88th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference Robby Gordon Wednesday, May 12, 2004 ROBBY GORDON: Good morning, everybody. MIKE KING: Robby, good morning. Guys, just to let you know, we've got a pretty compact group this morning, but we are ...
88th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
ROBBY GORDON: Good morning, everybody.
MIKE KING: Robby, good morning. Guys, just to let you know, we've got a pretty compact group this morning, but we are transcribing this morning's press conference. So we would, if you have questions for Robby, let me get you the mike. We want to make sure our transcriptionist can get the question as well as Robby's answer. Robby, good morning. We'll keep the intro discussion pretty short and sweet. Third straight double. A couple days ago you had an incident, first talk a little bit about that. How are you feeling, and how did the car fare in that deal?
GORDON: Well, I hate to talk about these types of things, but that's why when you put a program together you make sure you have two cars and you have all the pieces and parts to be able to come and be competitive. We did have two cars; we were back out yesterday. Unfortunately our backup car wasn't in what we would call race trim, which has different geometry and suspension stuff. We didn't get all that stuff changed over. So we just played yesterday with what we would call a race trim simulation. You know, it's unfortunate, we tore the car up, obviously it knocks a little bit of confidence out of yourself and the team, but it didn't hurt the car very bad. It didn't even hurt the radiator on the left-hand side. It was a pretty light impact. I lost it coming right in the middle of Turn 2 -- or Turn 1, I'm sorry, it just got a little bit sideways on me and did a little tank-slapper and snapped around on me and got away from me. But that was going to be our first, what we would call our four-lap simulation run since we were here testing. The out lap was a 218.4. So I think we'll get back into the 220s and not have a problem. But we made some adjustments out on pit lane and probably had, for sure, had too much front downforce, and the car pitched into the corner. It pinned the nose a little bit and got away from me.
KNG: Robby, a busy day today because you won't be here tomorrow or Friday before Pole Day on Saturday. Will you have use of the primary car today or will you be in the backup car again today?
GORDON: What we've done is we did have two sets of primary -- actually car qualifying suspension, and we've installed the primary suspension or qualifying suspension on the backup car now. That car will be run today in what we would call a qualifying simulation run. We don't get our Chevrolet qualifying motors until Friday night. So we really don't know how fast we're going to be. I think Fernandez yesterday afternoon, both those cars, 221s is pretty impressive. I don't know if that was a tow or not a tow, I wasn't here. But still 221 is pretty fast. I don't think, as a matter of fact, I know you're not going to see a 223 in qualifying. You're not going to see -- probably not going to see four laps at 222. It's going to be in the 220s, 221 four-lap average. We think the Chevrolet will be there. Like I said, we've run 219 before with a pretty basic motor, and they've come back with 15 or 20 more horsepower when we get our qualifying specs. So I think we'll be in pretty good shape.
KNG: To add to what Robby said, Kosuke Matsuura and Adrian Fernandez ran one-two yesterday. Both were in the 221.7 range. Adrian did say he thought he got a little bit of tow on his lap; Kosuke thought that as well, but neither of them thought that it aided them dramatically. Let's get questions for Robby Gordon, guys.
Q: Robby, would you take us through your schedule now between here and Charlotte and back again?
GORDON: We ran a little bit yesterday, like I said, in race trim. We went to Charlotte last night for the NASCAR test. We had a really good test there last night and flew back this morning, ready to run here all day. Thursday, Friday, because of prior commitments before we even had the Meijer/Coca-Cola program, we have the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet and the Busch car that we're running all year. If we weren't looking so good in the Busch car right now as far as championship points go, we probably wouldn't even mess around with it this weekend or next weekend or the weekend after. But that could change as the next three weeks go. If a race slips away from us and we don't finish inside the top 10, one of these races, we'll probably park that car. It's easier to do that than anything else. The Indy 500 effort is very important to us, but at the same time I believe I have the Indy 500 effort because I drive the Cingular Wireless car for Richard Childress. That still has to be a main focus of mine. I will be in Richmond Thursday, Friday, back here Friday night after the Busch race. We do have practice here on Saturday morning before we have to qualify. Hopefully everything works out, we get our car in the show. We'll know a lot more today if we're going to have a real legitimate shot at the pole. If we don't have an honest, honest shot at it, you're probably better off taking a conservative role and taking a fourth, fifth, sixth, fourth to 10th spot and just make sure you get in the show on Saturday. We are at a little bit of a disadvantage because I do have to go further on Saturday, I can't wait for Happy Hour. But Saturday right now looks like a fairly clear day. I think they're saying 30 percent showers on Saturday. But it's still a long ways away. And it is Indianapolis, and the weather comes and goes so quick here.
Q: Robby, you mentioned you don't get your engine, qualifying engine until Friday night. Is this true with other teams or is this just you? Does this put extra pressure on you?
GORDON: I don't know if the qualifying engine puts any extra pressure on us because we've got our fingers crossed that things are going to take pressure away and bring us some speed. One thing that Chevrolet has told us, they told us in a meeting yesterday that when we get this engine, this spec of qualifying will also be validated for the race, that they have put 500 miles on this spec, on the transient dyno, and that we will be able to race this spec, as well. Where, you know, some of the other qualifying motors as we come, they may not be able to go more than a hundred miles. I don't know, because I don't know what Toyota and Honda are doing. But Chevrolet, they're real proud of the motor, and they feel they're going to give us good race horsepower and good gas mileage or fuel mileage, excuse me.
