Sonoma could be 2012 NASCAR finale for R. Gordon

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SONOMA, Calif. — Robby Gordon believes Sunday’s race at Sonoma will be his last one of the NASCAR season.

Gordon has no sponsorship lined up beyond this week. He’s raced only twice this season – the Daytona 500 and at Phoenix. After failing to qualify at Las Vegas and California, Gordon has not attempted to make a NASCAR race since March.

“For 2012, this is probably my last event,” Gordon said. “Right now, today, we don’t have anything planned past Sunday.”

Gordon will start 34th at Sonoma, where in 2003 he picked up one of his three career victories. He has no plans to race this summer at Watkins Glen, where he also won in 2003.

“I’d love to go to Watkins Glen, but I don’t have a sponsor right now to go there,” Gordon said. “So as we sit here right now, there’s nothing on the table for anything until next season.”

Gordon said he has money lined up for two races in both 2013 and 2014, but he has no intention of attempting to run a full Sprint Cup Series schedule again unless a funding package — perhaps from manufacturer Dodge — comes through.

Without that, a five- to 10-race schedule is probably his most realistic option. But even if that doesn’t come through, he doesn’t want to walk away completely away. He says NASCAR keeps him humble.

“I love NASCAR. But I come here and get ... kicked, which is good for me because I’m not a good loser,” he said. “I’ve kind of been out of sight, out of mind.”

Gordon is still racing, though, and working to grow his Speed Energy drink. He’s starting a stadium truck series that he plans to have running in 2013, and Gordon is building all the trucks that will compete.

Gordon is trying to put together a 10-race schedule for the series, and says he already has contracts for events in Los Angeles and San Diego. Gordon wants to add stops in Texas, Long Beach and Las Vegas. He said he’s hired USAC to officiate the races.

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BIG IMPACT: Four-time champion Jeff Gordon has long been one of the stars capable of moving the meter in NASCAR.

But he recognizes that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the sport’s big superstar, and last week’s win at Michigan was a pivotal moment for NASCAR. Earnhardt snapped a four-year losing streak.

“Listen, we all know the impact,” Gordon said. “I think that’s why so many people were happy and excited to see him win. He went for four years, so he paid his dues and those guys have really been performing well this year. They’ve been putting themselves in position and finally got that win so that was awesome.

“You saw the crowd reaction, and then this week you continue to see the fans and the media and everything, and how it reacts to Dale Jr. winning, especially when it’s been that long. That’s all positives and good things for the sport that we all can benefit from. It’s definitely a boost that I feel like we needed.”

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NO OBAMA: President Barack Obama has declined an offer from New Hampshire Motor Speedway to attend its July 15 race.

Obama plans to campaign in New Hampshire on Monday. Jerry Gappens, the track president, decided to leave him tickets at will call in case Obama wanted to make a return trip to the state for the NASCAR race. The track announced Friday night that Obama declined.

“Thank you, Jerry for your generous offer,” Pete Kavanaugh, the New Hampshire state director for Obama’s campaign, said in a statement released by the track. “New Hampshire Motor Speedway has a proud history, and while the president will not be able to attend, we certainly appreciate the offer. The president is a supporter of NASCAR and an advocate for the American auto industry.”

Gappens said the track will raffle Obama’s unused tickets with the proceeds going to the Speedway Children’s Charities.

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RULE CHANGE: A technical bulletin this week addressed an aerodynamic issue that NASCAR hopes will lead to improved side-by-side racing next weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

But buried in the bulletin was a rule that took away team’s ability to use the sway bar as a suspension piece instead of an anti-roll bar as the car goes through the corner. That, along with an increased ground clearance on the side skirts of the Sprint Cup cars that is designed to take away downforce, take effect next week.

The sway bar issue just might slow Dale Earnhardt Jr., who broke his four-year losing streak last week in a car that Kevin Harvick believes had more speed because Hendrick Motorsports had figured out how to use the piece for suspension.

“I think that there are obviously some people that have been running with the bars that won the race last week and their cars have been fast,” Harvick said. “I think everybody has caught on to what they were doing with the bars ... and everybody was getting ready to venture down that road. There is some significant speed in that particular package. “

Earnhardt said he was unsure of the particulars of the new rule, but crew chief Steve Letarte downplayed any potential impact.

“He seemed pretty confident that we won’t miss a beat,” Earnhardt said.

Hendrick Motorsports has won four of the last five races, but Jeff Gordon doesn’t believe it’s because of the sway bars.

“What they’re changing is very, very slight and I think our cars and our teams are good enough to keep the performance going with that change,” he said.

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RIDING SHOTGUN: Michael Waltrip Racing has removed Clint Bowyer’s name from above the car door this weekend to showcase an 11-year-old’s fight with lymphoma.

Brady Bakken was diagnosed in January and is being treated at Wake Forest Brenners Children’s Hospital. The fifth-grader is the son of a Boone, N.C., sales broker for 5-hour Energy — Bowyer’s primary sponsor.

Meanwhile, the Clint Bowyer Community Building will open Tuesday in his Kansas hometown of Emporia. Bowyer raised funds through his charity, the “79 Fund,” and has given more than $1 million to the Emporia Community Foundation. The community center will host concerts and activities for the 25,000 Emporia residents.

Bowyer will celebrate the grand opening with a Thursday night party in which friend and country music superstar Blake Shelton will perform.

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TIRE TEST: Goodyear will hold a tire test at Michigan right after the July race at Indianapolis to address issues from last week’s race.

Michigan was recently repaved, and speeds soared through the weekend when NASCAR raced there for the first time. Goodyear and NASCAR had wrongly believed the speeds would lessen before Sunday’s race. But after Greg Biffle went 204 mph in Friday’s final practice, Goodyear brought in a harder tire for Sunday’s race.

NASCAR had the drivers qualify on the original Goodyear tire, then went with a harder compound for an added 75-minute practice.

Goodyear expects at least 15 teams at the tire test, which should be a confirmation of the tire the manufacturer expects to bring to the Aug. 19 return to Michigan.


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