SONOMA, Calif. — Jimmie Johnson got a long-awaited road-course victory, but winning couldn’t have meant as much to Johnson as second place did to Robby Gordon.
As owner of his team, Gordon has struggled. His No. 7 Monster Energy Toyota failed to make the field at Pocono. Prior to the runner-up finish, Gordon’s best showing of the season had been a 14th at Phoenix. He has only three finishes in the top 20.
"My team needs a little bit of morale here and there," Gordon said. "This will boost morale back at the workshop. I will say that we will come to Watkins Glen guns blazing. We’ll get a lot of confidence going into the Glen and spend a bunch of time getting more rear grip. At the end of the day, that’s what we struggled on with Jimmie (Johnson)."
What a runner-up finish at Infineon Raceway did for Gordon is solidify his position in the Sprint Cup point standings, meaning that he will have a guaranteed spot in the next race and, quite probably, several more after that.
"On a weekly basis, let’s face it right now, we’re (32nd) in points," he said. "It’s hard to build morale. ... I think this will build us some momentum. I’m not going to say it’s going to push our guys, because the guys have to get on board.
"I believe they’ll have confidence going to Watkins Glen (the other road course, on Aug. 8) that we can actually win that race, so we can build some momentum throughout the summer and hopefully have some good runs."
Gordon, who is from Orange, Calif., has been a winner in NASCAR, off-road racing and Indy cars. At age 41, he continues to compete in major off-road races. He has three Sprint Cup victories to his credit, the most recent occurring Aug. 10, 2003, at Watkins Glen.
"This is a tough sport," he said. "I don’t know how to say it. Cup racing, when you’re racing against these teams out here, you’re racing against the best teams in America.
"Obviously, Cup racing is where it’s at. We’re fortunate enough to be in it. How do you say it? Sometimes we dog-paddle; sometimes we take a few gulps of water. Other times, you have days like this that you can build momentum on for a little while."
Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (N.C.) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (http://nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at firstname.lastname@example.org.