IRL: Indy 500: Robby Gordon press conference, part III

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript April 29, 2003 Robby Gordon Part 3 of 3 Q: And how about John Andretti? Have you talked to him since then? R. Gordon: I saw what John said, OK? And I am sure you guys have seen what...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
April 29, 2003

Robby Gordon

Part 3 of 3

Q: And how about John Andretti? Have you talked to him since then?

R. Gordon: I saw what John said, OK? And I am sure you guys have seen what John said. And all I want to say to that is I would never wish for one of my fellow competitors to get hurt so I could get the ride.

Q: It started with Michael where, at Cleveland when he gave you a flat tire and you ran him into a wall or something?

R. Gordon: No, we bumped tires after the race was over, OK? And he did give me a flat tire during the race. And you know what? People do this all time in Winston Cup.

Q: But when it is Michael Andretti or Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Robby Gordon it seems to get a lot more blown out of proportion. Does that make sense?

R. Gordon: It does. You see it happen week in and week out. I mean, guys get mad, and they go yell at each other in the garage. It is not really that big of a deal. And this is the point I was trying to make is I think that Michael obviously is a very good businessman, has done very well over the years, and I am proud that he could hire me as a driver even after us having feuds in the past.

Q: I just wanted to ask, did you happen to get to see Mario's slide in testing last week on television and what your impressions were?

R. Gordon: Unfortunately, I have not seen it. And I do not know why I have not seen it. I have not been watching TV at the time it has been on. But I am very happy that he got out of the thing OK. And from what everybody tells me, sometimes you hear from one person and it gets exaggerated, but it sounded like a big, big flip. Mario is very fortunate to get out of there safe. And that does concern me a little bit going in there. I mean if just a little piece of debris like that will catch enough air and send that car over like that.

Q: Yes, Robby, you have the first day of practice on Sunday. I know you have not had a chance probably to even be anywhere near a Dallara/Honda, but what are you thoughts about that package and trying out that at the Speedway?

R. Gordon: Very excited. One, Honda goes racing with the right attitude, in everything they have ever competed in. And they have not won the Indianapolis 500. They have come close. With Scott Goodyear, I mean they came very, very close, but they have not won the Indianapolis 500. So I know the effort that they are going to put behind this package, and I am honored to be driving for one of their teams.

Q: Do you think it will take you long to get your feet wet, you know, get your feet wet again and get used to the whole package of an open-wheel car?

R. Gordon: Well, I think the biggest thing is that I do have all week. And I have learned from mistakes in the past. My very first time I showed up at the Indianapolis 500, I wanted to be quick right out of the box, and I crashed A.J.'s car. And I have not, knock on wood, I am going to knock on some wood under the table here, have not crashed a car at the Speedway since. And I give that to the lessons that A.J. taught me back then about the Speedway. And you do have to respect that place. If the car gets loose a little bit, you have to come in and work on it and make the car handle. You cannot manhandle a car around the Speedway. You can for a couple laps, but when it bites you, it bites you hard because of the speeds that you are traveling. And so I am going to back to the Speedway this year in the same way I have gone ever since that very first year with A.J. We do not have to be the fastest car the first day. We do not have to be the fastest car the third day. We need to be very quick on qualifying day, but still there is no reason to risk everything to crash the car for qualifying. And the key is to make the car handle and try to have a very tuneable, well-balanced car for the race. If you do that, you are going to be there at the end, and I think my record over the past, does not matter what team it is been, even when I drove for A.J. back in 2001 we led the first 27 laps. We had a good race car until the motor blew up.

Q: I am doing fine. Let's go back to the comment that you made after Mario's thing you that were just a little concerned that a little piece of debris might put enough air under that thing to send you over. What do you do to push that into the background? What do you have to do?

R. Gordon: Well, I do not know what Mario's car was feeling like at that point. Mario did not crash. That is the first thing. This was not Mario's fault. If you have a piece of debris there, I do not know if the car was trimmed out in qualifying mode, I think he was all ready up to 225.9 or maybe even 226, but I am not quite sure of those numbers. And I think what happened, I have not seen the car, from what people tell me he hit the fence and was 20 feet off the ground and all this stuff. I have not seen a car that high off the ground at the Speedway as long as I have been going there. And I have been going there since '93. So 10 years. It does concern me, but I will give you my opinion why I think that, all it is is an opinion, it is no other reason. Back in '93, '94 we were making 850 horsepower, 900 horsepower. Now we are going there with less horsepower and almost running the same speeds, and what is happening is we have trimmed all the downforce off these cars to get back up to speed again. So now they are real light on their aerodynamics. So when they lose their tunnels, they take off. And that is just my feeling. That is not being an aerodynamic expert. We would have to get somebody to come in and analyze that a lot better than I could, but I am just giving you my feeling of why we are still almost as fast we were with 300 horsepower less.

Q: How much of a difference is there from when you are driving that heavy stock car all the time and you get down into that little 1,500-pound IndyCar Series car, how long does your seat get to really feel good about that?

