Now, I am not going to promote a budding rivalry between NASCAR's villainous Robby Gordon and resident nice guy Terry Labonte. However, they had a bit of a difference of opinions following Thursday's Gatordale Duel race, one in which both drivers emerged from their cars with spots on the Daytona 500 starting grid.
The debate was not about what happened on the track per se. It was about a NASCAR provision that benefited the 1984 and 1996 champion Labonte, as well as the FASLane Racing team...the past champion's provisional.
Robby Gordon's take is as follows:
"When you look at it, besides pure speed, I think three guys make it on speed, obviously Terry takes a past champion (provisional), which I still disagree with that, I think that should be based if you were with that team when you won the championship...That takes a spot from teams that are working hard to get into the Daytona 500.
We made it fair and square to be fast enough...Obviously, I got a lot respect for Terry, this is not a Terry Labonte thing. He (just) takes one of those (Daytona 500) spots. I guess I should hire Kurt Busch and put my other car in the show too...Why take a free ride when the rest of us have to bust our butts to get into the 500? "
While Gordon did rejoice after his valiant drive into the Great American Race, his rant seemed to garner much attention.
Labonte did give a brief response to Gordon's lengthy rant:
"That's the only car we got (for the Daytona 500). That wreck was right in front of us, there, and we just couldn't take a chance on wrecking it. I think we practiced enough in a pack, and what little we did today, the car's really good but we just couldn't risk it."
I understand both parties to this debate. Gordon has labored for years running his own operation, and now that sponsorship and funding is scarce, his team has to work much harder to make it into the races. It can be rather frustrating to watch another driver and team ease their by into the show by virtue of a provision that NASCAR created years ago.
On the other hand, Labonte worked awfully hard to earn his two championships. Now that he has accomplished what he is going to accomplish in NASCAR, he is helping out other small teams like Gordon's. Not only with his past champion's provision, but his wisdom and experience. To a certain degree Labonte earned his way into Daytona after decades of success in NASCAR. Additionally, Mr. Frank Stoddard is brilliant by using Labonte's experience and provisional.