MODIFIED RACING LOSES TOM BALDWIN SR.  by Mike Twist & Jeremy Troiano
Accident At Thompson Claims The 57-Year-Old
Still reeling from the shock and loss, the NASCAR Modified Series community this morning is dealing with the death of one of its own.  Late Thursday night, Tom Baldwin Sr.,, one of the most colorful personalities on the Mod Tour, was killed following an accident on lap 10 of a 150-lap feature at Thompson Speedway (CT).
“It’s an unfortunate situation,”  said Doug Coby right after the race was called.  “We don’t have a lot of information yet and everyone is just thinking about Tommy, his family, his crew and the other drivers that were involved.”

The race had been delayed for over two hours because of rain showers.  The accident occurred at approximately 11:15pm and a red flag was shown to the field.  Cars not involved in the incident were stopped on the backstretch while track safety personnel attended to Baldwin.  After he was loaded into an ambulance, the Connecticut State Police took control of the scene and started their investigation process.

Ranking officers from the Troop D branch of the
Baldwin, who is the father of Tommy Baldwin Jr., the crew chief for Nextel Cup rookie star Kasey Kahne, was one of seven drivers involved in the early wreck.  As he and his #7ny tried to avoid another car that had bounced off the wall, Baldwin's car was struck by the #14 of Ronnie Silk.  Baldwin then slid on the wet grass, which had been wet due to an afternoon's rain that delayed the event, and hit a concrete barrier that protected one of the infield light poles.  The car came to a rest on the apron of turn three. 

Baldwin had to be cut from his car by rescue officials at the scene.

Baldwin was transported to the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts (as announced to
Connecticut State Police in Danielson were called to the scene and after their arrival at approximately Midnight, the announcement was made that the race would not conclude.
the crowd over the PA, however the AP reports he went to Hubbard Hospital in Webster, MA).  Upon arrival at the hospital, the 57-year-old was pronounced dead.

Word of Baldwin’s death was not known in the pit area after the race, but the severity of the accident was.  Drivers, crew members and fans realized the gravity of the situation, but hoped for the best until any official news was released. 
Our Mike Twist snapped this photo of Baldwin just as the cars were getting ready to go out and qualify.  He was smiling as always.  (51 Photos)
Rescue workers and personnel worked feverishly at the scene to extract Baldwin from his car and transport him to the hospital.
There has not yet been an announced makeup date for the event.

Coby, like everyone else, was relieved that the race would not conclude and told 51 what his thoughts were as a driver while sitting in his car on the backstretch.

“It was a situation where I asked myself, ‘what am I going
to do if they restart the race? Is everyone else going to restart the race and I’ll just park on pit road?  Because that is what I would like to do’,” said Coby.  “If one car can wreck like that, I can wreck like that.  My initial thought was that let everyone else race, I’d park my car and absorb
Once troopers arrived at the scene, the race was called off.
the loss of points.  I doubt that would have happened.  I didn’t know it was serious until they red flagged it and as I saw more people going over to the scene, I knew that it was even more serious.   I wasn’t a time to race.”

Baldwin, a Long Island (NY)-native, had six career NASCAR Modified Series victories spanning from 1986 to 1996.  He had made four starts in 2004 before Thompson.  He is rumored to have over 250-career modified victories, however, the exact number is not known.

He began his racing career at Riverhead Raceway in 1964. He started running the NASCAR Modified Series when it was formed in 1985.  He won the NASCAR Modified Series' Most Popular Driver Award in 2003. Baldwin Raced for 40 years, driving stock cars of every description, as well as midgets, sprints, super modifieds and modifieds.

Baldwin will be remembered as a tough racer who was respected by all that knew him.

“This is a very passionate sport,” said Eddie Flemke before leaving the track.  “Regardless of what happens here, Tom Baldwin is a tremendous competitor, tremendous human being and tremendous fighter.  He has fought his entire life.  If he’s not going to be Tommy Baldwin tomorrow morning, I pray
to God that we let him go because he doesn’t deserve to be anything less than that.”
Modified message boards lit up on Thursday night and Friday with the news of Baldwin's passing.

Mod star Donny Lia posted his thought's and memories on Baldwin on his official website's message board.

"Some people might know him as Tiger Tom, and if you really knew him, he was 'The Legend,'" Donny said in his post.  "I just knew him as the craziest SOB I have ever met in my life. Someone who, the first time I ever met him, scared the living @#%$ out of me.

"As time went on we became friends. And as I progressed as a driver and a person, he offered help in any way whether I asked for it or not. For some reason, I just felt
like we just took a liking in each other. He would tell me he felt I had the talent needed to move up and get out of the modifieds. I really was and still am proud that he thought that highly of me.  He had the biggest heart in the whole pit area, but he had to let you in for you to see it. You had to earn your way in.  I believe I did.  I know he is in mine."

"After the shock wore off, we found ourselves starting to tell Tom Baldwin stories," said Matt Yocum, NBC pit announcer who grew up in the Northeast around the modifieds.  "To me, Tom Baldwin Sr. will be sadly missed.  To me, he was one of the last links in that magical period in the modifieds in the 1960s and 70s.  It will be a sad weekend for many people."
Donny Lia talks with Baldwin just prior to the race at New Hampshire earlier this year.
"Our hearts are broken today," said 51's Bob Dillner.  "I grew up with the Baldwins on Long Island as part of the Long Island Gang.  Tom was a very colorful character and always told you what was on his mind.  That is what made him special.

"You always knew if you wanted a good joke or a good story, go to Tom.  He was known as the man with the fastest stopwatch.  He was always at the top of the speed charts even if he was actually sixth on the speed charts. 

"Tom Baldwin was an awesome guy.  We will truly miss him.  He was the leader of the Long Island Gang."
51's Bob Dillner talks with Tom during the rain-delay at New Hampshire.
Donny Lia talks with Baldwin just prior to the race at New Hampshire earlier this year.
"Everyone at Thompson Speedway is saddened at the loss of Tom Baldwin. Tom was long-time competitor in the NASCAR Modified division and was a very close, personal friend," said track owner, Don Hoenig.  "Words cannot express our sorrow at this time. For more than 30 years, he thrilled crowds with his hard charging and exciting driving style. The entire racing community will miss him greatly."

"Our racing community has sustained a tragic loss with the death of Tommy Baldwin Sr.  He was a fine race car driver but, more important, he was a quality individual. He was a friend. His contributions to our sport will not be forgotten," said Ray Evernham, owner of of the #9 Cup Series team in which Tommy Baldwin Jr. crew chiefs for and a native New Yorker himself.  "He and his son shared a unique bond through racing. On behalf of everyone at Evernham Motorsports, we extend our prayers and compassion to Tommy and the entire Baldwin family."

Baldwin is survived by his daughter Tammy, and son, Tom Jr.

However, despite the tragic circumstances, one poster on other message board had a different outlook on things. 

"This is a terrible loss, but now Richie E. (Evans) and Charlie J. (Jarzombek) have someone to BS with!"