R. Gordon: Well, last year when I showed up in 2002, I was comfortable by the second day. I mean, even though I was comfortable the first day, man, it is just a different a feel, and it takes a little while. Once I caught on and then went back and forth I was able to switch back and forth very quick, fortunate enough that I could start and have five days of good IndyCar Series running.

Q: You mentioned just a while ago that you are going to make sure you get the extra sleep and try to be as fresh as possible for those two races. What else do you try to do, physically, to prepare yourself and mentally to prepare yourself for such a long day? Will you do extra roadwork in the next few weeks and stuff like that?

R. Gordon: Yes, I have, and I will continue to. One thing I will say is it has taken me a while to get back to a good fitness level, and I feel I am almost to a good level right now. There is more to go before being 100 percent ready for the '500.' I broke my ankle last year in September, I believe, and it took me, I missed out on four months of real exercise because I broke both ankles, not just one of them. But now I am back to the point where I can run and exercise. I do not feel fatigued at all even after like last week at Fontana, my car did not handle that well and I was hustling it all day long, got out of the car and still felt pretty good.

Q: You know, you drive 500-mile races all the time in NASCAR. Why do they talk about Indy being so grueling?

R. Gordon: Indy is grueling because the g-forces are higher, the side-load g-forces. And the other thing is it is still a survival race. These Indy cars are like they are more than half the weight of a Winston Cup car. The IRL has done a very good job with the engine specs. We have more cars finishing now than we used to. We have less transmission problems because we are not making the horsepower. You see a lot less mechanical failures, so it has become a little bit of a sprint race, but you could not race the Indianapolis 500 like a sprint race or you will end up in the wall. It is that simple. I mean, I can name guys, actually, I do not want to even name guys. You can go back and look at guys that have led the first part of the races and end up hitting the wall. I think it happened again last year. So the deal is you have to pace yourself, and that is something I think that my NASCAR side can even help me more on the IndyCar Series side.

Q: Are you more tired after Indy than you would be after a NASCAR race?

R. Gordon: I will tell you, after last year's Indy 500 I was like normal, like I did not do anything all day long. You do have to be in the best physical shape, it is endurance. It is mental. It is recovery time. There are a lot of things that you have to be able to do quickly, that your body has to be able to do. And I got out of the IndyCar Series car last year, and I felt great. But I got in the Cup car and got a cramp in my stomach. So those are the things I am going to learn from mistakes and try to be better this year and work on my stomach muscles because it is a different, it is a different g-load than you get loaded in that IndyCar Series car then a Cup car. We pull similar g's, but some of our courses are banked a lot higher than Indianapolis. Bristol and places like that. We have big banking so we get lateral g's or we do not get as much lateral g's, we get vertical g's pushing down into the bottom of the seat. It is different than an IndyCar Series car where you run on a flat racetrack and it pulls you sideways. So I do work a different stomach muscle, and I probably did not even notice it at the Indy 500, but then I went to the Coca-Cola 600, and my stomach got sore halfway through the race. And I got sore right underneath my left-side ribs, I got a cramp in there. And that could be from dehydration. I mean, I have asked endurance doctors what you could do to be better for that, and the key, he said, was he did not see anything wrong, he felt that I needed to not miss the IV. I did not take the IV last year so this year I will definitely take it. And that will help, for sure.

Q: The first time I saw you race was at Mid-Ohio in 1989 with Jack Roush Racing. The hood blew off of your Mercury XR7, and you still finished second. I guess my question is, you kind of cut your teeth on endurance racing in sports car. Do you think that helps you mentality when you approach these 500-mile races?

R. Gordon: I think it does, for sure. It definitely helps because even my off-road was endurance racing. In my younger years, I always thought I could overdrive the car and make up a difference, which I can make up a little difference, but the key is working on the car to get the car to better. And that is something I have learned the last few years, probably the last five years. And I think that is made me a better race car driver, maybe a better race driver for the Indianapolis 500 as well, because I said earlier, you cannot manhandle the car at the Speedway because it will bite you, and when it bites you, it bites you big.

K. Johnson: Robby, you addressed a little earlier the amount of time it takes to adjust from your Winston Cup car to the IndyCar Series car, and you mentioned that you cannot really carry an IndyCar Series for too many laps. But come Race Day you get out of your car here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you jet back to Charlotte, change driver's uniforms, and you hop in your Winston Cup car. Is there an adjustment period before you get a good seat-of-the-pants feel for getting back in the car that is pretty familiar to you?

R. Gordon: Actually, there is, but you catch on real quick. I have to go to the back of the pack because I miss the driver's meeting at the NASCAR race. So when I fall to the back, I get a couple of laps by myself to get the feel. I can only use last year as an example. I was 43rd, and by the time the first pit stop came I was fifth at the Winston Cup race. So I was able to move through the pack that good after getting straight out of the IndyCar Series car and into the Winston Cup car. And I think you just have to understand what the capabilities are of each car.

K. Johnson: Well Robby, we certainly appreciate you taking time to join us today and wish you the best of luck in all your racing endeavors coming up during the month of May.

R. Gordon: Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Robby Gordon , Scott Goodyear , Michael Andretti , Jack Roush