2008-12-18 / Sports

One-Of-A-Kind Robby Gordon

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Despite the sour economy NASCAR is on a solid footing, and Robby Gordon is one of those drivers set to go.

Jim Beam Bourbon announced that it will continue its partnership with Gordon as a primary sponsor of the No. 7 during the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Gordon, 39, a six-time off-road champion and owner/driver of Robby Gordon Motorsports started his own NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team in 2005 after spending three seasons driving for Richard Childress Racing. Gordon, a versatile driverm has competed in a variety of series including NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide Series, Indy Cars, SCORE International Off-Road, sports cars and the prestigious Dakar Series. He swept both 2003 road course races in NASCAR's top series and is a three-time off-road Baja 500 and three-time Baja 1000 winner. In addition, in 2007 Gordon became the first American in history to win a stage in the Dakar Rally, a grueling two-week off-road adventure.

Gordon finished the 2008 season in the top-35, which guarantees the No. 7 a starting spot in the first five races of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The team scored three top- 10 and seven top-20 finishes and displayed a solid performance at the superspeedway events, finishing second in restrictor-plate points.

Unlike Gordon, several NASCAR teams have yet to secure financial backing. Mergers, acquisitions, personnel layoffs, and decreased fan attendance are also part of the 2009 racing outlook.

NASCAR is a sport built upon a long history, and no racing organization boasts a more proud or productive past than Petty Enterprises. Between founding father Lee Petty, who won three Cup Series championships, and current family patriarch Richard, who won a record 200 races and seven championships, no operation has secured more hardware in the nearly 60 years the governing body and royal racing family have been in business together.

One of the biggest reports of last week was that Petty Enterprises was on the verge of merging to GEM and essentially ceasing to exist as an autonomous entity for the first time in the history of NASCAR.

Unfortunately, the truth is that Petty Enterprises and Wood Brothers Racing just didn't change with the times. Popular or not, multi-car teams in big Charlotte area garages are the business model of the day. With the expense of racing being what it is, the necessity of having several cars in one organization allows for more efficient use of man and machine power.

Both of these teams stuck with the model that had worked for them in the 1960s and 1970s. Although they may have been doing what they were doing for the right reasons, the results were destined to lead to the point where they are now. Both organizations may have wanted to remain as small, family owned operations, which would allow them to be loyal to those who had helped them get to the top.

Until just recently, Petty Enterprises still ran its team out of the same family garage in Level Cross, N.C. It had used for decades. Literally and figuratively far from the huge, technological marvels that sit just a stone's throw from the Lowe's Motor Speedway, the shop had a homey feel, but unfortunately, not a competitive feel.

Reality finally forced the Pettys to move closer to the Charlotte area last year. Perhaps the move was too little too late, because they will probably lose their identity completely if the merger with GEM is completed.

Wood Brothers Racing also employed the same type model with their business. Choosing to remain in Stuart, Va., rather than take up residence in the Charlotte area, they watched the NASCAR world go racing by while they sat still. They too moved to Charlotte but only after it was too late.

According to press releases, the Wood Brothers organization will run only 12 races in 2009 with Bill Elliott behind the wheel in all of them.

If the end is near for these two storied organizations, it is a sad day indeed. Whoever is to blame, whether it be NASCAR, the newer mega teams, the sponsors, the teams themselves or a combination of all, the fact is that these teams failed to change with the times. And the sad result is they are closer to being a part of racing's history than they are its present and future.

There are also predictions by NASCAR that the fan attendance will decrease by 6-10 percent next year.

NASCAR has enjoyed some very good times, for at least 30 years. Now it's time to reckon up and take stock. Come February 13, 2009, there will be a Daytona 500. There will be a full field of 43 cars. The Petty and Wood Bros. teams might be absent, but others will take their place.

That's the nature of the sport of NASCAR. If one team doesn't make it, another one will. We'll race next year and there will be some exciting racing, along with new names. By the middle of 2009, we will have forgotten about what happened at the end of the 2008 season.

Trust me.

Next week: What Would Buck Do?

Racing trivia question: What year was the first Daytona 500 held?

Last week's question: Who will be the three Joe Gibbs drivers in 2009? They are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

Return to top