For many of you, my words in last month’s View From the Soapbox (know infamously referred to as “the Wussification story”) missed its intended mark completely. While there were various degrees of love and hate for the piece (which, by the way, is the point of this entire editorial exercise), at the heart of the matter was the importance for all of us to step away from the myopic and largely crippling view we have of off-road racing and look at the bigger picture.
It was not about GPS or course markings or late results or even in-race tweets from our co-drivers. In case I may have been unclear, it was about keeping true to what is right and good about off-road racing – especially compared to other forms of motorsports our subculture competes against in terms of sponsor dollars, fans, relevance and the future.
There was one guy I know who got the point right away.
When I called Robby Gordon last night he was just about to get a haircut. “Man, I have needed one for weeks but I just have been too busy to get one. But, it’s my big weekend in the spotlight and I figured I better look as good as we are going to look at Long Beach.”
He then paused a moment as if he were taking it all in, then blurted out; “This weekend we are going to sweep the industry off its feet – and I’m not talking about the off-road industry. This is WAY bigger.”
Surprisingly to most, to those that know him well, Robby can, at certain times, be remarkably humble versus his famous cocky boastfulness. But, considering all he and his team have accomplished over the past twelve months since he made me sign a Letter of Confidentially before showing me plans for SST, Robby has every right to burst with enthusiasm.
In case you haven’t heard this weekend’s huge news, somehow, someway, Robby managed to get his fledgling Stadium Super Trucks (SST) series wrapped into this weekend’s huge Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – the second most influential and recognized Indycar race outside of the Indianapolis 500 itself.
On the surface, even that achievement is amazing. When one considers the fact that nearly 150,000 fans will see off-road trucks racing on the streets of Long Beach over these next three days his accomplishment is staggered.
But more spectacular than all that is the fact that unlike the drifting, sports cars or even the Toyota Celebrity events that fill out the Long Beach IndyCar weekend, Mr. Gordon managed to get the SST show to be timed just before the big race on Sunday. That’s seriously significant on so many levels.
I couldn’t help but ask the obvious. “Yah, how the hell did you pull that off Robby?”
“I hate to say this, but I am the first person since Mickey Thompson to be in a position of pulling off something like the SST series,” he said without hesitation. “It’s all about connections, friendships and relationships. Mickey had all of these things, and so do I.”
“Eight months ago, I sold this concept to Randy Bernard, Indycar’s old boss,” he continued. “He totally loved it and got the vision. But, when he was ousted a few months ago, I was worried that my idea for Long Beach was over. It’s incredible, but the management (at LBGP) stood by the concept. Today it paid off for them when they saw me fly 180 feet over the first jumps. They were blown away.”
And, as a longtime industry insider, it is safe to say that many in our universe, especially those who sit behind corporate doors, are equally blown away. The simple fact is that there was serious doubt on the part of many that SST would not see the light of day. I was one of those doubters. Like most racers, over the past year Gordon held his head down, worked hard and made sure his trucks were being built, tested and ready. An occasional blip on the radar screen would happen via a YouTube video, but little else was very evident from a business, marketing, driver, and sponsor or attendance perspective.
Much of that changed with the advent of SST’s premiere race at University of Phoenix Stadium and then a one-hour weekend primetime network airing of the historic event on NBC. The fact that Rob MacCachren was the first winner was not a surprise, the fact that SST was alive and breathing was.
“I feel really good after Phoenix,” Gordon shared. “We had a real crowd of 21,600 people. So, lets say that’s a paid gate of 18,000 fans. That’s three times what anybody else can claim for short course racing right now for a single day.”
But, the best part was just getting it done when there were so many doubters,” he added. The days of Robby Gordon’s ‘smoke and mirror’ racing series are over.”
As the Long Beach weekend comes ever closer, Gordon is also excited about the prospects of putting on the weekend’s best race. The SST line-up has some very credible asphalt talent besides the boss himself; including former IMSA sports car champion P.J. Jones, Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Jeff Ward, open wheel talent Arie Luyendyk Jr. and rising NASCAR and off-road racer Justin Lofton.
Yet, the big picture is always looming in Gordon’s fertile mind. “What I want to do is get some Indycar and NASCAR teams involved in my series. I’m going to franchise this deal because it represents the best business model in American motorsports right now. Once we are at capacity, everybody not involved will be on the outside looking in.”
While this weekend represents a huge opportunity for SST, the next 30 days will also include the challenge of trying to fill up the Los Angeles Coliseum and two stops at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. But, on Robby time, that’s still plenty of time to deal with those hurtles. Right now it’s all about Long Beach.
“We use the term that this isn’t off-road racing, but urban off-road,” he concluded. “Can it get any better than being at the Long Beach Grand Prix, the ultimate urban IndyCar race?”
No Robby, it really can’t.
Source Article courtesy Race-Dezert.com
Here's one big believer.
"Once we are at capacity, everybody not involved will be on the outside looking in"
See you at the next 3 race's.
That is a great article - thanks for sharing. I lived in SoCAL for 35 years and LBGP was on my agenda every year. It's the best racing event I've ever been to....largely because there is so much more than just the "race".
Though, I do have say when I read the title...."Robby's Coming Out Party"....I thought this was going to be an entirely different subject.
Cool, my wife may get lucky tonight
WJM thanks for sharing, great artical and thank you Marty Fiolka for writing it you're missed at Dirt Sports.
For a minute there I was under the impression WJM was the author...........thanks for bringing the suds to the party..