by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.March 7, 2011 1:48 pm UTC 3 Comments
But in 2009, Conway exploded back on the scene by pitching Extenze, a natural male enhancement pill that plastered his face all over TV stations everywhere. He ran for various teams looking for an extra buck that year, before Front Row Motorsports brought him on for the 2010 season.
FRM knew that the 2010 Raybestos Rookie of the Year class was going to be thin in Sprint Cup, and as their sponsorship deals with Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s are mostly tied to team owner Bob Jenkins’ many fast-food franchises with Yum! Brands, they certainly knew they could use the cash and exposure that a brand like Extenze, and by extension a driver like Conway, could generate.
The experiment was, by almost all accounts, a spectacular failure; while Conway’s 14th-place run in the Coke Zero 400 was the team’s best ever at that time, he was out of there by August, his sponsor failing to pony up the cash (Big Daddy’s BBQ Sauce, anyone?). FRM had been switching Conway and teammates David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil between cars all season, ensuring the faltering Conway would remain in the top 35 in owners’ points and thus in the race while forcing the more qualified drivers to either go or go home. The partnership ended in lawsuits, with FRM suing Extenze for those missed sponsorship payments and Conway suing FRM for his salary.
Refuge came in the shops of Robby Gordon Motorsports. Robby Gordon, one of the purest racers the sport has ever seen, had fallen on tough times, his one-car, owner-driver operation continually struggling for results and sponsorship dollars. So Conway got a seven-race gig to finish out his award-winning (cough) season, and Gordon got a cool $690K.
Except, as we all know by now, he didn’t.
The same story played out once again with RGM, although this weekend’s events at Vegas have exacerbated things. While nobody in NASCAR witnessed the incident, Conway, who was driving in the Nationwide Series for NEMCO Motorsports last weekend, apparently stormed into the Sprint Cup garage looking for Gordon and demanding the $27,000 he felt he was owed for winning Rookie of the Year in Gordon’s cars. Gordon took the logical “I’ll pay you when your sponsor pays me” approach to the verbal altercation, which ended with Conway filing a police report.
Wait up. A police report? Isn’t this the sport where Yarborough vs. Allison, Spencer vs. Busch, Gordon vs. Burton have been celebrated by the fan base, never mind handled independently by the men involved? All of those fights were divisive, leaving a fan base to make a difficult choice between the two warring viewpoints. Not so this time.
Robby Gordon may be frequently vilified by NASCAR, accruing at least one penalty every year it seems and being the only driver involved in this altercation to end up on probation, but it’s pretty clear to most of us who’s in the wrong here. This is the second team that Conway’s jobbed with the Extenze backing. It’d be one thing if this was a one-time thing, but there’s a history that’s been established here. If you remember the 360OTC debacle of 2007, it’s clear that pharmaceutical companies have a bad history with lawsuits and NASCAR teams anyway. If he wants to get paid, he should go call up the folks at Biolab Nutraceuticals, Extenze’s manufacturer, and ask them.
Not only that, Conway overstepped his boundaries by walking into a garage he had no right to be in (by lack of employment, this weekend, and by poor results, any weekend) and demanding money he has no right to until his sponsor pays the bills. It was an immature thing to do, and one that’s probably going to put off any of the few remaining folks who were willing to hire him. Worse, the fact that he felt the need to file a police report after an altercation that he initiated, if you believe what Gordon told Mike Mulhern, suggests he doesn’t have the head to handle the pressure of racing’s highest level anyway.
I’ve always wanted to like Conway. I recall seeing him while on assignment for On Pit Row at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last year, and he seemed like a nice enough guy, the kind of driver who could pitch a product, run decently, and stir up some underdog sentiment with race fans. But after this latest incident, what I would consider a repeat offense given his history with FRM, I can’t. Get the sponsor that you’ve been towing around to pay the bills first. I’m not surprised that somebody edited Conway’s Wikipedia page to add the nickname “Rat.” (Go look it up.)
It’s a stupid situation, one that brings the already-suffering Robby Gordon Motorsports another step closer to extinction, while Conway manages to keep racing with little to no repercussions. It’s not fair and it’s not right, and everybody knows it. Say what you want about Robby Gordon, but if you hired somebody who should have brought your business almost $700,000, defaulted on it, and then stormed up to you looking for any money at all, you’d have a right to be as angry as he is.
And a word of advice to Joe Nemechek: Watch your back, dude. Get those checks up front. I don’t think you’re gonna get paid.
by BethAnne, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I am the field producer/photographer of the syndicated radio show/website ON PIT ROW. When Steve and Charlie ask me to 'jump', I say "Yeah right."February 22, 2011 1:44 pm UTC No Comments
Exclusive Photos of NASCAR Driver Robby Gordon
I admit it; I love Robby Gordon. I hope it comes out in my pictures of NASCAR badass Robby G… And I mean badass in the most affectionate way.
Photo credit: BethAnne Heisler – OnPitRow.com
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.June 20, 2008 10:55 am UTC 2 Comments
In NASCAR its easy to know who the haves and the have-nots are.
It was announced this week that Dave Blaney’s #22 Bill Davis Racing Toyota was losing Caterpillar as its primary sponsor. Cat has been the primary sponsor with BDR for the past ten years of its seventeen in the sport. The team remains in the 29th spot in the Sprint Cup Series Owners’ points. Veteran crew chief Tommy Baldwin has the team moving in the right direction, picking up 10 championship point positions over the course of five events and has posted two top-10 finishes and six finishes of 22nd or better in the past eight races.
“Caterpillar and Bill Davis Racing have enjoyed a long and successful partnership throughout the last 10 seasons, and we are proud of everything we’ve accomplished together, including wins in both the Daytona 500 and Southern 500,” stated Team Owner Bill Davis. “This is an exciting time for our team, and we are looking forward to the future.”
In a much publicized coup earlier RCR was able to wrangle the General Mills sponsorship away from long time partner Petty Enterprises. That General Mills deal will adorn the new 4th team at RCR with an, as yet, un-named driver. Now securing Caterpillar to replace AT&T on the #31 Jeff Burton ride, puts RCR on solid financial footing. NASCAR mandated that AT&T would only be allowed to remain on the 31 car through the end of the 2008 season.
“To represent a well-known global brand like Caterpillar is an honor,” said Richard Childress, president and CEO of RCR. “Cat products have played a big part over the decades in construction projects at RCR, Childress Vineyards and Yadkin River Angus. Jeff and I look forward to meeting the Cat dealers and customers who loyally follow NASCAR racing.”
With dollars harder and harder to come by, RCR has moved into as solid of a financial situation as any major player in motorsports. Other big name owners have had challenges securing primary sponsorship for the 2008 season. Yates Racing has had trouble filling the hood and quarter panels of its race cars this season. The #38 of David Gilliland has had backing from freecreditreport.com for much of the recent schedule, but didn’t start the season as primary sponsor and most likely is not the biggest benefactor in the garage area. Teammate, Travis Kvapil‘s #28 has been void of sponsorship much of the season. These are high profile, storied history, race teams and money is tough to come by.
Robby Gordon will race at Infineon Speedway this weekend with no sponsorship at all. Gordon is no slouch on a road course. The probability of him running well and near the front all day are high. And running near the front means TV time. TV time translates into payback for a sponsor; yet RGM cannot find anyone to invest.
Good luck to Bill Davis Racing trying to replace Cat on the #22, all the while trying to find cash to expand to a full-time two car team in 2009. Could we be seeing the start of more outside investment in a long time NASCAR team, or could team mergers be on the horizon?
Photo credit: BethAnne Heisler/On Pit Row/Bench Racing Productions