Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito?: Robby Gordon Just Now Returning to NASCAR

The Sprint Cup Series heads to Sonoma this weekend for the first of two road-course races on the schedule. It also marks the return of Robby Gordon to Sprint Cup competition. You may remember the “other” Gordon; nails on the twisties, remarkably competitive on plate tracks, out to lunch on downforce tracks due to virtually zero funding and the only other Dodge team fielding a car for 2012. Might Dodge’s current plight of having literally no teams signed up for 2013 be the boon that Gordon has been waiting for to help revive his fledgling race team?

After leaving Richard Childress Racing after the 2004 season to pursue his dream of becoming an owner and driver, Gordon was able to land a major sponsor (when those were still plentiful), competed in every make of car, finished as high as 26th in points as an owner-driver and now finds himself at a bit of a career crossroads. He intimated months ago his team was essentially in mothballs, as without a sponsor, it was too expensive to operate. His Speed Energy Drink brand was formed to help support his racing efforts, and now Gordon is working to create his own stadium truck racing series.

It really is a sad state of affairs that somebody of Robby Gordon’s talent, ability and personality is languishing on the sidelines while other drivers of proven suspect capability remain entrenched in the sport. Perhaps Dodge’s dilemma will serve as the catalyst for Gordon’s resurgence into relevancy. If not, Gordon is almost always a factor at Sonoma regardless of funding – or lack thereof.

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Kurt Busch had another run in with a reporter this weekend.

That’s almost as hard to believe as him spinning out on the second lap of the Cup race, following a 10-day suspension for a comment made to a reporter following the Nationwide Series race at Dover, and public admonishment from team owner James Finch for bending up 14 racecars this season. There is a bit of an odd pattern developing of Busch being upset following Nationwide races, yet not wrecking cars. In the Cup Series, the issue seems to be wrecking cars. Up to this point, he has not had any incidents with reporters on Sundays.

What also seems to be occurring is a trend is media members potentially egging on Busch. At Charlotte he was being crowded and bumped into by several reporters during a session outside of his team hauler, which led to a few awkward pauses and icy stares during his statements.

At MIS he was said to have blown off his media obligations on pit road – although he was actually waiting patiently in the Media Center to talk. His back and forth with Marty Smith of ESPN was from a sarcastic remark that was misinterpreted by Smith and his camera man. While Smith certainly did nothing wrong to warrant the remark and has always been exceptionally fair and generous in helping drivers tell their side of the story, one gets the feeling that just about everybody in the media has had it with the antics, the attitude and the decade of disrespect that Busch has shown to many who cover the sport.

Personally, Kurt Busch has never been anything but polite and professional whenever I have had any interaction with him over the course of the past four years. What I do see still is his team and PR group refusing to interject or help corral their driver before things escalate. I’m not saying he has to be treated like Garland Greene in Con Air, wearing a muzzle and chained to a chair, escorted by armed guards. Well, OK, maybe I am.

The fact remains that as much as Busch has apologized for his actions and remarks, he still has a hair-trigger temper that gets set off in short order. Is it really paranoia if they’re out to get you? What might help Busch more than anything is one of those “Come To Jesus” meetings with those in the media like he had with James Finch last week to clear the air and help set the record straight for both parties.

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On the heels of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win at Michigan International Speedway Sunday and a pair of controversial Executive Orders issued the past two weeks, President Obama stands ready to issue a third decree this Sunday, giving Earnhardt Jr. a road-course win, his first consecutive wins and the Sprint Cup Series points lead. Polls that showed him in danger of losing North Carolina in November will show a 15-point swing to the positive come Monday.

The only misstep made by Earnhardt Jr. this past weekend at the Quicken Loans 400 was the introduction of his girlfriend, Amy Reimann in victory lane. After repeatedly having to endure the same question of “when will you win?” every weekend for the past four years, now he has a new question that will be placed to him on a constant loop three days a week: “When are you going to get married?”

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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