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Harrah’s Sonoma Preview
Posted on Jun 21, 2005, 12:04

Robby Gordon Motorsports

No. 7 Harrah’s Racing

Infineon Raceway Preview

Race: Sunday, June 26, 2005, Sonoma, Calif.

TV: FOX 3:35 p.m./EDT


  • You can go home again … Sonoma marks the second race of three in 2005 that NASCAR will race in Gordon’s home state of California. Gordon is from Orange, Calif., near Anaheim.
  • Decal details … Jim Beam and Menards will appear on the left and right quarter panels of the Harrah’s Chevrolet respectively.
  • It never rains in (Southern) CaliforniaRGM tested at Infineon Raceway June 14. The original test scheduled for June 8 was washed out by a rain after sending the team’s transporter across country, and flying the team out for the test. A second trip to the west coast was successful.
  • Some other time perhaps … RGM had entered P.J. Jones in the No. 71 Harrah’s Chevrolet as a second entry. However, after careful consideration, the team withdrew the car to concentrate fully on its primary car – Gordon’s No. 7 – given the importance of the event and the need to secure a solid finish.
  • “Maybe we’ll eat there again this year” … When Gordon won at Infineon two years ago he suffered all day from a bout of food poisoning. Ironically, Tony Stewart won at Watkins Glen last year on a road course suffering from a similar, if not worse, condition. “I hope everyone stays home Saturday night and watches what they eat,” Gordon said. “Me? Given what it apparently can do for you I just might try and find the worst greasy spoon in town.”

A return to the wine country of California may be the tonic Robby Gordon and his first-year NASCAR Nextel Cup operation need to turn their entire season around.

Gordon and company, who have performed well over the last four races only to be stricken by a myriad of issues that have resulted in finishes not representative of the team’s progress, tested at Infineon Raceway June 14 and came away with guarded optimism heading into the season’s first road-course race.

Gordon: “We ended up testing by ourselves out there, so I don’t know that we got a completely accurate picture of where we stack up with some of the better cars, but from the times that were turned in the week before in testing I think we’ll have a shot at the pole as well as the race. We’ll have to be on our game though, and not have some of the same issues effect us that we’ve had the last couple of weeks.”

The RGM No. 7 team has seen its performance rise significantly in recent weeks, starting at Lowe’s Motor Speedway when the team made up two laps the hard way by passing leader Ryan Newman twice under green flag conditions. However, “racing luck” has taken away seemingly easy top-10 finishes in each event. Among the dramas have included:

  • Coca-Cola 600 – Running fourth with only 15 laps remaining, the right front brake rotor fails causing the team to fall to a 27th place finish
  • MBNA Race Points 400 – After starting by points, the No. 7 Chevy finds its way to the front of the field, leading seven laps before loosing a right-front tire and four laps in the process. The team then ran a conservative race with lap times consistent with race winner Greg Biffle. Result – 29th
  • Pocono 500 – Starting 27th, Gordon again showed signs of a having a winning car by passing at will throughout the first 120 laps of the race before breaking a cam shaft that was attributed to a defective batch of five received by Menard Engineering from its supplier. Result – 39th
  • Batman Begins 400 – After cruising to its best starting position of the season – eighth – Gordon again led several laps before a ignition coil melted as a result of another manufacturer defect, requiring 19 laps to replace the faulty equipment. Result – 39th

“I guess you make your own luck,” Gordon said. “But I think we’re all ready to start making good luck. We’ve had our share of the bad. Two or three months ago I wouldn’t have thought we would be ready to win, particularly on an oval-track. But once we make a few more minor improvements, particularly on pit road, I know we’ll be ready. We’re not a great race team yet, and I know there’s only a few of those. But we’re a whole lot better than we were when we started this season. If they gave out awards for most improved I’m sure we would win because nobody else has even come close to making the improvements we have since the start of the season. Now I just want the scoreboard to start showing what we’ve done.”

One area the team is continuing to work hard on is its pit stops.

“We still have to get better on pit road before we can expect to be a threat to win each week,” said John Story, general manager of RGM. “We’ve struggled on pit road all season, and while we’re decent, we’ve got to shave two seconds off our times if we’re really going to give the top teams a run for their money. We’re almost there given that our jack man, tire carriers and fuelers all have Cup experience and are among the best in the business. We’ve been trying out a bunch of different guys as changers, but we just haven’t hit on the right combination yet. We’re hoping to find that one guy that’s a great changer that wants to work for a new team and be part of something special. We will win races this year, and our over-the-wall crew will be a huge part of that effort.”

Given the team’s progress, and Gordon’s prowess on a road courses, perhaps everything will come together for Robby Gordon Motorsports at Infineon Raceway. Gordon last won at Infineon in 2003; the same season he swept NASCAR’s road course events by winning at Watkins Glen International.

“Road course racing in NASCAR is a lot different than it was just a few years ago,” Gordon said. “Some of the NASCAR “regulars” have become great road course racers, and obviously there’s a bunch of guys coming in to run a one-off in some pretty good equipment. Obviously we show up at every race to win, and this should be our best shot so far this year, but we’ll have to be on our game to beat some of these other teams that have been at this for a long time. Even if we don’t win, we need to come out of Infineon with a good finish and some momentum for the second half of the season.

“We still have a shot a turning some heads this year, and there’s nothing we can do about the past, so we’re only looking forward.”

The No. 7 Harrah’s Chevrolet will carry a unique sponsorship package this weekend as Jim Beam and Menards will share space on the car’s quarter panels, while Harrah’s will remain on the hood and the car will carry the familiar purple and yellow colors of the world’s largest provider of branded casino entertainment.

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