The Frontstretch: Vexing Vito: What's Vexing Robby? Getting His Rig Towed and Running In The Back by Vito Pugliese -- Thursday November 4, 2010

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A funny thing happened on the way to last weekend’s AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega. Well, not really that funny…and not really on the way there. More like in the parking lot… but really in the infield. Robby Gordon’s truck got towed.

No, he wasn’t late on the payments; somebody didn’t like the paint job on it.

It wasn’t as if it was covered in slurs and taunts such as what the gang from Top Gear (i.e., the real one on BBC, not that abomination that will be starting shortly on History Channel) during their epic adventure known as American Road Trip had festooned upon their $1500 heaps driving across Alabama a couple of years ago – right around the 6:15 mark.

It was Gordon’s personal vehicle, and one he was using to get the word out about his new business venture. A few months ago, Gordon started referring to Robby Gordon Motorsports not as a racing team, but rather, “A marketing company that goes racing.” Now we know what he was on about.

His crime was starting his own energy drink company to help fund his racing endeavors, much to the chagrin of the title sponsor of the weekend’s event. Good to see the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in NASCAR, during these unprecedented times when people are struggling to make it to the track – be it fan or field filler. This isn’t the first time Gordon has been privy to such a conflict; when he drove for Richard Childress Racing, his sponsor Cingular Wireless at the time did not sit well with then series sponsor Nextel.

And such has become the NASCAR Sprint Cup career of Robby Gordon. With sponsorship dollars tight, Gordon has been notably absent in recent weeks, forgoing a season of running in the rear and barely holding on to a Top 35 spot. Instead, Gordon has handed the seat over to Kevin Conway who brought sponsorship from Extenze on board, several times recently. The move was necessary to help keep Gordon’s operation that was once brimming with sponsorship afloat. Gordon has taken a couple of turns in the second car in the stable, running No. 07 with SpeedFactory.tv on the quarters, though appearing to be little more than a start-and-park effort.

With the announcement of his new plans, Gordon seemed to make peace with putting to bed the full-time NASCAR owner/driver role, and entering a new phase of his career – racing in several series when time, money, and desire dictate.

“Running a 36-race schedule doesn’t work for Robby Gordon,” said Gordon, in the third-person. “It’s over as far as that goes. We’re going to have a lot of fun. We’ll show up and race NASCAR. NASCAR is something I want to do. We’re going to win races again. I’m very frustrated about the performance of our program.”

Gordon is determined to still participate in NASCAR, but looks to become a bit of a throwback to drivers 40 years ago; ones who would show up to run the big money races and prestige events in not just NASCAR, but all forms of motorsport. You’d be hard pressed to find any driver more versatile than Gordon, who is an accomplished road racer as well as an off-road ace who completes annually in the Dakar Rally and SCORE Baja events in Mexico. After nearly winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1999, Gordon would compete there five more times, finishing as high as third in 2001 and 2003.

With sponsorship concerns and conflicts being what they are, Gordon’s new venture as Energy Drink owner may be his smartest moves on the track yet as both an owner and a driver.

A driver of Gordon’s proven ability need not waste his time and talent tooling around in the back of the pack just to say he’s a NASCAR driver, even if it does mean pulling some decent purses just to show up each weekend. He’s always nails on a road course, the type of venue where the driver really does make a difference and have the most input into what a car can or can’t do. Off-road racing is no different and even more extreme, for if you bite it out in the desert, there isn’t a safety crew that is going to show up as your rig is finally coming to rest.

Going fast is fun, as is winning – something Gordon has not been able to do in NASCAR much the last few years, despite having nearly won the Montreal Nationwide race on a couple of occasions, or the No. 7 team beating themselves at virtually every Cup race at Infineon.

The fact that in this day and age of money woes, this kind of business with towing cars because of their sponsorship messages, or that certain cellular phone service providers not being able to participate due to the series sponsor continues unabated is ludicrous. The contradictory nature of advertising and funding that has arisen is the kind of things that turns fans off to a sport, let alone a driver. One gets the sense that Gordon has had it with being just a Top 35 team, and is going after other pursuits that will pay larger dividends personally, professionally, and economically.

At the risk of getting my ride towed, best of luck with the new company Robby, and we’ll look forward to seeing you when we can in 2011, if just a little less.

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Jacob
11/04/2010 09:08 AM
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To be fair, Vito, Robby didn’t win too many races when he drove for the top teams. He has won zero races driving for himself (at least in Cup) when he showed up weekly. Showing up part time might let him have fun, but he won’t be winning any races while he does it.

EZ
11/04/2010 11:51 AM
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Jacob- Your right, I’m pretty sure na$car will see to that.

J.J.
11/04/2010 01:51 PM
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“It wasn’t as if it was covered in slurs and taunts such as what the gang from Top Gear (i.e., the real one on BBC, not that abomination that will be starting shortly on History Channel) during their epic adventure known as American Road Trip had festooned upon their $1500 heaps driving across Alabama a couple of years ago – right around the 6:15 mark.”

Abomination? The American Top Gear? I think you’re being too kind.

As for Robby G. I hope he pulls a Bobby Isaac and limits himself to about a dozen or so and wins a couple.

Nascar is bound and determined to have the Chase be their focus and the hell with the rest of the field and races.

They’re getting what they want at the expense of ratings and losing fans. Good on ‘em.

danny tall
11/05/2010 01:18 PM
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Isn’t Robby tied with Burton for wins in the 31 car? He won 1st Montreal race,I saw it. I just don’t believe every thing I hear from nascar. Robby Gordon seems to have made nascar car “randomly” select his car to be taken to the super secret special research area 51 ,or whatever they call it. This must have been a cheap pr stunt. It amazes me what nascar does so openly to Robby, that fans don’t notice. It kinda backfired this time cause some people were paying attention. It is a concident that Robby’s car was impounded this week is what you are supposed to believe. I thank Vito for having the courage to actually write this article about Robby. A $200,000 fine and loss of press credentials will follow,sorry. When something happens once it’s an isolated incident. When it happens twice, it’s a co-incident. When it happens three times or more, it’s a pattern. A pattern is clearly seen in Vito’s article alone. If you look back all the fines and penalties, the lack tv coverage, and negative articles, you should notice something. 1 driver has had more flat tires in the 1st 10 laps of a race than all others in a season, has had a mystery debris caution while pitting under green more than once in a race, twice in one race, more than 3 times in 2 consecutive races, and more than all other drivers combined in 1 season. Since this list is not more than 1 driver that is a big-ass coincident. I could go on but “conspiracy theory” is already in your head. One day a lot of fans will be grateful that Vito wrote this article because if nascar can make you not like Robby Gordon, then they can do it to your driver next. Robby is the real “under dog little guy” type that real fans used to root for,but they don’t. Nascar has been able to portray Robby in such a manner that most of you are unable to beleive your own eyes and ears (see JJ reply}. Have any of you thought about how many jobs in NC an CA that Robby has created? Add to that the jobs created in the Speed Energy Drink sales and distributions. Jeff and Jr get money from The National Guard (your tax dollars)and Tony gets money from US Army (your tax dollars) and drive cars for the biggest team in nascar. Robby Gordon actually build’s his own cars, has kept sponsorship in lean years, and now has become a sponsor. He’s never in trouble with the law. He’s very fan friendly . He races in venues worldwide. He could actually become YOUR drivers sponsor one day. Why does most of the media help nascar keep the fans from liking one of the two “real driver owners” in the sport? Because they think you are not smart enough to know that rasslin ain’t real. Open your eyes and ears people. At least look just to prove me wrong.

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