Race Weekend Central

2007 NASCAR Driver Review: Robby Gordon

Robby Gordon

2007 Ride: No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Ford
2007 Primary Sponsors: Jim Beam, Menards
2007 Owner: Robby Gordon
2007 Crew Chiefs: Greg Erwin (Feb.-May), Gene Need (May-Sep.), Peter Sospenzo (Sep.-Nov.)
2007 Stats: 35 starts, 0 wins, 0 wins, 1 top five, 2 top 10s, 26th in points

High Point: There are few things in life that one can bank on: Death, taxes and Robby Gordon on a road course. It is of no surprise that Gordon’s best two outings of the year came when he would be on (nearly) equal footing with his fellow competitors. With all of the talk of common templates, bodies and the inability to pass, Gordon is still clearly worth a few tenths of a second a lap when the road turns right as well as left. He managed to put it on the front row and lead 48 of 110 laps lead at Sonoma in June before being undone by poor fuel mileage and finishing 16th.

Two months later, he posted his best finish of the year with a fifth-place effort at Watkins Glen. It was refreshing this year to see Gordon suffer only two DNFs (versus nine last season), and one of those was an engine failure, not the result of an ill-advised pass or racing for 29th while three laps down.

Robby’s most memorable 2007 moment however was at another road course, this one north of the border at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. With the laps winding down, he got into a game of bumper tag with Marcos Ambrose, with Ambrose retaliating and sending Robby spinning. Gordon then declined NASCAR’s suggestion that he was now 13th in the running order, so he maintained his position for the final restart. So what you had at the end of the spectacle was winner Kevin Harvick, hometown hero Patrick Carpantier and Gordon all doing burnouts and celebration donuts. Only in Canada.

Low Point: Between having his sponsors decals ripped off the car at Atlanta and taking provisionals like Carl Edwards takes vitamins, 2007 was full of them. Recycling three crew chiefs (four after Peter Sospenzo fell ill in October), during the course of the season could probably be considered below average. While most successful driver/crew chief combinations are ones that are long established and stood the test of time, Gordon went the other direction, trying in vain to find the magic combination. It’s kind of hard to build team unity, cohesion and establish a benchmark for performance when you forget the guy’s name on the other end of that radio button.

Missing a race is never fun and he did just that at Pocono following the Brickyard 400 in August. While that certainly was not cause for celebration, Gordon probably wasn’t feeling too bad considering that NASCAR could have parked him for a few weeks following his escapades in Canada. NASCAR was not as impressed and entertained with his antics and post-race comments as many others and I were. I guess one of the good parts about being an owner and a driver is job security. Qualifying also desperately needs to be addressed for 2008, as Gordon could very well have earned the title Mr. Provisional this year, with 19 starts of 37th or worse. Even Morgan Shepherd thinks that’s ridiculous.

Summary: To this day, Gordon remains an enigma in NASCAR. Among his fellow competitors, you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t think that Robby Gordon and car-control go together like Tom Brady and passing accuracy. However, Robby has ran into or upset just about everyone in the field. Other than Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty, you won’t find a whole lot of other owner-drivers today in NASCAR’s premier division. Robby continues to get it done on his own for the most part, with a smidgen of assistance from Ford and the Roush-Yates corporate engine donor program.

After his second year as an owner/driver, Gordon was able to improve from 37th in points during 2005 to 30th for 2006. A switch from the Bow Tie to the Blue Oval was in order following 2006, which helped Gordon improve yet again in 2007. What followed were a smattering of finishes in the teens and 20s, nothing really to write home about, but considering the mega-team onslaught of Hendrick, Gibbs, Childress and Roush that he’s facing, the fact he’s been able to improve each successive year is a small victory in and of itself.

2008 Outlook: Slugging through the most competitive motorsports series on the planet as the Lone Ranger like Robby does is difficult enough, but factor in the depth of Gordon’s operation coupled with having to develop not one but two new cars by way of the CoT, and you have a recipe for disaster and motorsports suicide.

Even with the odds stacked against him, Gordon could very well post an improvement for 2008. Locked into the field by way of the Top 35, Gordon’s limited resources can be focused on one type of racecar rather than two. Continued support from Roush and Ford could allow him to pick up a spot or two in the points. While no one will argue his versatility as a driver, Gordon’s best chances to win remain on the road courses where if not for mechanical issues or his own self-destructive tendencies, he’d win nearly every race held on one.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: C
2007 Grade: C+

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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