2006 Ride: No. 7 Menards/Jim Beam/Harrah’s Chevrolet
2006 Owner: Robby Gordon
2006 Crew Chief: Greg Erwin
Stats: 36 races, zero wins, one top five, three top 10s, 30th in points.
High Point: It’s hard to believe that finishing 26th could lead to a high point, but that’s exactly what the “other” Gordon on the Nextel Cup tour experienced at Bristol. Robby’s finish wasn’t great, but with two top-15 finishes in the first five races of the season to fall back on, the run was good enough to lock the team inside the Top 35 in owner points. For the first time since his team debuted in February 2005, Gordon could go to a Nextel Cup race the next week and not worry about qualifying on speed; it’s a luxury he wound up enjoying for each of the final 31 races this season.
Low Point: While Gordon actually made all the races this year, finishing them up front was a whole other matter altogether. DNFs continued to hand the team some major setbacks, including a stretch over the final five races of the season where the No. 7 car failed to finish three times. With three straight finishes of 32nd or worse to round out the year, Gordon tumbled to 30th in the final point standings.
Summary: After a nightmare of a 2005 season that included seven DNQs, Gordon’s second year as owner-driver of the No. 7 team was a bit of a smoother ride. He qualified for all 36 races and was much more competitive on the racetrack, although the team still struggles to keep up with the additional money and resources the multi-car operations can afford. A single-car team with rotating sponsors, Gordon does the best he can with what he has; unfortunately, at its best that’s usually only good enough for a top-15 finish. Gordon also has a reputation for not bringing his car home in one piece, and that didn’t help matter much in 2006; his total of nine DNFs was one of the highest on the circuit, and he severely damaged his car in wrecks several more times throughout the season.
2007 Outlook: Tired of being treated as one of the lowest teams in the pecking order at Chevrolet, Gordon engineered a move to Ford for his team for 2007. As one of only nine full-time teams scheduled to run with that manufacturer next year, he should get better support and information as opposed to being one of two dozen cars signed up to run Chevrolets. The team knows they have to come out of the box strong in order to maintain their standing in owner points, so it won’t be a surprise to see Gordon start off with a bang; it’s whether he can maintain that momentum that will make or break him.