Who Was Tom Baldwin, Sr.?

Well, it’s about that time again, time to visit the only race track left on Long Island: Riverhead. Several drivers grew up racing at Riverhead, both old and young, probably the most famous of them being Tom Baldwin, Sr.

The father of Tommy Baldwin and the inspiration behind the famous #7NY Modified, Tom Baldwin, Sr.’s booming presence and illustrous career made him a crowd favorite.

Credit to NASCAR Heaven

Born on March 14th, 1947 in East Patchogue, Long Island, Thomas Baldwin, of no relation to Rick Baldwin, began his career in 1964 at speedways such as Islip and Riverhead, the latter of which being his primary circuit. He is documented as having started racing in the NASCAR Modified Division in 1972 and only improved when the cars adopted more of an open-wheel style around 1980. He won 9 races in the National Championship years before 1985. His best track appears to have been Islip, though the tiny oval eventually closed in 1984.

Baldwin continued into the New Era when the Winston Modified Tour was introduced in 1985. He would win six races in the Tour, the first in 1986 and the last in 1996. Tom’s exact win count over his career is unknown, but his win count in his preferred car number, 7NY, totalled 54.

Baldwin’s best year was in 1991, when he finished 10th in the points standings despite missing four races after a bizarre incident. In April of that year, Baldwin was at home when at least two suspects broke into his house. During the crime, Baldwin was shot in the collarbone. The suspects ran out and attempted to flee, but Baldwin hopped on their car’s hood in an attempt to hinder their escape. He was unsuccessful at stopping them and was dumped off the front of the car as the suspects drove off, their identities and stolen possessions uncertain. Baldwin was out for two months, but when he returned, he was back to his old self, running well and continuing to please the crowd.

A big man with a bigger personality, Baldwin wasn’t afraid to make contact to move ahead. In 1997, a young Tony Stewart was asked about his use of the chrome horn after winning a Modified race at New Smyrna, and admitted that he had been inspired by Tom Baldwin. He was also a massive hothead, with one reporter recalling a tirade at Stafford Springs after Tom collided with Ed Flemke, Jr. that was so wild and profanity-laden that the reporter was convinced he’d be fired for talking to Tom (he was not), and Tom was suspended for a race. Track announcer Russ Dowd remembered a promotion in one of Islip Speedway’s divisions where the cleaner racers, or the ‘good guys’, drove white cars, and the rougher racers, or the ‘outlaws’, drove black cars. Tom continued running a black scheme well after the promotion ended, and when he finally switched to a white scheme a few years later, it wasn’t long before he returned to a black one. But when he needed to be, Tom was a humble and caring man who looked out for his fellow competitors.

Tom made four top level attempts in NASCAR. He attempted the 1997 Truck races at Richmond and second Martinsville for Mike Thompson’s team, followed by the Richmond race the next year in the same series for Billy Hess. Tom made one NASCAR Winston Cup attempt in his career, doing so in 1999 at the second Richmond race for Joe Falk’s #91 team. He qualified for none of these.

Bob Dillner chats with Baldwin during a rain delay in 2004; Credit to Speed51

As the new millennium arrived, Baldwin started to show his age a little, and was struggling to qualify on a consistent basis for races. He was still a lovable and popular face when he did qualify, even winning the Most Popular Driver award in 2003, but by 2004, this had become a little less frequent. Tom attempted nine races in 2004, but only qualified for five. Usually when he did qualify, however, he started towards the front.

Credit to Speed51

Thursday, August 19th, 2004 was an extremely wet day in Thompson, Connecticut, but drivers were ready to race, one of them being Baldwin. Eventually, NASCAR decided to give the race the green flag around 11pm, two hours after it was supposed to start. Sean Caisse was the polesitter for the New England Dodge Dealers/Budweiser 150, but Bobby Santos III quickly took the lead. The caution quickly flew for a crash involving Mike Molleur, and drivers were lined back up for a restart on lap 8/150.

As the cavalry ran down the backstretch right after the restart, a car, possibly that of Ken Woolley, Jr., spun. Some people slowed, and some didn’t. Baldwin slowed down slightly and shifted to the inside, only to be hit from the back. The #14 car of Ronnie Silk had also started moving to the inside, only to have the brakes lock up on his vehicle, sending him into the back of Baldwin. The #7NY Virginia Motor Speedway Chevrolet was pitched into a spin through the grass, in which the car hardly slowed due to the prior rain. The car struck a set of concrete blocks protecting an infield light pole directly with the driver’s door and came to a stop in turn three.

