Tommy Baldwin took a major financial risk following the 2008 season. He formed Tommy Baldwin Racing for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and beyond. Baldwin was a successful crew chief with the likes of Ward Burton, Jimmy Spencer and even Kasey Kahne. In 2004, Baldwin led Kahne to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year award. The jump from crew chief to car owner has been tough for Baldwin, but he has been able to overcome adversity over the years.
In 2014, the driver lineup for TBR was Michael Annett in the No. 7 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet and Reed Sorenson in the unsponsored No. 36.
Like previous years, 2014 was a struggle. It was rumored that Baldwin may close the doors to the organization. That was not the case. Baldwin fully backed his two teams after Dave Blaney departed.
Annett has financial backing from Pilot Flying J, which sponsored him for 28 of the 36 races in his rookie season. Pilot Flying J has supported Annett ever since he raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
In five full seasons in the Xfinity Series, Annett only tallied seven top-five finishes, six of which were in 2012, where he finished a career-high fifth in points with Richard Petty Motorsports.
After being injured at the season opening race at Daytona in 2013, Annett missed the next eight races. However, despite the down year, the best news of all came in November. It was announced that he would be racing full-time for TBR.
His average finish on the season was 29.4, which isn’t eye appealing. However, with that said, he led more laps then fellow rookie Austin Dillon, with five, albeit they were under caution periods. While finishing 33rd in the season end standings, Annett will have much to build on for the upcoming 2015 season.
Early in Reed Sorenson’s career, he was labeled as the next big thing with Chip Ganassi Racing. He has five career top-fives and fifteen top-10 finishes in the Cup Series.
Like his teammate, Sorenson’s 2014 season was not very good with only a pair of top-20 finishes. Sorenson had no top-10 finishes, but with a best finish of 14th at the fall race at Talladega, he was able to prove the team was capable of running up front given the right situation. His average finish on the campaign was 29.8, very similar to Annett.
Unfortunately for Sorenson, TBR will not run the No. 36 full-time in 2015 after working with 1999 championship winning crew chief Todd Parrott. According to Godfather Motorsports, there is talk that Jay Robinson Racing will purchase the No. 36, but TBR will fabricate and prepare the cars for the four restrictor plate tracks. If the move does occur, eight TBR employees will be released, but they will have the opportunity to apply to work with Robinson, who fielded the No. 66 Toyota for the majority of the 2014 season.
It will be interesting to see how Annett transforms in his second full-time season. With TBR primarily focusing on one team, will it build that team from a lower-tier team to a mid-tier one?
This could be the make or break year for TBR. With limited success over the first five seasons, TBR needs to improve in all aspects of the team.
TBR does have one major thing going for them -- Ryan Preece. Over the past eight seasons, Preece has made a living in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour circuit. In 108 career starts, Preece has recorded 11 wins, 48 top-fives and 64 top-10’s. The 2013 Whelen Modified Tour champion made his Xfinity Series debut with Baldwin that season. In those eight seasons, his average finish is an impressive 10.5.
Between 2013 and 2014, he only has three Xfinity Series races, including making his speedway debut at Homestead to get approved for Daytona. If Preece can get a chance where he can establish himself in the Xfinity Series, it will give the NASCAR Next member a chance at being successful on a full-time basis in the future.