NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

New car has Krista Baldwin excited about what's ahead this season in Top Fuel

It only took Krista Baldwin one weekend in Pomona to realize what she’d been missing in her first four seasons in Top Fuel.
05 Apr 2024
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Krista Baldwin

It only took Krista Baldwin one weekend in Pomona to realize what she’d been missing in her first four seasons in Top Fuel.

The granddaughter of quarter-mile legend Chris “the Greek” Karamesines and daughter of late Top Fuel driver Bobby Baldwin made the next big investment in her budding career over the winter, buying the complete racing operation from class veteran Pat Dakin. (“It’s the next part of the stupidity plan,” she joked. “All this for three seconds.”)

Over her entire Top Fuel career, which began in 2020, she’d been driving Grandpa’s hand-me-down dragster built in 2007 by Don Schumacher Racing and a car that’s seen a lot of laps and drove like it, unlike her new ride.

“For the longest time I couldn’t understand how people could get into Top Fuel and go right down the track,” said Baldwin, who came to Top Fuel with Alcohol Dragster experience. “Now I understand.

“This is probably the best car I've ever driven and I fit so well into it. The characteristics of this car make it so much easier to drive. The old car moved around a lot downtrack; everything was just a little bit more wiggly. This just goes right down the track. I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is what I've been missing out on.’ I even told ‘Scoots’ [crew chief Scott Graham] 'If this is what the norm is out here, now I understand how these new people that are just jumping in and doing this. I wasn't that good in the first two laps.”

The Winternationals was Baldwin’s first time in the car, and even though they only ran a best of 3.96 to qualify and lost in round one, there was definitely the promise of better things to come.

“Pomona was mostly testing for us,” she explained. “The car hasn't run since Dallas last year., and we got a fresh front half on it, and I'm new in the car so we just wanted to get us all into one groove. I’d also never driven a Top Fuel car without a canopy, so that was new for me, too.

Baldwin’s career best is a 3.81, and she’s hoping that the team will push her into the 3.70s for the first time this weekend.

After Phoenix, the team will run the Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas then take a brief break before competing in Grandpa’s hometown event in Chicago, then finish up the year in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Pomona.

“I feel like I have to go to Chicago or I'll be disowned,” she cracked. “I just saw Grandpa at Easter. He's doing great at 93.”

Baldwin continues to manage her racing career as well as her “real job,” as Creative Director for McLeod Racing and FTI Performance and General Manager for Paul Lee Racing.

“It’s been difficult,” she admits, “You’ve gotta really time-manage yourself and compartmentalize things; driving is the easy part. But Paul’s always on my side. Whenever I have a question about anything, he helps me out, and he understands if I'm not in the office for a couple hours.”