Credit to Speed51

Baldwin was extricated through the roof of his car and was rushed to a hospital just over the border in Massachusetts. Back at Thompson, officials, seeing that a driver had been badly injured, and that the race would almost certainly run very late, decided to call the race and pick it up again on another day. As drivers deparated the speedway, news of Baldwin’s passing began to pour in.

Baldwin’s exact cause of death was never released, but it was confirmed that Baldwin was pronounced dead on arrival. Survived by wife Karen, daughter Tammy, and son Tommy, Jr., Thomas Baldwin, Sr. was 57, making him the oldest competitor fatality in NASCAR.

With the news of Tom’s death came both condolences and stories of Tom’s past antics, maneuvers, and quips, but also just how caring a man he could be. ‘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.’, recalled Donny Lia on his website, ‘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.’

‘If you could cut through to the real Tom Baldwin, which not too many people knew, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.’, said the late John Blewett, III to Speed51, ‘Anytime you needed anything whether it was a part of advice or anything, Tom Baldwin was there for you.’ Unfortunately, Blewett, III would be killed at the same track during the same race in 2007.

Tommy Baldwin decided to stay at the Michigan International Speedway, where he was busy as rookie Kasey Kahne’s crew chief, over the weekend. It was business as usual at the Evernham camp, as while everyone was devastated by the loss of Tom, Sr., they all still had a job to do. Kahne would finish fifth in the race, one of his 13 top-5s that year. Bizarrely, while Kahne finished second six times in 2004, he would have to wait until the next year for his first win.

The New Hampshire Dodge Dealers/Budweiser 150 was eventually picked up again on August 29th, after Tom, Sr.’s funeral. Sean Caisse, Bobby Santos III, Ken Woolley, Jr., and Ronnie Silk did not return. Donny Lia led for a good chunk of the race around the halfway point, but it was Tony Hirschman who emerged victorious at race’s end.


When Tommy Baldwin opened up his own Cup team in 2009, his number choice was obvious: 7. In 2017, it moved to the Modifieds and picked up Donny Lia. For several years, drivers running the #7 would often add ‘NY’ to the car when permissible, and Baldwin’s team continues the tradition. His father is still in the memories of all who knew him as a rather hotheaded, but deeply caring person who put on a show every time he raced. Perhaps it was an unnamed commenter on a message board who put it best:

‘This is a terrible loss, but now Richie E. [Evans] and Charlie J. [Jarzombek] have someone to BS with!’





‘A Recovering Baldwin Finds That Speed Heals’, August 7th, 1991 edition of Newsday

‘Interview of a lifetime’, August 21st, 2004 article on ESPN

‘Tommy Baldwin Racing moves to Modifieds, to field Donny Lia in 2017′, January 11th, 2017 article on Kickin’ The Tires


Who Was Rick Baldwin?

In 1980, Alabama inventor George White demonstrated a full head and neck restraint to NASCAR officials, including Bill Gazaway. Gazaway noted that while he had been shown the device, little to no testing of the device’s abilities had been done. It wouldn’t be long before this proved to be a mistake.

Usually remembered for the coma he slipped into after his accident, Rick Baldwin spun and struck the wall during qualifying for a race at Michigan in 1986. The Texan remained in a coma for eleven long years, eventually passing away in 1997.

Credit to TrackForum

Richard Allen Baldwin was born on June 10th, 1955 in Corpus Christi, Texas to Jim Baldwin and Patricia Owens. Jim, whose owned a roofing company during the day, was also a racer, and taught Rick the tricks of the trade, both in roofing and racing. In 1971, Jim decided to make the trip down to Mexico to participate in the Baja 1000. Rick was to help plot the exact route and to remain on standby with spare parts for their team’s Plymouth. Jim is documented as having entered the race, though any further details are unknown. In any case, in 1972, Rick started his racing career. The pair competed against each other frequently at the quarter mile Corpus Christi Speedway and an old half mile dirt track outside of Corpus Christi known as Cuddihy Field, along with another oval of unknown length just outside the town known as Riverside Raceway.

In December 1977, Rick married Debbie C. Anderson in San Antonio. He would have two children with Debbie, those being Jennifer and Tiffany.

Rick’s first NASCAR start came in 1981 at the Texas World Speedway for DK Ulrich’s team. Baldwin’s car blew its engine about three-quarters through the race, and he finished 21st out of 34 cars. He raced every now and again during the ensuing years, qualifying for the Daytona 500 in 1983, where he finished midfield.

