February 01, 2008
It would be easy to put a ton of negative spin on today's announcement that Robby Gordon Motorsports is switching its alliance from Ford to Dodge for the 2008 season.
Way too easy.
So, I'll not go there.
Well, maybe not entirely.
The Ford/Gordon divorce is a sign of the times. In today's NASCAR Sprint Cup world, the days of the single-car, non-allianced team have gone the way of the cigarette sponsorship and open-faced driver helmets. They are a part of the sport's history.
RGM and Ford's one-year marriage was announced with much fanfare on October 14, 2006 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, in a major press conference with Ford Racing's major domo, Dan Davis.
At the press conference, Gordon characterized the move as "coming home" to the manufacturer that had been so instrumental in his early years in racing. Davis announced that it was Ford's intention to make Gordon more competitive and a "force to win, week in and week out."
It was supposed to be a match between the conservative manufacturer and the playboy driver.
It was a classic Hollywood marriage that was flawed from the get-go.
While both sides will put a positive spin on the reason or reasons why there was a split, it was clear from the start that each had differing ideas on where their partnership would take them.
At the announcement in the fall of 2006, Davis described all the technical advantages of having RGM as a partner, while Gordon said, "The relationship with Ford is obviously to grow Robby Gordon Motorsports."
Reading between the lines:
What Davis was really saying was, "We have another test mule for the stuff that Jack Roush and his gang are putting together."
Gordon was saying, "Ford will help us find money so that I can expand to two cars and I can be a real player in this sport."
Kevin Federline and Brittney Spears had more in common than these two.
Gordon's CoT program (and for that matter, much of his '07 season) suffered because Jack Roush's organization admittedly was behind the curve on testing of the new car.
At today's announcement, Gordon made that very clear.
"I feel this agreement with Gillett Evernham Motorsports helps make the learning curve of the COT a little bit easier to navigate," said Gordon
Granted, Gordon was able to eke out top-35 points status for much of last season, but that came only after a lot of hard work by his team, along with a revolving door on the office of his crew chief and Gordon's aggressive driving style, which more often than not got him finishes better than his car.
So, that now leaves Ford with just Roush Fenway, Yates, Wood Brothers and an occasional race by Boris Said's team as the remaining organizations with Ford.
And it becomes another in a long list of missteps by Ford Racing during the past decade while Davis has been at the helm.
Robby Gordon becomes the new kid at Dodge, where they have put out the red carpet for this bold, aggressive and willing to win at any cost owner/driver. It's a much better fit, both on a technical level and a marketing level, although I don't expect that GEM will be throwing many primary sponsors in Gordon's direction. They will however, use Gordon as a tool to gain secondary sponsorship and as a result Gordon should see some much needed financial relief.
As divorces go, this one looks civilized and proper.
But there remains this nagging feeling that there's some good dirt under the surface here. Dirt worth exposing at some future date.
Just give me some time, I'll dig it up for you.
Until next time...
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