is going to be fun to watch. I know there are a lot of people who don't give us a chance to compete, but that doesn't bother us. We're as motivated as a race team can be, and I don't care how much money you have, you can't succeed without good people. We've got good people over here, and that's all we need to know. That's why those people who don't give us a chance don't bother us."
Nor does it bother Baldwin, for this is all too similar to a situation he once had in Riverhead, N.Y., when all eyes were on someone else. There, he let his car and his driver tell the story.