Besides racing at the race tracks in and around Corpus Christi, Rick worked with his father in the family roofing business and also worked as the flagman at Riverside Raceway. He was, by all accounts, a devoted family man with a passion for racing and little to write home about.

Baldwin, together with his wife and children, moved to North Carolina in 1985 as he began to run NASCAR races a little more frequently. In all, Rick made eleven starts, his best finish being 12th at Charlotte in 1982.

Baldwin, a bit of a pinch hitter, was tapped to drive the #67 car for Buddy Arrington for the first Michigan race of 1986. On June 14th, Baldwin was qualifying the car when he broke loose and spun up the first turn. The Ford struck the wall with the driver’s side and slid back down the circuit.

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Baldwin was rendered unconscious by the hit, which had severed his spinal column, leading some, such as Baldwin’s wife, to believe that the window net had failed. This couldn’t be determined simply from the video, as the car’s roof was opened to extricate Baldwin, Whether or not his head had actually hit the fence aside, Baldwin’s listed chance of survival was 1%. Surprisingly, Baldwin made it past the first few days, but this was the start of a long eleven-year trial for Debbie.

2017-06-14 20.12.24

Baldwin was transferred to a nursing home in San Antonio two weeks after the crash, with Debbie and their children moving into an apartment close by. By early 1988, Baldwin was opening his eyes on occasion and was not attached to any life support systems. Debbie mentioned to the Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal that, since the move to San Antonio, she had not been contacted by any officials. Drivers and crew members, however, still frequently sent letters and called. NASCAR had a $50,000 insurance policy for all drivers, and this had been fully spent around the same time as Baldwin’s move to San Antonio.

In 1990, Debbie Baldwin filed a suit against NASCAR, maintaining that the window net was defective and had bulged. NASCAR insisted that Rick’s head had struck the roll bar. In 1992, a jury, finding no evidence of the window net being defective, ruled in favor of NASCAR, and cleared both Rick Baldwin and NASCAR of any fault. Debbie later stated that she was reluctant to press the suit, but had done so at the request of Rick’s father Jim.

As the years passed, however, it became apparent that Baldwin would not awaken. At at least one point, an offer was made to discontinue feeding Baldwin, which was permitted by Texas law, but Rick’s parents refused. However, they did request that Debbie divorce Rick to ease up on her financial burden. This was declined. Eventually, Rick and Debbie’s children made it to high school. According to Debbie, the girls said that Rick was attempting to set a Guinness World Record for ‘taking a nap’ if anyone asked.

Rick Baldwin passed away on June 12th, 1997, two days after his 42nd birthday. NASCAR’s life insurance contains a $15,000 payout to the families of fallen drivers, but NASCAR declined to pay, insisting that, for the payout to be made, a driver must die less than 90 days after the accident. After a short time, however, they agreed to pay Debbie $15,000 for a decrease or loss of limb function, which went towards the funeral.

By the time the new millennium arrived, several racing series had required the usage of a HANS or Hutchens Devices on all tracks. Despite the fact that full restraints since at least 1980, it took until the summer of 2002, after the death of John Baker, for NASCAR to start requiring full restraints on every track. While Rick Baldwin did not die from a basilar skull fracture, it’s very likely that a full restraint would have saved him.



‘Rick Baldwin’, post made to LoneStar Speedzone on February 22, 2007

‘Dream Comes True for Local Driver’, July 23, 1971 edition of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times

‘Progress not optimistic for injured driver Baldwin’, February 13, 1988 edition of the Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal

‘When Is It Going To Be Enough?’, July 6, 2001 edition of the Orlando Sentinel

‘NASCAR cleared in suit stemming from 1986 crash’, January 19th, 1992 edition of the Herald-Journal

‘Rick Baldwin’, Motorsport Memorial

The Survival Of Larry Pollard

NASCAR in the late 90s and early 2000s was defined by three words: ‘basilar skull fracture’. Between April 2000 and March 2001, five drivers, rising star Adam Petty, young talent Kenny Irwin, Jr., veteran racer Tony Roper, racing legend Dale Earnhardt, and motorsports newcomer Michael Roberts all died due to basilar skull fractures.

However, the basilar skull fracture, which is a rare injury outside of motorsports, is not a death sentence. It’s usually fatal, but not always. It’s possible to survive one, as has happened three times in NASCAR. Rick Carelli in 1999 and Stanley Smith in 1993 are the more well known cases, but there has actually been one more: Larry Pollard.

