Five years ago Tommy Baldwin, Jr went down to Daytona for speedweeks 2009 with one distinctive goal in mind, make the Daytona 500. Admittedly Baldwin acknowledged starting an underfunded single car operation in the face of trying economic times perhaps wasn’t the wisest idea. However Baldwin retained an abundance of confidence in his abilities to construct a successful operation over the course of time. Since TBR’s debut in 2009, Baldwin managed to find partial sponsorship for his #7 car and has even expanded from single car operation into a two car operation.
Now heading into season number six as a NSCS owner Baldwin prepares to welcome Michael Annett into the fold. Annett is set to replace veteran Dave Blaney at TBR and compete for rookie of the year honors. In addition to competing for 2014 ROTY honors Annett brings with him sponsorship from Pilot Flying J to his new home. Give Baldwin some credit for taking a chance on Annett, a driver with no previous NSCS experience. But one has to wonder will Baldwin’s unconventional move cost his team in the long run?
Sure Annett has sponsorship dollars behind him, but it’s really hard to ignore the fact his only two victories in any major racing series came on superspeedways (ARCA- Daytona & Talladega). As we all know the outcome of superspeedway racing heavily depends on the draft. I’m not saying Michael Annett isn’t a capable race car driver. He certainly can compete at a high level however he may not be ready to mix it up with the sports very best on Sunday afternoons just yet. Ultimately the goal for Michael Annett in 2014 has to be forward progress on a weekly basis. Sufficient seat time behind the wheel of a Sprint cup car can only help Annett’s cause. Since TBR doesn’t have the economic resources of let’s say Hendrick Motorsports, or Roush Fenway Racing, realistically they can fly under the radar, and develop at their own pace.
Let’s face it. Nobody expects this combination to set the world on fire. Clearly the odds are against Michael Annett given his lack of experience at this level. That’s not to say he won’t have a few surprise finishes inside the top 20. That would be considered a great accomplishment for a rookie driver paired with a lower tier team.
If Tommy Baldwin remains totally committed to overseeing Annett’s development as a driver on the NSCS circuit then this perilous experiment will eventually pay dividends. However don’t bet the house on it.
Final grade – D-