'Ivan the Terrible' or 'Ivan the Great', Baldwin grew up on the short tracks of Southern California but he is renowned thoughout the stock car racing world as one of the best chassis men of all time.
Ivan Baldwin, started his racing career in 1966 with little fanfare, other than being suspended for the ’67 season after a dispute with an official.
In ’68 he was back, winning for the first time on September 29th at Orange Show Speedway. By the early 70’s he’d won many Southern California races, and points championships five times at three tracks in ‘73 and ‘74, driving cars that he had built. You see, not only could Ivan Baldwin drive a race car ,he was a master mechanic as well.
By the end of ’74 Ivan and his friend and confidant, Gary Nelson, had caught the eye of Winston West regular Jack McCoy and soon joined the growing McCoy Racing Products team, operating the West car and others. In 1976 Ivan won 28 of 44 races entered, including two Riverside races and the International Driver’s Championship in the Pacific Northwest.
Ivan, along with Carrera shock maker Dick Anderson, pioneered the coil-over suspension design and, with Gary Nelson’s vital role in development, produced what would become the standard for late model cars of the future.
In late‘76 , after receiving offers to join the new DiGard team for whom Darrell Waltrip was driving, Nelson decided to head South. Gary won with Ivan for the last time at Riverside in January of ‘77, and left for Daytona.
This split became a turning point for Ivan as well. He left the successful McCoy operation and opened his own shop with his friend Arley Cook.
He worked with Kenny Boyd in 1980, and they won 22 feature events together. Then in ‘82 and ‘83 he worked with Tim Gillett, and in ‘84 they won the Stockton Speedway Championship.
Ivan won a Winston West championship as crew chief with the legendary Hershel McGriff in 1986, and then built a Thunderbird for Tony Oddo, and it ran well, winning a Winston West race at Stockton the first time out.
Shortly after that, when Bill Elliott needed a car for Riverside, a deal was struck, and Bill drove that T-Bird. Bill hot-lapped the car and was so impressed that a car, built by this obscure car builder that he had never heard of before, could run so well.
The following year, Baldwin sold his shop and moved east, joining Elliott. The story goes that he taught Elliott how to win on short tracks.
“Ivan the Terrible” as he was known to friends and adversaries alike, grew up on the short tracks of Southern California, but he is renowned thoughout the stock car racing world as one of the best chassis men of all time.