Robby runs amok

Robby runs amok

Robby runs amok
August 6th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Robby Gordon went well over the line on Saturday at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, and needs more of a punishment than a one-race suspension.

The driver of the No. 55 Camping World Ford made four mistakes in judgment, all within the last three laps of Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 200 Busch Series race.

The first mistake was trying to pass race leader Marcos Ambrose after the caution flags had been displayed for a crash that happened just behind him. When Gordon continued to compete, Ambrose accidentally hit the back of Gordon's bumper and sent him into a spin.

Mistake number two took place when he refused to accept NASCAR's decision that he should restart in the 13th position. A driver may question his position, and Gordon may actually have had a point that NASCAR was starting him in the wrong position, but once a ruling is made he must get in the correct position. Gordon refused. He refused not once, but at least three times when NASCAR told him to move back in the field.

NASCAR erred in not stopping the race to force Gordon into the correct position, and that led to Gordon's third mistake.

Gordon, still mad at Ambrose for spinning in, intentionally ran into the back of the race leader knocking him off the track and out of contention for the win.

After the "racing incident," NASCAR black-flagged Gordon meaning he was supposed to immediately go to his pit box, and that his racing day was over.

Gordon refused this rule too - error number four - completing the remaining laps and even claiming victory. In a final and infantile act, Gordon did a celebratory burnout next to actual winner Kevin Harvick.

Now it is time for NASCAR to act and act in a big way. They immediately parked Gordon for the Cup race on Sunday, but that is not enough.

Gordon doesn't get it and hasn't his entire career. He has already been fined, penalized and put on probation, but nothing has changed his disrespect for other drivers and authority.

"They put me in a position to react the way I did with the call they made under caution," Gordon said.

The last statement translates to: "It's not my fault and I'll do it again if I want to in an effort to show up NASCAR and racing."

"We'll sit this weekend out, but we will come to Watkins Glen with a vengeance to win both races," Gordon posted on his website.

NASCAR should not let that happen. NASCAR needs to suspend Gordon from racing for a longer period of time - six weeks, maybe longer. That might get the message across that NASCAR runs the series, not Gordon.

The one-race suspension did not teach Gordon anything, and he is in need of a lesson.

The ball is in your court, NASCAR.

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Re: Robby runs amok

In the Pits: Gordon's behavior spoils stellar weekend for NASCAR
August 6, 2007

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -The late Bill France Jr. always said nobody was bigger than the show, and the NASCAR chairman showed little tolerance for those who lost sight of his mantra.

Robby Gordon became bigger than the show in Montreal, when he threw a tantrum that derailed what should have been a shining moment for NASCAR.

That's what's at the heart of NASCAR's anger toward Gordon.

Two days after he disrupted the finish of the first Busch Series race in Canada, few are talking about what a smashing debut it was. Instead, the focus remains on Gordon, his suspension from Sunday's Nextel Cup event and speculation about any further punishment.

NASCAR has not said if Gordon will be allowed to race this weekend on the road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y., though it appeared Monday he will be spared a long suspension.

But top series officials are still seething. He disobeyed two directives, celebrated as if he had won a race from which he had been disqualified, then showed sheer defiance when he went before NASCAR to discuss it.

During the closing laps on the historic Circuit Gilles Villeneueve, a sold-out crowd was enjoying its introduction to NASCAR. Gordon was in second place behind Marcos Ambrose, a likable Australian who relocated to the U.S. in search of NASCAR success.

What happened next is confusing to many, including Gordon, who still hasn't accepted NASCAR's version of the events. There was a multicar accident following a restart with four laps to go when Gordon apparently passed Ambrose to take the lead.

Seconds later, Ambrose spun Gordon to reclaim the lead. The action clearly came under caution, when the field is supposed to be frozen. Gordon should have restarted the race either in first or second position.

But NASCAR said the spin made him unable to maintain that position. He was ordered back to 13th place, where he had blended into traffic after righting his turned car. It's a rule Gordon apparently was unaware of.

He refused to slide back into 13th place, and held down the second spot when the race resumed. That earned an instant disqualification.

