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Tue, 25 Sep 2001, 12:58 PM

Top Fuel Racer Baldwin Passes Away
By Phil Burgess,

A memorial service for Top Fuel racer Bobby Baldwin will be held Wednesday morning, Sept. 26, at the Fairplex in Pomona. The service will begin at 11 a.m. at the Hines Pavilion at Gate 12 on White Ave. Baldwin's wife, Paula, requests casual dress. Cards and flowers may be sent directly to the main address of the Fairplex (1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, CA 91768) and they will deliver them to the pavilion.

Bobby Baldwin 1954-2001
Top Fuel racer Bobby Baldwin, a fan favorite who was a familiar site at fabled Pomona Raceway not just because it's where he most often ran his privately-funded dragster but because the hometown hero's grading business regularly "installs" the sand trap at Pomona Raceway, died Sept. 23 after reportedly suffering a brain aneurysm. He was 47.

Baldwin, of Upland, Calif., had attended every Winternationals since 1965, when he was 10 ("not counting the '63 and '64 events, when I watched through binoculars from the hill behind my parents' house," he noted with a smile), and had some of his greatest days at Pomona Raceway, including the recording of his first four-second pass there in 1992.

Visitors to Pomona Raceway during the Winternationals or Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals were just as likely to see Baldwin behind the wheel of a water truck, helping keep the dust down, as they were to see him in the cockpit, letting the dust fly behind him.

It's not surprising that many of Baldwin's highlights came at the Southern California raceplant. The Pomona Raceway parking lot was built on land once owned by his great-grandfather.

Baldwin reached the semifinals at this year's AutoZone Winternationals in Pomona before falling to Darrell Russell, the first of 11 events in which he competed this year. He qualified at 10 of the 11 and, not surprisingly, his second-best outing of the year also was at Pomona, a second-round finish at the Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals. In his final NHRA outing, at the Fram Nationals Aug. 5 in Sonoma, Calif., he qualified 13th but lost in the first round to Gary Scelzi.

After attending Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School in 1986, Baldwin made his Top Fuel debut at the 1988 Winternationals at Pomona, where he fell just one spot short of making the then quickest field in Top Fuel history. Baldwin's finest day at the track came just last October, when he was runner-up to Cory McClenathan at the Matco Tools SuperNationals at Houston Raceway Park. Baldwin had blown the engine in the semifinals and despite an heroic thrash, his car expired on the starting line in the final round.

Baldwin is married to the former Paula Karamesines, daughter of Top Fuel legend Chris Karamesines. He also is survived by his daughter, Krista, parents Joel and Carrie, and sister Nancy.

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