Back In His Element: Cancer-Free Tommy Baldwin Jr. Rejuvenated For 2024 Racing Season

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Tommy Baldwin Jr. (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

As the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season entered a busy summer, long-time series staple Tommy Baldwin Jr. received news that changed his life.

Baldwin was told he had cancer. It was treatable, but the ensuing process to combat the disease forced him to take a sabbatical from the sport that’s been a part of his life since his childhood, when he watched his late father Tom Baldwin Sr. compete in Modifieds.

The months following the diagnosis were filled with challenges as Baldwin adjusted to life away from the track. Now he is cancer free, and Baldwin is eager to be back with the Modified community on a regular basis while continuing to rehabilitate himself.

“Right now, I would say I’m at 85 percent,” he said. “I’m trying to get myself back into shape. It took a toll on me, but I had a good support group with a lot of people helping me. Got a clean bill of health [in the middle of January], so now we’re in the rebuilding process.”

Baldwin’s treatments involved eight rounds of chemotherapy and 35 rounds of radiation. By the time his scans showed no discernible signs of cancer, he had lost almost 60 pounds and most of his stamina.

His days gradually felt longer as more chemo and radiation weakened his body. As he continued treatment, many thoughts raced through his mind pertaining to his family and racing endeavors.

Less than a year earlier, Baldwin was celebrating the Modified Tour owner’s championship at Martinsville Speedway with driver Doug Coby. That accomplishment was the first time the iconic 7NY sat atop the standings at the end of a season.

Early in 2023, the Tommy Baldwin Racing Modified operation remained efficient while Baldwin served as the competition director for Rick Ware Racing, a role he assumed in April.

Baldwin’s leadership and experience as a Cup Series crew chief, which includes a Daytona 500 win with Ward Burton, helped RWR enjoy one of its best seasons yet. The team scored its highest finish to date, a seventh at Atlanta Motor Speedway in July with veteran J.J. Yeley behind the wheel.

Baldwin sons Luke and Jack both have started to build solid racing careers of their own. As Jack found plenty of on-track success, a breakout 2023 for Luke saw him grab a World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing title at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway in the 602 Modified division.

Luke suspected something might be wrong after his father had made a handful of doctor’s appointments in the weeks leading up to the diagnosis. Getting confirmation on his father’s health was a sad moment, but Luke did not linger on those feelings for too long.

With Tommy on the mend, Luke had to shoulder more responsibilities to both care for his father and build upon the knowledge that had been passed down.

“I knew I was going to have to pull a big weight around the shop and the house,” Luke said. “It was a huge learning experience, but all the guys helped tremendously and taught me a ton. I picked up some slack when [Tommy] wasn’t around. Everything was going to be alright, but I just had to give it time.”

Luke stayed focused and kept racing without any major interruptions, but Tommy’s recuperation from the relentless cancer treatments forced him to temporarily step away from RWR and suspend operations on his Modified program.

Coby was fourth in the Modified Tour standings when Baldwin shut it down after the 11th race of the year at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Despite this, Baldwin said there were no objections to the suspension of the team’s season.

“Everybody understood, because my health came first,” Baldwin said. “It was something that needed to be done. When you get in a situation like that, regardless if it was me or somebody else, the decision had to be made, and nobody really had a choice. I knew the battle I was getting into, so we needed to concentrate on that.”

News of Baldwin’s cancer came as a surprise for Coby, who has developed a close relationship with the veteran car owner and crew chief since first joining his Modified program in 2022.

In Coby’s opinion, Baldwin’s fiery and competitive disposition is what creates a winning environment at the shop. Baldwin’s passion also convinced Coby that the car owner would overcome cancer and continue the success of the 7NY started by Tom Sr. several decades ago.

“I’m one of the few people on the Tour that raced against [Tommy’s] father,” Coby said. “I’ve had a lot of respect for Tom Sr. and [the 7NY], but the people who raced Modifieds from Long Island and have that rich history are a different breed of people. Tommy has made it pretty clear that he wants to carry that number’s legacy forward to honor his father and pass that fire down to Jack and Luke.”

