News & Media

Blaney's third-place finish at 'Dega one for the underdogs

November 02, 2011, David Caraviello,

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- On one side sat a car owned by Roger Penske, who has won 68 races on NASCAR's premier series. On another sat a car owned by Richard Childress, who has won six championships at the same level. And in the middle was a car owned by Tommy Baldwin, who stood next to the vehicle as his cell phone buzzed with one congratulatory text message after another.

Dave Blaney's third-place finish Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway represented the best result in the short history of Tommy Baldwin Racing, the three-year old organization owned by the former crew chief. After a run of strong performances on restrictor-plate tracks that didn't end with the finishes the No. 36 team had hoped for, Blaney and Baldwin finally closed the deal thanks to a push from partner Brad Keselowski, with whom Blaney drafted for much of the race.

"This is a victory for the small guys, the little underfunded teams. To finish third, knowing what we're stacked up against every week, it's pretty cool."


"It's good for the team," said Baldwin, who won five premier-series races as a crew chief, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500 with Ward Burton at Bill Davis Racing. "Obviously, it's our best finish at TBR in three years. But this is a victory for the small guys, the little underfunded teams. To finish third, knowing what we're stacked up against every week, it's pretty cool."

The result exceeded TBR's previous best, 13th-place finishes recorded by Steve Park at Daytona in the summer of 2010 and by Blaney at Richmond this spring. But Blaney has been knocking on the door all season on plate tracks, where smaller organizations benefit from fewer rule changes that help them match up better against the sport's elite. Blaney was in the mix at the front in both the Daytona 500 and this year's spring Talladega race, but finished deep in the pack both times.

"This is a track [where] you can do this," Blaney said. "You can't hang in all day. With Brad Keselowski's help, we could hang in all day, and took advantage of getting a big push at the right time. That's what it comes down to here, having a car that will roll the last couple laps to do that. It all just worked out."

It worked out despite TBR's sizeable disadvantage in manpower and equipment. The car Blaney drove Sunday was the same vehicle he piloted to a third-place finish for Bill Davis Racing, Baldwin's former employer, at Talladega -- in 2007. "It's not a killer," Blaney said, laughing. "It's a big, big accomplishment for us."

TBR has used that same vehicle in all its restrictor-plate efforts. "It's got a good history on it, but it's old," Baldwin said. "This will be its last one. It will be retired after this."

It's going out in style. Baldwin hopes the Talladega finish is a step toward a more competitive 2012 for a team that began two years ago as a start-and-park outfit, has progressed to running most of the laps in most of the events on the Sprint Cup schedule, and Sunday cracked the top five for the first time.

"Really, it just cements us that we're for real," Baldwin said. "We had goals this year, and our goals were to get in the top 35 in points and do the best we could. Next year is a little bit different story. Coming back, we have a lot of things to announce in the near future that we already have done. We're just waiting on a couple of dominoes to fall. But next year will be different. Next year will be performance-driven. That's all we can ask for, starting how we started, and to get where we are today. I'm proud of everybody who stuck with me and our little organization."