CHAMPCAR/CART: Homestead No Ordinary Opener for Team Gordon

THIS YEAR'S MARLBORO GRAND PRIX OF MIAMI NO ORDINARY SEASON-OPENER FOR GORDON HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 12, 1999) - Robby Gordon has seen season openers come and season openers go in his young but storied racing career. But no matter the outcome...

THIS YEAR'S MARLBORO GRAND PRIX OF MIAMI NO ORDINARY SEASON-OPENER FOR GORDON

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 12, 1999) - Robby Gordon has seen season openers come and season openers go in his young but storied racing career.

But no matter the outcome of this weekend's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota - Round 1 of the 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series - it will, without a doubt, occupy a special place in his heart for years to come.

Yes, another new season means another new team for Gordon.  But it's
not just any new team.  This one's got his name on it.

What was nothing more than a dream late last summer for Gordon and his business manager, Mike Held, has taken shape the last several months in the form of a full-blown Champ Car operation called Team Gordon.

"To say the last several months have been a blur around here might be the understatement of the offseason," said Gordon, who pieced together his new Toyota-based operation in partnership with Held and John Menard, with key support from Menard's midwest-based chain of home improvement stores, Johns Manville, Panasonic, Duracell and Turtle Wax.

"Let's just say we haven't even had time enough to take a deep breath and admire what we've accomplished, which is monumental," the 30-year-old Gordon continued. "I'm sure there will be time enough for that after we get through our first race season."

Once the team lands in South Florida for the Marlboro Grand Prix, Gordon hopes the only blur will be his No. 22 Toyota-powered racing machine as it circles the 1.5-mile oval at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex.

In a last-minute albeit temporary departure from the Swift chassis the team announced it would campaign in this, its inaugural season, Gordon has opted to pilot a more familiar Reynard for the first two events.

"Our first Swift didn't arrive until almost two weeks after Spring Training, and that really put us behind the 8-ball with very little time to go testing," said Gordon, a two-time winner and four-time polesitter in the CART FedEx Championship Series, all accomplished in Reynards during his three years driving for Derrick Walker. "The Swift was an all-new car for everyone on this team, whereas we have a world of experience in Reynards."

"When you get down to it, our sponsors want us to be competitive every time we hit the track - there are not many ears listening to excuses," added Held. "It was a tough but calculated decision to make the switch. Robby drove Reynards for three years with Walker, and last year with Arciero-Wells. Dan Miller, our team manager and an experienced chief mechanic, was at Walker and worked with Robby while he was there.

"We'll go with the Reynards at Homestead and Motegi (Round 2), and then we'll bring on the Swift beginning at Long Beach (Round 3)."

In the meantime, all eyes will be on Gordon, who with the departure of Bobby Rahal from the cockpit last year assumes the distinction of being the only owner/driver in the ultra-competitive CART FedEx Championship Series.

But don't look for the added responsibility implied by the added tag of "team owner" to suddenly turn Gordon conservative.

"It may be my race car, but it's still just a race car," he said, "and I fully plan to go out there and drive it like I stole it."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Bobby Rahal , Dan Miller