When Tommy went public with his diagnosis, he had unwavering support not only from Coby, his family and team, but from everyone within the Modified discipline.

The first event without the 7NY on track was a race at Virginia’s Langley Speedway. Other teams acquired #BaldwinStrong stickers and placed them on their cars. Proceeds from the sticker purchases ended up going to the Matheny School, which specializes in helping children with disabilities.

The expressions of love from so many others provided Baldwin some comfort during his initial treatments. They also reminded him of the positive impact he’s left in both NASCAR and the Modified community.

“I couldn’t believe the amount of support from everyone that reached out and checked on me all the time,” he said. “That makes you feel good, realizing that maybe you’ve done the right things throughout the years with everybody and respected enough that everybody cared, which was pretty cool.”

The ubiquitous assistance Baldwin continues to receive weeks before the start of the 2024 season has been poignant for Luke.

Luke knows he would not be close to where he as a driver today without his father’s influence and guidance. He said work ethic is the primary quality instilled by Tommy, which in turn helps Luke stay calm under pressure and enables him to acquire knowledge on his own.

Those qualities are essential as Luke navigates the adversity that impacts his family, which is why he felt a strong sense of catharsis and elation when Tommy’s improving health allowed him to be present for several events near the end of 2023.

Now that Tommy is almost back to full health, Luke feels more invigorated than ever to showcase everything he has learned over the past year.

“To see [my dad] back at the track at the end of last year at [several different races] was special,” Luke said. “Him being there was a whole different motivator. Words can’t describe how excited I am to see him back in his element doing what he loves.”

A busy year awaits both Luke and Jack. The brothers will spend plenty of time competing in Modified events around the southeast in 2024, but Luke is planning a part-time schedule in the CARS Pro Late Model Tour and in 602 Modifieds, the latter of which is with Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Coby is also returning to Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2024 for a seven-race Modified Tour schedule that starts with the season-opening event at New Smyrna. The duo is using a PSR chassis for their campaign, which Coby believes will enable them to contend for a victory in each race.

The knowledge Tommy Baldwin has acquired from both Modifieds and NASCAR has been invaluable to Coby and so many others in the northeast. Coby added that Baldwin’s sustained influence only makes racing better across all disciplines. He’s honored to keep leaning on Baldwin as he pursues more NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victories.

“Tommy is a throwback to the time when a kid gets involved with motorsports because his father is a racer and goes on to have success at the top level,” Coby said. “He’s someone who is a great voice for the grassroots racers because he’s seen everything. A lot of people seek him out for advice, and there aren’t a lot of people in Tommy’s position who have the experience he does.

“There’s a missing link in motorsports of people who have been at the bottom and top that can share those experiences, so Tommy is unique in that aspect.”

As Baldwin makes final preparations on his fleet of cars before setting off for New Smyrna, he finds himself grateful for the career he’s cultivated along with everyone who continues to support him through the final steps of his rehab.

The journey he’s endured is not one he wishes to make again, but it allowed him to compartmentalize his situation and fully cherish everything he already enjoyed about life before the diagnosis.

“You need to be happy and live life to the fullest,” Baldwin said. “Wake up every day and have fun. Don’t take life for granted, because things change so quickly.”

Healthy, rejuvenated and motivated, Baldwin is ready to make the most of his second chance by adding on to the storied history of the No. 7NY that is now intertwined between himself, his father and his sons.


  1. Fast Eddie says

    Absolutely great news for Tom Balwin, his family, and his racing family!

  2. This is great to hear!
    Continued good health to you Tom!!

  3. Great news, glad you are back in favorite places.

  4. Suitcase Jake says

    7NY STRONG !!!! Great news for Tommy and family & Modified fans …
    Coby will be a factor in every race…. Not sure if Doug has funding for
    his own # 10 WMT car …. Will he try to fill out the schedule with his own
    car or no …??

  5. Suitcase Jake,
    No plans I’ve heard of for Doug beyond the part-time schedule with Baldwin.

  6. Just Me - The Original says

    Spoke with Doug a while back. He wants to cut back on his racing schedule.

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