50 Greatest Modified Drivers of All-Time: Tom Baldwin 1947-2004
“I am the Greatest”
‘Tiger’ Tom Baldwin has two Stafford wins to his credit. They were both Fall Finals. The first win came on September 29, 1991 and the second, and most controversial, came exactly five years later in 1996. Baldwin’s second win came as a result of a somewhat ‘bump and run’ in the final lap of the 1996 event. The crowed ‘booed’ him, but it was his victory to savor and he felt he had worked hard for it.
Baldwin, one of the most outspoken drivers on the Featherlite Modified Series, prided himself as being a charter member of the ‘Long Island Gang’. That being a choice group of racers who cut their teeth at the tight 1/5 mile oval at Islip, plus 1/4 mile ovals at Freeport and Riverhead. Then they ventured off island to take on the bigger ovals in New England, plus those at Trenton, New Jersey, Pocono, Pennsylvania and Martinsville, Virginia. In fact it was one of Baldwin’s early ventures off island that saw him involved in one of the most spectacular wrecks ever seen at the Pocono Race of Champions. During a qualifying heat, Baldwin was headed down the backstretch of the narrow 3/4 mile oval at better than 100 mph. As another competitor moved out to block, Baldwin rode over his right rear wheel, was launched into the air close to 30 feet, and sailed out of the track and into a field.
Baldwin owned an automotive repair business in Bellport, Long Island, New York and his racing career spanned 40 years with over 100 career wins to his credit, including championships at New Smyrna Beach, Florida. In addition to his two Stafford wins, his most memorable victories are the back to back wins he had at Martinsville. Baldwin was a regular on the NASCVAR Whelen Modified Tour since its inception in 1985 and he scored 6 career wins, tying himself with Jimmy Blewett and the late Charlie Jarzombeck for the 28th position on the All-Time Wins list. During his early years on Long Island, Baldwin credits the Jarzombeck family and the late Jim Hendrickson for steering him in the right direction and in later years, Richie Evans and Maynard Troyer.
A lot of people that didn’t know Baldwin felt that he was a conceited, fast talking, bull thrower from Long Island. But that wasn’t the case. Although the ever so confident Baldwin was quick to blow his own horn, he was a genuinely nice guy and down to earth person who wasn’t afraid to speak his peace and to voice his opinions. The ‘Mohammed Ali’ of Modified racing? Maybe so! Modified racing needs more personalities like Baldwin and he would have been quick to tell you so!!
A proud moment for Baldwin came in 1998 when he returned to Stafford to be honored in the Stafford Salutes NASCAR at 50 program as one of the Fifty Greatest Modified Drivers of All-time as voted by the public. Tom Baldwin was one of Modified racing’s greats.
By: Phil Smith