Robby Gordon is hoping the tenth try will be the charm as he attempts to conquer the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. For the fourth straight year, the Californian will attempt to perform the Memorial Day weekend "double" by racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Lowe's Motor Speedway all in one Sunday.
Always a tinkerer who likes to keep his hand in management as well as on the steering wheel, Gordon at one time was an owner-driver in Champ Cars and NASCAR. Apparently, he thinks he can do it again with this Indy Racing League IndyCar Series entry. Winning the Indy 500 has long been a goal, he admitted.
Despite a fulltime job driving Richard Childress Racing's #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo in 36 NEXTEL Cup races, Gordon, 35, just can't sit still. "Thanks to Meijer and Chevrolet, we've been able to put together a very solid program for the Indy 500," Gordon said in announcing his team. His squad has "the experience, people and facilities to put a competitive car on the track," from their Huntersville, NC base.
"As a racer, I love the challenge we'll face in May. Practice and qualifying at Indy, plus the NASCAR races at Richmond and Charlotte will make for a very busy month," he admitted.
To head his IndyCar team, Gordon hired Thomas Knapp, who worked with him in 1999 when Gordon came about a lap from tasting the winner's milk in Victory Lane at the Brickyard. "Thomas Knapp is very experienced. I think he's had a car on the front row either four or five times over the last seven, eight years," Gordon recalled. "I think he's the right guy to lead up this campaign; he prepares a very good race car."
Robby is sticking with Chevrolet power, which he uses in his RCR Cup car, his Fruit of the Loom Busch car and also in his Chevy Silverado Trophy Truck in SCORE off-road events, including the seminal Baja 1000. "This is a great opportunity for me to build on my relationship with Chevrolet beyond NASCAR. May will be a busy month, but as a racer, I love the challenge. That's another reason," he added, "I'm glad all my racing will be in a Chevy."
Gordon's first Dallara chassis (of two ordered) arrived from Italy just last night at Robby Gordon Motorsports and will initially be fitted with a 3.5-liter Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 so the team can get it "up and running and do systems checks." He'll be at the Brickyard for open testing on April 27- 28 with the 3-liter mill that all Indy Racing League IndyCar Series competitors must use beginning when practice opens on May 9th. "I'm confident the Chevy will be there. Panther Racing was really competitive at Homestead and we'll be working together to make this happen."
It was Knapp's decision to go with Dallara: "We have a working relationship with Dallara and they continue to be beyond reproach" in business dealings. While Knapp and Gordon did look at Panoz G Force, "We had a short period of time to get this done" and went with the familiar chassis maker.
Last year at Indianapolis, Gordon came into Andretti Green Racing with no testing, five practice days and nearly grabbed pole position for the 500. Despite the distractions of NEXTEL Cup races at Richmond and the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's, he believes that "a good car, good engineering and a good team are so important for this race. That combination can make a great driver faster and a pretty good driver go well.
"At Indy, you've got to respect the track or it'll bite you," Gordon continued. "Indy is so difficult to win. You've got to be smart, fast and have a great team involved" to make it all work to your advantage. And as one who broke in to racing driving off road, Gordon naturally looks to Rick Mears for inspiration. "I look up to Rick. We came from the same background and I learned from him, as he'd work on the car to make it right for the end. That's what got me into it."
Gordon has always been the fiercest of competitors and readily states, "I drive to win." His versatility is legendary as he's driven just about everything available on land. "As I get older I learn to cope with not winning," he stated, "but it drives me absolutely crazy when I'm not competitive."
At this point the plan is only to run the 88th Indianapolis 500 but if Robby and Thomas Knapp's hand picked crew show well at the Brickyard, who knows? "We could find some hot-shoe and run the rest of the season. I can honestly say right now we don't have anything in place but if we do a good enough job for our sponsors, you never know. We'll talk after Indy."
With so much on his plate for the month of May, Robby Gordon will be a busy guy, going from Indy to Richmond and back, then Charlotte to Indy and back. He approaches it only one way, though. "This is a great opportunity to have fun. I've got my fingers crossed we get it right."