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Some Christmas Goodies and some lumps of coal

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, December 16, 2010

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The NASCAR centric journalists who make up the Driver of the Year panel almost always vote for a NASCAR driver,.  The award should be renamed 'NASCAR' Driver of the Year.
Over the past few days we learned of two drivers and one team owner who received awards they absolutely deserved. Then there was the matter of another driver who spent much of this month dealing with legal and business issues he absolutely does not deserve. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin this week with:

THUMBS-UP to our reigning, and five time, NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson who continues to collect post season accolades. A special panel of [NASCAR-centric] North American broadcasters and journalists recently voted Johnson as the 2010 Driver of the Year. The panel was assembled, via a teleconference, by the Driver of the Year Foundation, located in Sarasota-Florida, led by foundation President Barry Schmoyer who noted that the foundation has been bestowing this prestigious award for 44 years now making it the longest running driver's award of its kind.

Johnson received ten votes from the 18 member panel which led to him winning the award for the fourth time in his career. The only driver to ever win this title four times is Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports team mate: four time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

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THUMBS-UP to Tony Stewart for recently being named as the National Motorsports Press Association's Home Depot Humanitarian of the Year. In additional to presenting Stewart with the beautiful custom crystal trophy, Home Depot will also be making a $100,000 contribution to the Tony Stewart Foundation. For several years now Stewart's foundation has championed the cause of providing care for critically ill children as well as assisting in the needs of injured drivers. The foundation has also helped other organizations in their efforts to protect various animal species.

Stewart deserves a second THUMBS-UP for recently donating the use of his personal ranch for both children and wildlife preservation. The Hidden Hollow Ranch, a 414 acre spread owned by Stewart located in his native Indiana, will now be made available to the Catch A Dream Foundation, an organization that arranges for the joy of hunting and fishing experiences for children with life threatening illnesses. Stewart's ranch will also become a living laboratory and will be used by wildlife biologists from Mississippi State University who will study habitat and over population as well as other deer related issues.

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THUMBS-UP to team owner Chip Ganassi who was recently named as the winner of the Chris Economaki Champion of Champions Award. This prestigious award is presented annually by "The National Speed Sport News" which was founded by publisher Economaki. This is the first time, in the eight year history of the award, that a non driver was given this honor. During the course of the 2010 racing season, a Ganassi team won NASCAR's Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. Ganassi drivers also won the 2010 Indianapolis 500 and the IZOD Indy Racing League champion as well as the championship for the Grand American Rolex Series.

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WHAT'S-UP with NASCAR driver/team owner Robby Gordon and the legal issues he's had to deal with over the past two weeks? According to reports from "TMZ Dot Com," a Los Angeles based entertainment news agency, Gordon recently discovered that he was getting the shaft from Extenze, the well known male enhancement program, and the dispute has now necessitated a lawsuit that was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court back on December 3d.

Following a major dispute last summer, Sprint Cup driver Kevin Conway, and his sponsor biotab nutraceuticals who manufactures Extenze, was released by Front Row Motorsports following a monetary dispute that now is the subject of an entirely different lawsuit. On August 31st came an announcement that said Conway and Extenze were moving to Robby Gordon Motorsports. At the time Conway was hoping sew up the Series' Rookie of the Year title which he eventually won. Conway began the new arrangement by taking over Gordon's familiar #7 Toyota while Gordon drove the #07 team car.

However, by mid October, Conway was within 25 points of falling outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points meaning he would not be guaranteed a start in future races. It was decided to switch rides so the more experienced Gordon could elevate the #7 team's status in the owner rankings. Gordon later said that this move was cleared with Extenze. The plan worked very well. Gordon managed to place the #7 team 32nd in the final owner's standings which means the team is guaranteed a start in the first five events of the 2011 season. That includes the ultra prestigious, and extremely lucrative, Daytona 500 in February.

Despite all of this Extenze reportedly refused to pay the sponsorship money owed to Gordon and cited a breach of contract because of the driver switch. The December 3d litigation, filed by Gordon is asking for the sum of $690,000 owed to him.

But the administration problems for Robby Gordon Motorsports didn't end with Extenze. In late October Gordon announced the creation of Speed Energy Drink in hopes that it will generate enough retail sales to fully support his motorsports operation. But approximately a week later Gordon received a cease and desist letter from Specialized Bicycle Components who complained that Gordon's company logo, an elongated letter "S", was too similar to their copyrighted logo.

On November 19th came word that a U.S. District Court Judge, in Santa Ana-California, issued an injunction against Gordon that said he could not use the current "S" logo on his cans of energy drink. This was a huge blow for Gordon in light of the fact that the company had already mass produced approximately 2.4 million cans of Speed Energy Drink. With the bicycle company threatening litigation, the two companies went into mediation where Gordon agreed to make an alteration to his company logo to eliminate any similarities.

Last Monday Gordon issued a statement that said a compromise has now been reached with Specialized Bicycle Components. Newly packaged cans of Speed Energy Drink will be available for purchase on line sometime between December 18th through the 20th with shipping available for the holidays. He also estimated that the cans with the new logo will be available in retail stores by early January 2011. You can track the progress of the energy drink, with its newly designed logo, via Gordon's fan site: www.planetrobby.com.

Bear in mind all of this has been going on in the midst of the busy process of preparing for the upcoming 2011 racing season. Here's hoping Robby Gordon has a merry Christmas. He certainly did not deserve the nonsense he's endured during the first half of December.

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