Californian Ivan Baldwin Could Make A Stock-Car Chassis Work
One of the top stock-car racers to come out of Southern California, Ivan “The Terrible” Baldwin was the scourge of the Southern California NASCAR late-model sportsman circuit. A polarizing figure, Baldwin’s aggressive driving style won him both fans and detractors, but it was his chassis expertise that carried him to NASCAR’s top series.
A teenage Baldwin arrived at San Bernardino’s Orange Show Speedway driving a 1950 Mercury No. 222 with “Ivan The Terrible” painted over the door. The quarter-mile paved oval was a tough place and Baldwin endured an apprenticeship that included being punted over the wall almost to an adjacent street. As Baldwin later said, “I was the bumpee before I was the bumper.”
He won his first feature in 1968 and added a crewman in 1969, future NASCAR crew chief and official Gary Nelson. Baldwin won four-straight track titles at San Gabriel Valley Speedway/ Speedway 605 as well as the ’71, ’73 and ’74 So Cal NASCAR LMS crowns. The latter year saw him finally take the Orange Show championship.
The list of Baldwin’s on-track accomplishments is impressive, including a fourth place in Daytona’s LMS Permatex 300 — best by a West Coast driver, a win in NASCAR’s West series and LMS victories at Riverside.
In 1975, Baldwin and Nelson moved north to work at Jack McCoy’s shop. McCoy, the career wins leader in NASCAR’s West series, picked Baldwin as his successor.
The 1976 season was filled with successes, including a victory in the Rose Classic at Roseville, Calif. Always one to try something different, Baldwin ran his NASCAR-legal Nova in a pair of IMSA road races, impressing the road-racing crowd while scoring top-10 finishes. Baldwin won at Riverside (Calif.) Raceway before a dominant performance in the Pacific Northwest’s Int’l Drivers Challenge. On tracks he’d never raced on before, Baldwin shattered track records, winning three mains in the seven-race series to take the overall title, highlighted by lapping the field on the clay at Washington’s Skagit Speedway.
After losing a close 1980 points race at Stockton 99 Speedway, Baldwin concentrated on building chassis. Returning after a three-year layoff, he promptly won some open comp races and won the 1984 Stockton title. Baldwin raced sporadically afterward, a highlight coming in his return to Orange Show.
Reportedly, the PA played “Jesus Christ Superstar” and, fittingly, he won the NASCAR Southwest Tour event. Baldwin soon headed South where Bill Elliott credited him with much of his team’s success en route to the 1988 Cup championship.
Baldwin worked for Dave Marcis, Darrell Waltrip and Ken Schrader before he was killed in a 1996 traffic accident.