Then he knocked Ambrose out of his way on the restart, a nudge everyone saw coming. Gordon says it was accidental contact; NASCAR had no doubt it was intentional and demanded he immediately pull off the track and park his car.

He ignored that order, too, and finished the race.

Technically, Gordon was the first driver to cross the finish line two laps later. So he behaved as if he were the winner, doing burnouts and pumping his arms when he climbed from the car. All the while, real winner Kevin Harvick was also celebrating.

Gordon's showboating was a ringing slap at NASCAR. To say president Mike Helton was livid is a profound understatement.

There are many who believe Gordon had a valid beef with NASCAR. The rule is confusing, NASCAR's decisions don't always make sense and every ruling body is capable of making mistakes.

Gordon had made up his mind to protest the race. If he dropped back to 13th with two laps to go, the best he could hope for was perhaps a top-five finish.

Assume NASCAR heard his appeal and decided Gordon was right, its ruling wrong. It would have been too late for Gordon, who would have been denied a chance to win.

So, following this logic, Gordon decided to ignore NASCAR and let the race play out the way he believed it should have. That way, if he won his protest, he'd get the win.

If that was all that had happened, Gordon might not be in the trouble he's in now.

It was the celebrating - the burnouts, the fist-pumping, the victory declarations - and complete lack of contrition that got him suspended from Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway. He had made a perfect day all about Robby Gordon, and NASCAR wasn't going to stand for it.

Now, consider Ambrose. He should have won for the first time in his NASCAR career. But when Gordon knocked him out of the way, he fell to seventh and was denied a chance to complete what had been a dominating finish.

Ambrose reacted with class. He refused to show any anger, simply ruing what might have been. It was professionalism, something Gordon sorely lacked.

And it overshadowed the second-place finish for Montreal's Patrick Carpentier, who had driven his first Busch car only six days before. But Gordon was too shortsighted to see that, too wrapped in his own perceived injustices.

He may have had a valid argument with the initial ruling. But after all these years in NASCAR, Gordon has yet to learn how to properly convey that. That defiance is what makes Gordon special in a sport stuffed with corporate poster boys who don't dare cross NASCAR.

Ordinarily, his behavior might have been chalked up as ``Robby being Robby.'' Under these circumstances, it was just an embarrassment.

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Re: Robby runs amok

Solutions to Montreal mess could have been better
Sporting News

THE COOL DOWN LAP

Despite Kurt Busch's domination of the Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, the talk of Long Pond, Pa., was Montreal.

Kevin Harvick had won the inaugural NAPA Auto Parts 200 Busch Series race the day before at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The occasion was electric. More than 68,000 fans packed the grandstands Saturday for the first visit of the Busch Series to Canada. They had much to cheer. Local favorite Patrick Carpentier, competing in his first stock car race, battled Harvick for the win in a green-white-checkered finish and came home second.

NASCAR's top brass was there, from chairman and CEO Brian France to president Mike Helton to vice president of competition Robin Pemberton to vice president of racing operations Steve O'Donnell.

The Busch Series' debut on the Montreal road course, however, won't be remembered for Harvick's victory. Robby Gordon's reaction to NASCAR -- and NASCAR's reaction to Robby Gordon -- made sure of that.

The race itself produced one of the most controversial finishes in recent memory, fueled by Gordon's refusal to obey a series of orders from race control.

For the record, Gordon was running second when the field took the green flag on a restart with four laps left. At approximately the same time Gordon was overtaking leader Marcos Ambrose through Turns 3 and 4 on the 2.709-mile course, contact between the cars of Harvick and Scott Pruett stacked up the rest of the field in Turn 2.

NASCAR called a caution. Gordon slowed a fraction of a second sooner than Ambrose did. Ambrose bumped Gordon's No. 55 Ford and sent it spinning, with a corner worker waving a yellow flag -- indicating full-course caution -- clearly visible in the background of the TV camera shot.

"I don't think Marcos intentionally meant to spin me under the caution," Gordon said Sunday at Pocono. "I think that he was so concerned about me passing him that he was on the gas coming out of the corner. I lifted because of the caution, and he spun me."

