Annett, Baldwin reunite in Sprint Cup in 2014
November 15, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Team owner Tommy Baldwin will have a new driver in 2014 and a new sponsor on the sides of the team's No. 7 Chevrolet, with Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett replacing veteran Dave Blaney and Pilot Flying J funding the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series effort.
It's a reunion for Baldwin and Annett, who worked together previously while at the now defunct Bill Davis Racing.
Before moving to the Nationwide level, Annett competed in eight Camping World Truck Series events at Bill Davis Racing, with seven of those events coming under the tutelage of Baldwin, a crew chief there at the time.
"I actually brought Michael and Pilot to Bill Davis Racing," Baldwin, the owner and crew chief of the Tommy Baldwin Racing team said Friday evening. "It's just a nice circle."
More importantly, Baldwin said, the timing was right.
"I think if this had happened two years ago, four years ago, I don't think it would be … (we weren't) as good as we are now, as much as we've grown as a company and (become) established internally," he said.
"We're finishing our fifth year; it's taken this long. We started with nothing and we built it to where we are today. … Nothing was handed to us. And I think it's pretty cool that companies we first got involved with years ago are coming back. That's exciting."
Annett, 27, is wrapping up his second season with Richard Petty Motorsports and his fifth season in the series. Fifteenth in points entering Saturday's season-ending Nationwide Series race 15th, he has finished a career-best third twice -- in 2012 at Daytona and Dover.
In 162 races over the course of six Nationwide seasons, Annett has compiled 34 top-10 finishes and a best points finish of fifth in 2012, although he has never won a race. He missed several races early this season after breaking his sternum in a crash at Daytona.
"Driving in the Cup Series has been my goal ever since I started racing," Annett said, "and to start this next chapter with Tommy -- who is one of the main reasons I made the move to North Carolina in the first place -- makes this extra special."
Baldwin took the leap into ownership in 2009, and his organization currently fields Cup entries for J.J. Yeley as well as Blaney, a former World of Outlaws champion.
It's been a slow process, but Baldwin said he is finally beginning to see the fruits of his team's labor.
"The next step is to be able to build the infrastructure that will allow us to be competitive," he said. "The engineering, the cars … things of that nature. That's something we could only build not even a quarter of a block at a time before. Now we can build it a block at a time; now we can be a little more aggressive with the things that we need to do to speed up our development process. And that's all going to come in time; it's not going to come overnight. But we've got a lot of good things, a lot of good people already and I think we'll be alright."
Annett's departure leaves open a seat at RPM. Petty said Friday that the team would continue to field a Nationwide entry. "We're working on the situation," he said when asked about a prospective driver for 2014.
David Caraviello contributed to this report.