IRL: Andretti gives Gordon another shot at Indy 500

IRL: Andretti gives Gordon another shot at Indy 500

The game of musical chairs for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is slowing down, as banged-up drivers get clearance to practice on the famed 2.5-mile oval. Gil de Ferran and Scott Dixon, victims of accidents in Phoenix and Japan, respectively,...

The game of musical chairs for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is slowing down, as banged-up drivers get clearance to practice on the famed 2.5-mile oval. Gil de Ferran and Scott Dixon, victims of accidents in Phoenix and Japan, respectively, have received permission to take to the track for opening day this Sunday, May 5th.

Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
Tony Kanaan appears well on his way to recovery from his Motegi crash, as well, but Dario Franchitti has traveled to Austria for additional therapy with his regular trainer, unable to return to IndyCar Series combat until, at least, mid-June.

Franchitti's Andretti Green Racing team owners Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree addressed that lack earlier this week, naming Robby Gordon -- a man who has burned more bridges than did Roman conquerors in the Middle Ages -- to substitute for the Scot. This will enable Gordon to contest his fourth "daily double" by competing in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR's Coca Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC.

For Gordon, this is a coup; for other, perhaps more worthy drivers available to work at the Speedway throughout the entire month of May, it's a slap in the face. There are many Indy veterans looking for rides, people who can give their full time attention to the Month of May.

As for Gordon, he's got a lot to prove this month in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The man who trashed his CART engine supplier (Ford-Cosworth) while driving for Derrick Walker and showed the world just how poorly he could manage his own Champ Car team, swapping chassis regularly from Swift to All American Racers' Eagle/Toyota, Robby (incredibly) keeps getting more chances to prove himself worthy.

No one can argue Gordon's talent behind the wheel, provided he is allocated driver's duties alone. Just put him in the car and tell him to shut up, please. Robby has a mouth that roars. Sometimes pleasantly but more often not.

Gordon professes to be prepared for this ordeal, something he admits he didn't do last year. Refusing intravenous feeding following last year's Indy race, Gordon encountered stomach cramps in his Winston Cup ride, thanks to the extreme g forces he was subjected to in both cars that caused dehydration he wasn't prepared for.

Robby Gordon.
Photo by Tony Johns.
"I know what it takes to be around at the end," Gordon keeps saying, but it sounds like he's trying, more than anything else, to convince himself of that fact. While he's expert at long events - many solo drives in the grueling Baja 1000 come to mind - Robby's getting into an unfamiliar Dallara/Honda car.

While he has plenty of time to get acclimated, one can only hope Gordon won't try to engineer the car himself or diss his new team by suggesting solutions to problems that may or may not exist. Gordon's rationale to fiddle with everything he drives is legendary in open wheel and the time he spent with his own NASCAR Winston Cup team was rife with fiddle-faddling.

Ah, but leopards can change their spots, can't they? That's one of the things Andretti Green Racing is hoping for. This will be Robby's ninth start in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and he is, obviously, looking to win it. But the 34-year-old Gordon also has responsibilities to Richard Childress, owner of his Winston Cup car, that are more important than this one-off at Indy, no matter what he's saying for publication.

Robby has stated he gets "butterflies in my stomach at the Speedway. I'll take every opportunity to race here." Indy holds that fascination for plenty of drivers, not just Robby Gordon. But Gordon, speaking in one of his favorite languages, PR, has said he's "learned from the past." Has he really? We'll find out if he's burning or building bridges during this month of May.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kim Green