Monday, March 8, 2010

CUP: Robby Gordon Loses Tire In Early Atlanta Crash

Robby Gordon picked up the 9th last-place finish of his career in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when his #7 Warner Music Nashville / Blake Shelton Toyota was involved in a single-car crash after completing 3 of the race’s 341 laps.

For Gordon, one of the last owner-drivers in NASCAR, the 2010 season has already been a tremendous struggle. Forced to a part-time schedule after the departure of sponsor Jim Beam late last season, Gordon has finished no better than 28th in the season’s first four races and has been in jeopardy of falling out of the Top 35 in Owner Points. Thanks to a partnership with the returning BAM Racing team, however, Gordon was able to share BAM’s sponsorship deal with Warner Music for three of the season’s first five races, providing much-needed funding.

Unfortunately, the Atlanta weekend - his third in the Warner Music colors, faced an early setback. His brand-new primary car did not arrive at the track until it came in a second trailer around 3 A.M. Friday morning. The team then fought to find speed in the day’s first practice session, winding up 33rd of the 46 cars, and locked up the 39th starting spot at a speed of 186.403 mph. Aric Almirola, who finished last the previous two races in 2010, failed to qualify in his Phoenix Racing entry.

Things did not go much better on Sunday. Gordon’s Toyota fell off the pace by lap 4, when his left-rear tire suddenly came apart going into turn one, sending his car driver’s side first into the outside wall. While Gordon was okay, the car was not, and he did not return to the track. Gordon now sits 27 points outside the Top 35 headed to Bristol. Under NASCAR’s new inspection rules, this means 42nd-place finisher Michael McDowell’s car will be inspected as the lowest-finishing car who did not DNF as a result of a crash. Curiously, McDowell, who fell out after 37 laps with transmission trouble, narrowly avoided colliding with Gordon during the lap 4 crash.

The finish was the first for Robby Gordon and his self-owned #7 team since the 2008 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, where Gordon’s Jim Beam Toyota fell out with an engine failure after completing 181 of the 400 laps. It was also Gordon’s first-ever last place finish at Atlanta. Gordon’s part-time teammate P.J. Jones finished last in his a #04 Jim Beam Toyota in last June’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Infineon.

The race also marked just the second time a car number 7 finished last at Atlanta. The only other time was Canadian driver Jack Donohue’s exit on the very first lap of the 1976 Dixie 500, the fall event at the track.

On a historical note, Robby Gordon’s first-ever last-place finish in Cup competition came in the 1993 DieHard 500 at Talladega, his lone ride in the fabled #28 Texaco / Havoline Ford. Gordon was tabbed as a substitute driver by owner Robert Yates after the untimely passing of rising superstar driver Davey Allison. Gordon qualified 14th, but was involved in a single-car accident in the tri-oval on lap 54.

43) #7-Robby Gordon / 3 laps / crash
42) #55-Michael McDowell / 37 laps / transmission
41) #66-Dave Blaney / 48 laps / brakes
40) #00-David Reutimann / 167 laps / overheating
39) #99-Carl Edwards / 170 laps / parked

1st) Aric Almirola (2)
2nd) Robby Gordon, Joe Nemechek (1)

1st) #09-Phoenix Racing (2)
2nd) #7-Robby Gordon Motorsports, #87-NEMCO Motorsports (1)

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