Gordon's car came to rest sideways on the asphalt, the nose pointing toward the wall. After losing 12 positions as the field filed past, Gordon got back into line in 13th position, believing, as he said, that he had taken the prudent action.

"The engine never stalled," Gordon said. "He spun me, and I could have pulled out in front of the third-place car and caused a huge wreck. But, no, I let those guys go by. I waited for an opening, because I had seen this before in the past where a guy was able to revert back to the position he was in."

Because Gordon re-entered the running order in 13th place, behind Ron Fellows, NASCAR ultimately ordered Gordon to assume that position for the green-white-checkered restart.

"The 55 lost speed, he spun, and where he blended in, that's where he takes his place," Busch Series director Joe Balash said. "The field is frozen, we reviewed the tape, and he blended in behind the 33 (Fellows).

Gordon disagreed and returned to second in the running order. He remained in that position until NASCAR dropped the green flag for the final two-lap shootout. NASCAR then black-flagged the No. 55, but Gordon wasn't finished. Moments after the restart, he spun Ambrose and thereby deprived the affable Australian of what might have been his first victory.

That prompted an order from NASCAR to park the No. 55, which Gordon also ignored. Instead, he crossed the finish line first, but Harvick took the checkered flag moments later after beating Carpentier to the finish line by 0.331 seconds.

Gordon still wasn't finished. Stealing Harvick's thunder, and raining on NASCAR's parade, he did his own burnout on the front stretch in tandem with the race winner.

Needless to say, NASCAR wasn't happy. At a meeting Sunday at Pocono, where Gordon was scheduled to complete the second leg of a weekend double, Helton told Gordon he wouldn't be competing in the Pennsylvania 500.

Gordon deserved the sanction. He had wrecked Ambrose in an "if-I can't-win-he won't-either" fit of pique and changed the complexion of the race.

"I react in a way that, if Marcos is going to wreck me under caution, and he's going to get away with it, by God if he's going to win the race," Gordon said.

You don't need to read between the lines to know that NASCAR officials also thought Gordon's act was intentional.

"It's obvious by the actions that we took what our feelings are," O'Donnell said. "It's obvious that, by taking emergency action per the rule book and parking a driver, It's pretty obvious how we felt about the incident on the track."

With the benefit of hindsight, could NASCAR and Gordon have handled the situation differently?

NASCAR observed the letter of the law in ordering Gordon to 13th place for the final restart, but justice wasn't served. The rule book requires a driver to maintain a cautions pace as soon as the yellow flag is displayed, but that doesn't address Gordon's contention that, in the interest of safety, he waited to get back in line until a "hole" opened up in the running order.

There's an anagram in the NASCAR rule book -- EIRI. It stands for "except in rare instances," which essentially means that every ruling is subject to a NASCAR judgment call.

EIRI can work to a competitor's advantage or disadvantage, but in this case, NASCAR should have used its discretion to restore Gordon to his position before the caution flew -- second.

(Gordon never scored as the leader, despite passing Ambrose on Lap 71, because the two cars hadn't reached the next scoring loop. For the Montreal race, according to O'Donnell, NASCAR brought 10 loops, which record the running order by picking up transponder signals from the cars. At Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the longest course any NASCAR division will run this year, including Talladega, 10 loops means nine segments of 1,580 feet each; obviously, a lot can happen between loops.)

The issue, however, isn't about who was leading at the time. O'Donnell said it was inconclusive whether Gordon had passed Ambrose before the caution fell. But Gordon had been saving his equipment for the final laps. He had the fastest car at the time, he was primed for the win and he would have been content to restart in second place.

"The caution's out when he turns me -- clearly -- so if I'm not first, I'm at least second," Gordon said. "The way I read it, when the caution comes out, the field is frozen, unless you can't maintain speed. Well, if a guy turns you under caution, how are you supposed to maintain speed without pulling out in front of all the other competitors?

"If you wreck because you slow and the guy behind you doesn't, why should you pay a penalty?"

You can say Gordon's history caught up with him. Out of uniform, he's as personable and accommodating as they come. On the track, he's a ferocious competitor and, as was the case Saturday, sometimes too stubborn for his own good.

