Owner Gordon seeks good finish from driver Gordon

Bob Benz

In his fourth season taking on the dual role of car owner and driver, Robby Gordon can certainly relate to Tony Stewart’s urge to branch off and start his own team next season.

However, Gordon – one of only two drivers other than Stewart to win a Cup race at Watkins Glen since 2002 – offered the four-time Glen winner some words of wisdom on his upcoming endeavor.

“I think he’ll do a good job at it. The only words of wisdom that I gave him was, and I only mean it in fun and games, be careful what you wish for, you might get it,” Gordon said. “You know, it’s a chore to be the driver and the owner. But at the same time, provided you hire the right people and they do their job and follow through with it and take ownership in it, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Finding the right people and getting them on the same page has been a constant struggle – and one of many stresses Gordon has encountered as a car owner of the aptly-named Robby Gordon Motorsports.

“I think the hardest part, the first part, was getting the operation up and running,” Gordon said. “The people side of it is probably the most difficult, getting everybody on the same team. It sounds crazy. You would think everybody working together would be on the same team anyway.

But you have a lot of cliques, a lot of groups. There’s a lot of egos in this sport. So trying to get everybody to work together and be a team to make the best product that we can possibly make and bring it to the racetrack every weekend has probably been the hardest thing.”

Heading into Sunday’s Centurion Boats at The Glen, Gordon ranks 30th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with 1,688 points, well out of contention for a top 12 spot in the playoffs, which commence Sept. 14 at New Hampshire. This season, Gordon has just two top-10 finishes, an 8th and a 6th, both at Daytona.

And considering Gordon’s never finished better than 16th in the overall standings (2003), has placed 37th, 30th and 26th in NASCAR’s top series since becoming a car owner, issues of future sponsorships are always a concern.

“Obviously, you know, sponsors and everybody want to be involved with a team that can win races,” Gordon said. “I look at this weekend as an opportunity of putting our team in victory lane. There’s only been three teams this year that have been in victory lane. So if we could pull it off, that would be big.”

Although Gordon has just three career wins in NASCAR’s top series, two came at road courses and both occurred in 2003, at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. In fact, Watkins Glen’s 2.45-mile road course has been – by far – the track where Gordon has enjoyed the most success. In nine career Sprint Cup starts at WGI, Gordon has a win and seven top-5 finishes.

“I still like the road racing a lot,” Gordon said. “It’s something that I look at, we have probably a 1-in-5 or 1-in-10 shot of winning the race. We put a lot of effort into our road racing effort. Not that we don’t put a lot of effort into our oval racing as well. This is something I’ve done for 15 years now and I have a lot of experience road racing.”

While a boost in the standings has usually been the order of business following Gordon’s annual August venture into Schuyler County, he is confident his primary sponsor, Jim Beam, will be back on board in 2009, regardless of how 2008 unfolds.

“We know what it takes as sponsorship to go and do this thing,” Gordon said. “And I feel confident that we’ll get a sponsor for next year and we’ll able to continue on. I also have a lot of confidence that Jim Beam will return with us, as well.”

Gordon said he is intrigued by the idea of bringing in a second car to Robby Gordon Motorsports, but believes the team must first focus on getting the No. 7 Jim Beam Dodge into victory lane.

“We’d love to run a second car,” Gordon said. “I think our team and our facility and our systems and procedures and policies, all that stuff, is in place now to run a second car.

“You know, we still haven’t won with one car, but this weekend’s race hasn’t happened yet either,” he added. “It’s important to make one car run good first. And we’ve been able to stay inside of the top 35. But, you know, at the same time we’d like to position ourselves to win races.”

Compared to the ownership aspect of his racing team, getting behind the wheel has been a breeze for the 39-year-old Gordon.

“I think the easy part of it’s always been the driving part of it,” Gordon said. “Making our racecars fast, making our racecars light, making our race team efficient has probably been the most difficult thing.”

Corning Leader