NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Robby Gordon

Robby Gordon

2010 Ride: No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Toyota
2010 Primary Sponsors: Extenze, Speed Energy Drink, Menards, Mapei, Speed Factory, Warner Brothers Music, Monster Energy Drink, Polaris, VIP Fan Experience, Blake Shelton, BAMVIP.com, James Otto, Whitney Duncan
2010 Owner: Robby Gordon
2010 Crew Chiefs: Ian Watt (Feb. – Apr.) Samuel Stanley (Apr. – June, Aug. – Nov.), Gene Nead (June – Aug.), Steve Lane (Phoenix & Homestead in November)

High Point: That second place at Sonoma. Gordon used a combination of pit strategy and road-course savvy to work his way up front, then stayed there for his best finish on the Cup level in nearly five years.

Low Point: On the track, dead last in the first Atlanta race in a first-lap crash. Off track, having to sue a sponsor (Extenze) for alleged non-payment, and having his personal vehicle towed at Talladega because of a sponsorship issue.

Summary: As a driver, Gordon started 27 of the 36 races on the 2010 schedule and was running at the finish 18 times, four of them still on the lead lap. In that second-place finish to Jimmie Johnson at Sonoma, he was just over three seconds behind at the checkered flag in what would have been a major upset victory. It’s a race that will probably be most remembered as the one in which Marcos Ambrose was set back for stopping his car while leading under caution; but in the end, Gordon’s underdog story was the one that pulled through.

Robby’s most notable achievement, at least in this writer’s opinion, continues to be the ability to keep his team running and making the field each and every week. Despite being a single-car, shoestring operation it’s accomplished through his parallel ability to find associate sponsorship from a variety of sources. And it’s also admirable that, as NASCAR’s most successful (or least unsuccessful) owner/driver, he has not resorted to the dreaded start-and-park strategy.

2011 Outlook: But Gordon’s run, as far as the entire season goes, may be coming to an end. Gordon announced in October at Talladega that he would run only the first five Cup races of this coming season, then run the “fun” events while focusing on both open-wheel and off-road efforts. There’s been no word on whether the team might run full-time with another driver or cherry-pick races.

Those first five, of course, have guaranteed starts for Gordon because he finished 34th in points. That finish took some doing, as Gordon got back into the car after rookie Kevin Conway, who came with the Extenze sponsorship, got perilously close to falling out of the Top 35 in points.

That ultimately resulted in the lawsuit against Extenze, as Gordon said they initially agreed to the driver switch, then refused to pay him, citing breach of contract. It’s one of three lawsuits pending for the driver; BAM Racing (who partnered with him early in 2010) and Specialized Bicycle components, fighting what they claim is copyright infringement after Gordon was accused of stealing their logo for his new business venture, SPEED Energy Drink.

On the track, reports have Gordon switching to Chevrolet for 2011 in NASCAR, or at the very least shopping for a new manufacturer deal and stating that he’s interested in being part of the Chevy-to-Indy deal. The driver once again plans to return to the Indianapolis 500, as General Motors apparently plans a new commitment to racing that could see him back in the open-wheel ranks full-time in 2012. He may even try to qualify in a car of his own at the Indianapolis 500 in 2011, even though he’ll have to use Honda power.

Long-term plans on the part of GM could well include Gordon in other series, primarily as one of the world’s best off-road racers. Even though the company is dropping the Hummer, they reportedly have plans for another big truck. Of course, entering into a new arrangement with GM could impact Gordon’s participation in NASCAR, perhaps even curtail it for good. Factory backing is as big a deal for off-road racing as it is in any motorsport, and concentration on that segment of competition could keep Gordon from giving full attention to the stock car effort. GM may also have a say in that decision.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: C
2007 Grade: C+
2008 Grade: D
2009 Grade: D-
2010 Grade: D

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