When he feels wronged, Gordon can hit the speed dial to his lawyer faster than a gunslinger could draw his pearl-handled revolver. When the AT&T-NASCAR litigation was coming to a head as the Nextel Cup Series raced in Atlanta earlier this year, Gordon got under NASCAR's skin with a flap over the Motorola logo Gordon wanted to place on the hood of his car.

NASCAR shares at least two traits with the proverbial elephant. It's a powerful beast with a long memory. And though past antagonisms shouldn't influence a competition decision, when you're thinking about giving someone a break, it's only natural to think about whom you're giving the break to.

"This is what I told Mike Helton in the meeting, and it came from the bottom of my heart," Gordon said. "If NASCAR would have done what was really fair -- and I don't care if they put me second -- and get on the radio and say, 'OK, we're going to let you start second here; he spun you, and maybe he didn't see you, but if you wreck him under the green, we're not going to give you the win.'

"The way the rule is written, I could wreck anybody next weekend for third, fourth or fifth place under caution, and wherever they come back out, that's where they line up, and that's not right."

Barring restoring Gordon to second, NASCAR should have red-flagged the race and enforced its order. Allowing Gordon to take the green flag behind Ambrose wasn't fair to Andy Pilgrim, who was scored second at the time, or any of the other competitors behind him.

Balash said the race wasn't stopped "because we were giving the 55 the directive to get into the proper position through the normal procedures we use in race control."

But when Gordon refused to comply, the answer should have been "Make him," not "Drop the green flag." Drag him from the car, slash his tires, threaten him with expulsion from the Cup Series, but get the race restarted in the proper order.

One casualty was Carpentier, who didn't know he was racing Harvick for the win. Neither did a lot of fans, who nevertheless went crazy to see their hometown open-wheel star going fender-to-fender with the Daytona 500 winner.

But the telecast already had begun to eat into ESPN's coverage of the X Games, and caution laps at the huge track seemed to take an eternity.

Nevertheless, there was a substantial upside to the proceedings. The Canadian race promoters were positively beaming at the size and energy of the crowd, and NASCAR was thrilled to have discovered a market that embraced stock car racing with unbridled enthusiasm.

I'll bet my first-born to your Fig Newton that the Busch Series returns to Montreal in 2008, with Cup to follow soon thereafter. Let's see, the international, cosmopolitan Montreal vs. the bucolic Watkins Glen. You pick.

By the time the Busch Series returns to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve next year, we may even remember that Harvick won the inaugural race.

Nah. But we'll all remember what a grand -- and compelling -- occasion it was.

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Re: Robby runs amok

Robby Gordon Got Dumped

Editor’s Note : Mike Neff is out this week dealing with a personal situation, so in Full Throttle’s place, we offer you a special sneak preview. Every Tuesday, our “fan expert” Sonya Grady graces us with her opinions and commentary on everything NASCAR; today, she gives her take on the Robby Gordon fiasco in a special column for the website.

Like what you read from Sonya? Then feel free to sign up to the Frontstretch Newsletter to make sure you get every column she writes! Click here to become a part of the fastest growing NASCAR news and information letter on the web today!

Robby, Robby, Robby…What went wrong during Saturday’s Busch race in Montreal? Does anybody know? I mean, save from Robby Gordon being kicked out of the Sunday’s Nextel Cup Pocono race by NASCAR, of course. Was that called for? Well, let’s see what I can decide.

So, what exactly happened on Saturday? See, this is the first problem. Nobody really saw what happened with Gordon…I doubt even NASCAR saw what happened between his No. 55 and Marcos Ambrose’s No. 59. At the moment that the field was busy spinning into a pile of debris behind Robby and Marcos, Robby was putting the moves on the No. 59’s rear bumper. I swore Robby almost had Marcos’ rear end off the ground when the camera shot pulled away to focus on the melee behind them. The next thing we knew, the camera picks the pair up coming out of a turn with the yellow flag flying and Marcos dumping Robby. As I indicated, Robby may have had that coming…we just never fully saw why.

What happens next? Robby sorts out which way is up and proceeds to speed back to the front, refusing to blend into the line of cars slowly pacing the course. He ran back up alongside the leader Ambrose and did a little grinding of the fenders…much to NASCAR’s chagrin. After two pace laps or so, he fell behind Marcos into second and rubbed his new best friend’s bumper all over again.

