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Dakar Rally Cancellation Forced Gordon To Look For OpportunitiesAn Opinion
By Kim Roberson
Actually, the deal was first discussed back in November, when Robby was making his way back from the Baja 1000. Gordon and team co-owner, Ray Evernham, first had a discussion about the possibilities that Robby might be a good fit in the GEM team. At the time, not much else was discussed, and the topic faded.
Fast forward to January, and the cancellation of the Dakar Rally. Gordon, who not only owns a Cup and a Nationwide team, but also a separate off-road team, invested a reported $4.5 million into a race that ended up not being run. "It put us in, I'm going to say, a little bit of financial trouble, and put us in a position where I needed to look elsewhere for opportunities to grow.”
Gordon, who has been the lone owner/driver in NASCAR for the last two seasons, began searching for other ways to bring money in. Feelers were put out, and the conversation with Evernham was remembered.
When they talked again, Evernham saw the deal as a win-win situation for both. “It just made a good business sense to do with Robby what we are doing with the Petty’s (Petty Enterprises). It really works good for all the organizations. It’s one of those things where you go “Hmmm, yeah, that’s a pretty good idea.” Ray explained in an interview on Sirius radio Friday.
Gordon also credits co-owner George Gillette’s enthusiasm with helping make the decision easier. "George obviously loves the sport, and I'm excited to see that they're willing to help us with our race team as well, be more competitive."
So on Friday afternoon, it was announced that Robby Gordon Motorsports had signed a "technical, manufacturing and marketing services agreement" with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, thus taking a three car team and a one car team…and making them to some extent “partners” in a four car team.
But GEM does not “own” RGM. “It isn’t an ownership thing…..we’re going to treat Robby like our fourth team. He will be paying a fee to use our resources, which helps us get more resources.” explained Evernham. “When you start pulling your resources, it’s like playing captains choice in golf. You can go and get the best setup or get the best motor. Because he is pooling his engineering resources and money with ours, it is more resources for all of us.”
So, with just a week before cars have to roll into Daytona, and a locked-in top 35 position ensuring Gordon’s #7 car will be in the first five races, how do you make a collection of Fords into Dodges?
“We have people ready to help them swap over. This is where the car of tomorrow makes things easier.” Evernham explained. “We have cars we’ll probably use to help him. But his cars, because it is a cosmetic thing….the hardest thing is fitting the engine plumbing…we already have the kit because we had to do this with the Petty’s, so it is already there. They had a pretty good plan to go, it will be tight, there will be some around the clock work, but he’ll be ready to go.”
Engineers from GEM were in Gordon’s shop Thursday night beginning the daunting task of changing the cars over. The new car design means the engine change will be harder than making the car look like a Dodge. The front clip and hood will be changed out, the decals changed. And voila, new nose, new hood, new engine: new dodge. As of Saturday morning, one car had already been completed, and another was expected to be ready to go today.
Possibly some of the best news about the move under GEM’s umbrella is the fact that Gordon is no longer a lone wolf in a field of packs, even though Gordon will remain “independent” of GEM, and work out of his own shop with his own crew.
"I'm excited about the opportunity here," Gordon said. "I think having teammates and being able to share information is only going to be able to help our performance on the racetrack."
Gordon will be able to get up to speed on the new car by sharing information with his new “teammates”: Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, and Patrick Carpentier. As he does, and as his own crewmembers receive “training” on making dodges run fast, he will get help from GEM in getting his stock of new cars up and ready to compete in the 2008 Sprint Cup season.
“There will be some cars given to Robby, some retrofitted, and then there is a plan for us to begin building cars for Robby so he has the same thing as the 9, 19, and 10.” said Evernham.
When asked if the last second addition of Gordon to the team was going to stretch the GEM resources too thin, especially when it came to building engines for not only their teams, but for the cars run by Petty Enterprises and BAM Racing, Evernham said they were already set up for an additional team. “The engine inventory is not a problem; it is just going to come in phases. We have been geared up to do that, we put a lot of people on last year (in anticipation of a possible fourth team of their own)… so this is something we have kind of been building up to.”
"I like what they have going on over there and I think both organizations will benefit. As an owner I want to do what is best for my employees and sponsors." explained Gordon.
Adds Evernham "We plan to work with Robby and his team and pool some of the knowledge and make all of our teams better."
You can contact Kim at.. Insider Racing News
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