Credit to Racing Reference

Larry, a native of British Columbia, had several connections to the NASCAR circuit. He was Richard Petty’s crew chief for a time, led the late Roy Smith to two Winston West championships during the early 1980s, and was married to Harry Gant’s daughter. He began racing on the Busch Grand National Series circuit in 1985 and soon found himself running up front running for Hubert Hensley, Jimmy’s father. Larry was an unlucky driver, as he frequently ran up front only to blow up towards the end. When Pollard did finish, he usually did very well.

On August 9th, 1987, Larry surprised everyone with a victory at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia. He took the lead a bit past the 3/4ths mark when Larry Pearson, who had dominated the race up until that point, faltered, and held off Robert Ingram to take the win. Interestingly, the other race at Hampton that year saw another surprise win in short track expert Mike Alexander, and in a bizarre coincidence, Larry’s home province had, until the mid-80s, a short track named Langley Speedway.

During the 1988 Coke 600, Harry Gant blew a tire and went straight on into the barrier. Gant broke his leg and was forced to sit out the next few races. Gant tapped his son-in-law to take over his #7 car in the Busch Series until he recovered. Larry ran up front during his first race in the car, the Budweiser 200 at Dover Downs, but he would never finish it.

Pollard started the June 4th race in the upper midfield and worked his way up into the top ten across the course of the race. While he was on his 194th lap, Larry’s car went straight on into turn three and struck the wall with incredible force. It slid back down the track, almost striking the car of Joe Bessey, and came to a halt at the inside of the corner. The caution flag was flown while medics tended to Pollard, and current leader Brad Teague was told to slow down by NASCAR, possibly due to the crash’s seriousness. Bobby Hillin zoomed by Teague while racing back to the line, but since Teague had been told to slow, Hillin was ordered to give the spot back and order to the pit lane. Realizing their error, officials decided to reverse their decision a few laps later. It didn’t matter anyway, as Teague ran out of fuel under caution and had to pit, but Hillin took the checkered in one of the more confusing finishes in NASCAR’s history.

It took 15 minutes to extricate Pollard from the car, but he was eventually removed and rushed directly to the hospital via ambulance. He was placed in the ICU, but surprisingly was awake, alert, and semi-responsive. The basilar skull fracture was a known injury in 1988, and within a few days Pollard was diagnosed as having suffered one. Doctors weren’t sure if he would recover, but after two days he was placed in serious but stable condition.

Not much is known about his recovery, but Pollard healed on his own and was eventually discharged from the hospital. Pollard returned to the Busch Grand National Series the next year and ran six more races in the series before heading elsewhere.

Larry, 63 as of June 2017, moved to North Carolina sometime before 2001. He currently races super late models now and again at the Concord Speedway. Larry also manages a go kart track, known as Pollard Raceway Park, in Taylorsville with his son Chase. His career not yet over, Larry is simply a man who loves to race, no matter the level of competition.



“Hillin cautiously wins the Bud 200”, June 5, 1988 edition of The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware)

“Tire switch helps Elliott to victory”, June 6, 1988 edition of The Chicago Tribune

“Larry Pollard 98”, circa 2001 article from Luvracin.com

A brief conversation with Chase Pollard

The bit about Pollard being awake and alert seems unbelievable, so I will give you its source right here: The 6/6/88 of The Chicago Tribune, which I listed above

The Death Of Chris Trickle

It was a case which stumped detectives: A young stock car racer with a bright future ahead of him, a crime that all but required the victim to emerge from his coma, and an archaic law that made the killer exempt from punishment. Today we look at the 1997 murder of Chris Trickle.

Chris prior to the 1997 season opener (the Southwest Tour opened its seasons in January); Credit to Findagrave

‘Big Chris’ Trickle, the son of Chuck Trickle and the nephew of Midwest racing legend Dick Trickle, was born on May 30th, 1972 in Las Vegas and quickly made his way into motorsports. He made his first start in the NASCAR West Series in 1994 at the Las Vegas Bullring, finishing fourth. He also finished well at Phoenix in his first Southwest start later that year.

Unfortunately, Chris’ #70 Star Nursery Chevrolet, owned by Craig Keough, didn’t last very long, as he totaled it in a crash at Mesa Marin in 1995. Chris returned to competition in an Oldsmobile for one race, and was able to run a Chevrolet in his next race at Tucson.

Chris’ 1996 season went very well. He finished fourth in points with one win at his home track at Las Vegas Bullring and several excellent finishes. Chris also made two NASCAR Truck Series attempts late in the year, qualifying for neither.