Now, to me that looked like Robby and Marcos had come to a slight disagreement over property rights, and Gordon was explaining the correct way to handle such a situation to the rookie in his usual inimitable manner. I could practically hear NASCAR race control hollering at Gordon to get himself under control…even across hundreds of miles. Memories of a certain helmet being tossed at Michael Waltrip crossed my mind…just one example of how Robby just has never been known to demonstrate a cool head when the heat is on. And I was chuckling to myself, because I know how these things turn out when Robby is steaming…and so does most everyone else.

But NASCAR knew this, too, and it is at this moment that I think things all went pear-shaped. Marcos had been moved out of the way once…it was better than even money odds that Gordon would do it again. No doubt, further retaliation was coming as soon as the green flag dropped. Is that rough driving? It isn’t – until you add that whole racing back through the pack thing, making sure all the corners of your target are now nicely dinged while you wait for the restart. That’s exactly what Gordon had done – and the sport wasn’t ready for him to add to that resume.

To prevent any further shenanigans, NASCAR declared that Gordon was no longer in first place, or even second, and he needed to fall back to somewhere in the teens (the exact spot keeps changing with each report I hear). Their explanation? That he did not maintain caution speed with the pack under yellow, meaning he was scored from when he got back in line once he recovered from his unexpected spin…compliments of Mr. Ambrose.

“Huh?” said Robby. “No way!”

And so the line was drawn. There are moments in baseball when the called strike is so far out of the zone that the pitcher, coach, first base coach, catcher and possibly the right fielder are obligated to go belly to belly with the ump. This was one of those moments in NASCAR.

I admit, at that moment, to agreeing with him. He was spun out after the caution flew. Ambrose did that; it was no fault of Gordon’s. If anything, Marcos may have been guilty of rough driving. So, unable to come to grips with NASCAR’s misled interpretation of their rulebook…Gordon popped his cork.

He refused to follow NASCAR’s directive. Why? Everybody knows that arguing with NASCAR after the race never results in a revision of the finishing order, purse money, points awarded, or an apology. Robby simply knew that if he had any hope of keeping the victory in sight, he had to dig in his heels. So, he did.

In turn, if there’s one thing that NASCAR really doesn’t like, it’s having a competitor who doesn’t follow orders. Was there smoke pouring out the windows of the control tower? Oh, yes. I think there was. A small army of Busch officials crowded into Robby’s pit, ensuring the order to fall back into place was conveyed to the irate driver. If spit could fly through headphones, this would have been the moment for it to happen.

Gordon remained adamant. He was not in 13th or 14th place when the yellow flew. He was in front of Marcos Ambrose, leading the race and minding his rear-view mirror. To make sure everybody on the planet understood his point, Robby restarted the race right behind the leader, receiving a black flag as he passed the flagstand. Before you could blink, the expected occurred. Robby dumped Marcos Ambrose and sped off into the sunset.

Meanwhile, up in the tower, NASCAR had enough. If there’s one basic tenet in this sport, it’s “NASCAR is in charge”. Robby had just spit in their face. What else could they do? They pulled his scoring card and his NASCAR license. For all his on-course antics, Robby earned a day off in Nextel Cup for his troubles.

Was the suspension fair?

No. In this case, I truly believe that Robby’s track record as a short-tempered bruiser affected NASCAR’s decision-making process. Instead of perceiving the tussle between Gordon and Ambrose as a two-sided fight, they focused on the more experienced racer. In their mind, it had to be Robby’s fault; and he’s been told before to watch his P’s and Q’s.

If NASCAR officials had stopped to consider the restart order with a cool head, instead of being drawn into the emotionally clouded judgment demonstrated so well on the track, they may have conceded that Gordon was not the one to suffer from the spin. The precedent is there; they’ve repositioned cars under caution in the past. Instead, they put on a fine display of insulted elder statesman and closed their ears to any further pleas.

I never thought this day would come, but it has. I will probably never say this again…but Robby Gordon, you were done wrong.

www.frontstretch.com

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