Sunday, August 5, 2007 Updated: August 6, 12:45 PM ET
NASCAR parks Gordon after his actions in Busch race
By Mark Ashenfelter ESPN.com
LONG POND, Pa. -- NASCAR wasted little time reacting to Robby Gordon's late-race antics in Montreal's Busch Series race, announcing Sunday morning that it has "parked" Gordon for the Pennsylvania 500 Nextel Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.
P.J. Jones, who practiced the car on Saturday while Gordon was in Montreal for the Busch Series race, will drive in Gordon's absence. Further penalties against Gordon, if any, will be announced early this week, according to NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp.
Gordon said at Pocono that NASCAR will let him
compete in the Busch Series and Nextel Cup races next week at
Watkins Glen. That decision could be a huge break for Gordon, who
is generally regarded as one of the top road course drivers around.
"We'll sit this weekend out, but we will come to Watkins Glen
with a vengeance to win both races," he said.
However, Tharp said shortly before the start of the Cup race
that additional disciplinary action was "something we're
Gordon posted an apology for his antics in Montreal on his Web site.
"I want to start by expressing my regrets to the sponsors, fans, and all competitors for any part I played in the miscommunication, confusion and uncertainty surrounding the finish in this weekend's Busch race in Montreal," Gordon said.
"It was not my purpose to disrespect the authority of NASCAR or the officials. I do respect their authority to run the race and make the calls, and I understand the significance of the black flag. I strongly disagree with the calls that affected me at the end of the race. Being spun under the yellow and not being allowed to resume my position prior to the spin put me in a position to react as I did. Nonetheless, I accept NASCAR's decision and I intend to move forward under the rules."
Gordon's problems began late in the inaugural Busch race at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, when contact with Marcos Ambrose sent Gordon spinning and out of the lead. Gordon, feeling that he was still in the lead, or at least in second place behind Ambrose, when the caution waved -- thus freezing the field -- refused to line up in 13th as instructed by NASCAR.
Gordon was black-flagged and NASCAR pulled his scorecard -- meaning his laps completed didn't count -- for refusing NASCAR's directives. When the race restarted for a green-white-checkered finish, Gordon was still second on the track behind Ambrose, with Kevin Harvick in third.
Shortly after the green flag waved, Gordon got into the back of Ambrose, sending him spinning. That paved the way for Harvick's win, and also led to penalties against Gordon.
While Gordon said Ambrose simply was slower through the turn, leading to the contact, NASCAR clearly felt it was intentional. That's why it parked Gordon as opposed to suspending him. If suspended, Gordon could have filed an immediate appeal and would have been eligible to race Sunday.
"If the act or admission of a member is determined by a NASCAR official to constitute a threat to the orderly conduct of the event, NASCAR may take emergency action against that member," Tharp said, quoting NASCAR's rulebook. "That includes parking a driver for an event. Parking is final, non-appealable and non-reviewable."
While Tharp wouldn't go so far as to say that Gordon's in-race actions were unprecedented, he made it clear the sanctioning body wasn't happy.
"Towards the end of Saturday's race at Montreal, Robby Gordon demonstrated blatant disrespect and disregard for NASCAR directives on multiple occasions," Tharp said. "His actions were certainly disruptive to the orderly conduct of that event. NASCAR will continue to review this situation and address any further actions at the beginning of this week."
NASCAR will park a driver during the race for actions it deems intentional, but only rarely will it park a driver for another event. Kevin Harvick was parked for a Cup race at Martinsville in April 2002 after NASCAR felt he intentionally spun Coy Gibbs during a Craftsman Truck Series race a day earlier.
In June, NASCAR parked Ted Musgrave after making hard contact with another driver during a Craftsman Truck Series race. In addition, he was parked for the following race at Memphis.
Tharp said he wasn't sure if officials in Montreal had considered red-flagging the Busch race to get Gordon either off the track or into the proper position for the restart.
"When you freeze the field [under caution], as we did, you have to maintain a cautious pace -- which he did not," Tharp said. "He was ordered to blend into the line of cars during the caution, which he did not. It was communicated on several occasions [to Gordon], including by his crew chief. We black-flagged him for each lap that he continued to run at that race."
Crew chief Gene Nead said he spoke with Gordon on Saturday night.
"He was obviously disappointed," Nead said. "We really haven't talked today; we're just worried about the race."
When Harvick was parked in 2002, Richard Childress Racing had to scramble to find a replacement, a task that was easy for Gordon's team since Jones was available.
"P.J. ran both practices [on Saturday], he did a good job," Nead said. "And he's tested for us a bunch."
Still, it wasn't necessarily what Nead had in mind for the race.
"It's pretty frustrating because we had a really good car Friday when Rob was here running it [for practice and qualifying]," Nead said. "I felt like we would be pretty good."
Gordon thought he was more than good on Saturday, telling reporters in Montreal afterward that he felt he won the race. He also defended not lining up in 13th for the restart.
"You always go back to your position, if you get spun out. And Marcos spun me under the caution, or whatever his name is," Gordon said. "[NASCAR] originally told me to go back to second place and I went back to second place. Then they said to go back to 13th place or 14th place or something like that. I was never running 13th or 14th, so I don't know what to say."
What Gordon would say Saturday was that he won the race.
"I completed the most laps; I was first car to complete them. I won the race," Gordon said. "You guys can say that I got in the back of him over here, he got in the back of me over there. It's just a huge disappointment.
"We worked real hard on our road-course program and we came here to win the race and that's what we did. If they're going to say we finished two laps [down], I guess we finished two laps down. They make the rules."
And on Sunday, those rules found Gordon on the outside looking in for the Pennsylvania 500.
Mark Ashenfelter is an Associate Editor at ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.