Chris was loved by the crowd and his fellow competitors for his big smile and driving skill. Kurt Busch even said in 2013 that he probably would have made it to the Xfinity Series at the very least.

1997 started nicely for Chris and the #70 Star Nursery team. He took a pole in the Tucson opener and finished in the top five at both Tucson and race two, Phoenix. Things were going well for the young talent, however it was not meant to be.

On February 9th, 1997, Chris went out for a meal at Tivoli Gardens near the Liberace Museum with his girlfriend, Jennifer Robinson, and then returned to the Trickles’ mansion. Chris did not live in the mansion proper, but rather in an adjacent one-room apartment.

During the drive home, however, Chris had received a call from Gregory Hadges, a friend of his. Greg asked him if he wanted to go play a round of tennis, and Chris accepted. He ran into the attached apartment where he lived with Jennifer, changed his clothes, and rushed back to his car, a 1995 Chrysler LeBaron convertible. Jennifer chose not to attend, and instead stayed behind in the apartment, where she soon fell asleep.

Chris’ mother, Barbara, overheard Chris’ arrival, but was busy making some pudding. She placed it in the freezer after Chris left. Apparently, the pudding still sat in the freezer as of 2008.

Chris pulled onto Blue Diamond Road and started towards the tennis court. Around 9:00 p.m., a car pulled up alongside the LeBaron and an occupant opened fire, hitting Chris between the eyes. The LeBaron spun off the road and into a road sign. Chris was pulled from the car, just barely alive.

From the get-go, detectives were stumped. He had no known enemies, and the bullet could not be extracted due to Chris still being alive. They quickly ran out of reliable leads, and found themselves in a hole. They’d have to hope that Chris emerged from his coma. Chris survived in a semi-comatose state for 409 days, occasionally looking like he would soon awaken and occasionally relapsing. Chris Trickle passed away on March 25, 1998, aged 25.

Credit to Findagrave

He never fully regained consciousness during that time. It is unknown whether investigators extricated the bullet, though most detectives thought it to be a 9-milimeter round. Even still, it wouldn’t have mattered, as even if the killer had been found, he would not have been charged.

Introduced sometime in the 1200s in England, the Year And A Day Law states that a murderer whose victim who dies more than a year and a day after the attack can’t be held responsible. It was carried over into the United States when independence was gained in 1776. It was an understandable law in the days when one’s cause of death was hard to pinpoint, but now that it’s relatively easy to do so, the law is unneeded. Trickle did indeed die more than a year and a day afterwards, meaning there would be no justice. The Trickle family campaigned for the rule to be thrown out, and it was removed from the lawbooks in March of 1999 in Nevada. Several other states followed, however Nevada’s ruling was not done retroactively, so it did not affect the Chris Trickle case.

The killer of Chris Trickle has never been found, though detectives did suspect it to be a thrill kill. Jennifer, griefstricken, soon drifted away from the Trickle family, and Chuck Trickle raced for a brief period in Chris’ memory, though he’s since retired. As for the #70 Star Nursery car, Craig Keough tapped Sean Monroe to drive the car for a short time while he found a long-term replacement. Keough eventually found that long-term replacement in a 19-year-old kid named Kurt Busch. Kurt finished well on several occasions in 1997, then won the first race after Chris’ death in 1998, which ironically enough was at Las Vegas. A Southwest Tour championship in 1999 secured him a Truck Series ride in 2000, after which it was off to Cup, where he continues racing to this day.

Chris Trickle’s legacy lives on both in Kurt and ‘Little’ Chris Trickle, the nephew of ‘Big’ Chris and a successful super late model racer in his own right. He is one of only three major race car drivers to have been murdered in the past 40 years, the other two being off road legend Mickey Thompson and West Coast veteran Jim Cook. Oddly, Cook’s murder is also unsolved, and while technically Thompson’s murder is solved, the guilt of the man convicted for Thompson’s death is still questioned.

Chris Trickle was a rising talent with an incredibly bright future, and it’s a shame he never got to show what he was truly capable of.


If you have any information about the death of Chris Trickle, please call the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Cold Case Unit at 702-828-8973. The case is not currently being looked into by anyone. The Trickles have stated that they are no longer concerned about the case’s closure, however there was a reward of $35,000 available to anyone whose information leads to the case being closed. I cannot confirm whether or not it is still being offered.



“Kurt Busch looks back on his big break”, April 11, 2013 edition of USAToday

“A Checkered Saga”, Feb. 28, 2008 edition of Las Vegas Sun