NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Tommy Baldwin and Modified team owner Al Heinke announced this week that they will be teaming up to form Heinke-Baldwin Racing, which will compete full-time in two short-track series in 2010. HBR will field a full-time entry in both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the Super DIRTcar Series, as well an additional Whelen Modified entry running a limited schedule.
Al Heinke is a former driver, crew chief, and race engineer who has competed in a variety of motorsports series, including Northeast dirt open-wheel modified cars, SCCA open-wheel formula classes, and IMSA-sanctioned full-fendered sports cars. Heinke has fielded a Big Block Modified team competing primarily in the D.I.R.T. Modified Series since 1999. During the past two seasons, Heinke also fielded an asphalt open wheeled modified team running a limited schedule on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Tommy Baldwin is a 12-year NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran, five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Daytona 500 winning crew chief. Baldwin is no stranger to team ownership, as he formed a successful NSCS team which was responsible for bringing Unilever into the sport. Baldwin has served as crew chief for his father, Tommy Baldwin Sr., Steve Park, Ricky Craven, Dick Trickle, Ward Burton, Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, and most recently, Dave Blaney.
17-year-old Erick Rudolph will drive for the team in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and sponsor information is forthcoming. Rudolph ran his first complete schedule in the NWMT in 2009, finishing 12th in the driver point standings, scoring one win at Spencer Speedway and seven top-10 finishes. The driver from Ransomville, NY also completed a full season in the ROC Modified Tour, ran the entire the Dunn Tire Raceway Park schedule, and competed in 15 DIRTcar 358 Modified events at Ransomville Speedway last season. In his young career, Rudolph has 28 feature wins in Modifieds.
Dirt track veteran Jimmy Phelps has been named to pilot the No. 98H sponsored by Wave Energy Drink in the Super DIRTcar Series. Phelps returns to the car he finished third in the standings with last season running for Heinke's H&H Motorsports. The Baldwinsville, NY native picked up one win in the Super DIRTcar Series last year when he took the checkered flag at Cornwall Motor Speedway in Ontario, Canada. The entire No. 98H crew plans to return to the team as well, hoping to earn the championship which eluded them in 2009.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Kasey Kahne and notable NWMT standout, Bobby Santos III will each get behind the wheel of the HBR's second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour entry, with Kahne running New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the spring, (June 26) and Bristol Motor Speedway (August 18), and Santos running at least five events which will be announced at a later date.
Santos, who made his racing debut in a NASCAR Tour-Type Modified at the age of 14, has found a great deal of success in Modified and Midget racing throughout his career, in addition to competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and ARCA RE/MAX Series. In 2009 he competed in the USAC National Midget Series, National Sprint Series and National Silver Crown Series, scoring wins in each.
Tommy Baldwin and Al Heinke's decision to form Henike-Baldwin Racing is part of a long-term goal of driver development at the grassroots level and catering to hardcore race fans in the tough economy. "I'm really excited to get back into the short track program," said co-owner Tommy Baldwin. "This new team is really important to us because we've got some young and talented drivers with Erick Rudolph, Bobby Santos, and Jimmy Phelps, and we want to develop a program which allows us to nurture young talent and to groom them into top-level stars, hopefully getting them into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ranks with Kasey Kahne someday."
"This is really the best way to do it, with the way the economy is and the way the sport is evolving," Baldwin continued. "Everything in Trucks, Nationwide, and Cup is so different now. You can't test, and the Truck and Nationwide programs are very costly from a developmental standpoint, so this is the best way that we can get the exposure that's needed for these young drivers, put them in good equipment, and let them win some races. Plus, the fans that can't really afford to be going to the Top-3 Series races are going to the DIRT races, they're going to the Modified races, so we're going to be able to reach those people again."
HBR also allows Baldwin and Heinke to effectively involve their current teams and current sponsors, such as Wave Energy Drink. "We have developed a unique business and marketing platform. We want to bring our Cup sponsors in and make them part of the grassroots program with the Modifieds and the Super DIRTcar Series. We can get those marketing partners within the Cup series and make them part of the short track program, so they can reach the grassroots racer. Plus, if we find some good companies that want to build the brand with the young drivers and bring them all the way up to the Cup level, that would make us extremely happy," said Baldwin.
Al Heinke, HBR General Manager and co-owner stated, "I am excited to give short track racers a platform to drive for a well-established team and give them an opportunity to succeed. We know that we will have a successful season due to the fact that the strength of HBR comes from the collective strengths of the people and partners we have assembled. We've got experienced, intelligent, and highly motivated drivers and team members at all levels, and sponsorship partners who are dedicated to our team and our sport."
HBR will utilize PR and branding agency Activ8 Communications to promote the team and its drivers.
"We're very happy to be working with Activ8 Communications, which will allow our drivers and sponsors access to an unparalleled level of public relations and branding," continued Heinke. "Our partners, Troyer Race Cars, New England Racing Fuel, WAVE Energy Drink, and Bob Bruneau Race Engines, among many others, are very important to us, and I know that Activ8 will make the relationships with our marketing partners even more beneficial for everyone involved."
Heinke-Baldwin Racing's short track season begins with the Super DIRTcar Series event at Volusia Speedway Park on February 10, 2010, followed by the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour "Icebreaker" at Thompson International Speedway on April 11.
Heinke and Baldwin are currently looking for additional crew members to assist with both the Modified and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. Resumes can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.