Q: Robby, some of the guys had been talking about the cars being with this new aero package loose from the middle off. Did that play at all into your accident you had on Monday?
GORDON: It did definitely play in some action, or had something to do with it. What we've come across is the car is a little pitch-sensitive when it gets into the corner and gains front downforce at the middle of the corner, and then it tends to tail off at exit. And, you know, we ran like a 218.1 on 15-lap tires, and I put new tires on and put a whole turn, front full turn of front wing in it. These cars, with the horsepower level we have right now, we have them set up so free because you can't afford to have any understeer because it scrubs off speed. And like I said, it just got away from me. It's unfortunate because we know we can run 219s, 220s pretty easy by myself, and we probably snuck up on it too quick and should have taken our time a little bit more. We know better than that, Thomas Knapp and myself, we've been around this sport long enough and we shouldn't let it get the best of us, but it did. Knock on wood, we'll have that car back. We'll have that back before Saturday. It could be back today, but we need to focus on one car. We do have guys that will stay back in the garage and get that back, supposed to be back I think after lunchtime from the paint shop. But there's no tub damage, no gearbox damage, no engine damage, no front nose damage. It got the left side front wing but it didn't hurt the nose, didn't hurt the attenuator in the back. So I hate to say this, it is probably just a guesstimate on it, but $50,000 damage, which is pretty cheap for IndyCar (Series) racing here at Indianapolis.
Q: Robby, if you could talk a little bit about what goes through your mind on qualifying day? I mean, you've been at this 10 years now. Do you try to look at it as work, do you just try to have fun with it? How do you deal with going out early or going out late?
GORDON: Well, I've been fortunate enough two out of the last three years, I have been on the front row. I think the one year I wasn't, and I was fourth. But we have qualified close to pole, unfortunately I've never been on the pole here at Indy, and that was probably another thing that was getting the best of us. We had a really good test, and we were getting pretty excited about what we have as a team and package. Probably got too confident. I think today we just need to get back comfortable. If we can end up today at 219, that will be a good day for us, because when we do that or when I do this, knowing what happened already once, I'll make sure I stay away from a draft and stuff like that and that I'm out there by myself. Because why get in a draft and fool yourself because you're not going to have that draft when it comes time on Saturday when it comes time to qualify? So today's plan, obviously, is to be fast but be smart fast. If the car wiggles, we'll come in, work on it, go back out and make adjustments. A methodical day today is what we have planned.
Q: Robby, the last few years, as far as practice and qualifying are concerned here at Indianapolis, you've been 227, 228, up to 230, now you're down 217, 218, 220. Can you as a driver when you're on the track, can you feel that difference? Can you tell that difference?
GORDON: I've got to be honest with you, I don't think we can really tell it without having the speedometer up there on the steering wheel. It's got, how do you say it, a real pretty display compared to what I have for NASCAR, but it has these little numbers up there that tells us what our speed is, what your current speed is. If you didn't have that, I doubt that you would be able to really tell. To be honest with you, I don't think the fans will be able to tell, either. I don't think you're going to see 10, 12, 15 miles an hour difference. If you walk away from two days, you probably wouldn't notice it. But I will say that the spec that the IRL has come back here with is not an easy spec to drive. It is very difficult to drive. And there has been, you know, I don't know if anybody crashed yesterday, but I was the only one maybe at the Speedway that's crashed so far, but a couple weeks ago we were all here getting ready, doing qualifying runs and stuff like that, and three cars went in the wall, three pretty good cars. I think Fernandez's car went in the wall, a Red Bull car went in the wall and a Target car went in the wall. So those are three pretty good cars. It tells you that the spec is a spec that you have to drive. I talked to Brian Barnhart yesterday, and I think it's good. I mean, don't get me wrong, do I want to crash? No, but I still hold the throttle and I still have say on how much front wing we're going to put in the thing and how much wing we're going to put in the back of it, so we can slow the thing down and put downforce in it. It should be interesting come qualifying Saturday and hopefully in the race. Hopefully the downforce is off the cars enough now that shocks and springs will play a bigger role and you will be able to get up behind guys and be able to pass them.
Q: If you get both your cars and you get one in the show on Saturday, would you consider putting a driver in a second car? And perhaps after this race, would you consider running a few more in the series?
GORDON: I'll start with the second part of the question. I'm real proud of the race team that we have. It's very organized; it's pretty clean. I don't know for you media that haven't come over and seen the garage area and seen the cars and stuff, for a brand-new race team, I'm very, very happy with where Thomas and the boys have us as far as organization, cars, preparation, stuff like that. So I'd hate to see the team go away. But when we built the team, we built it to come to the Indy 500 and try to win the Indianapolis 500. We didn't really look much beyond that. On the other side of it, I don't know. We have, I think we have 15 people over there, maybe a little more by the time we come later in the week, and I don't know if we'll do that or not. That was not our plan from the beginning, and it hasn't been our plan so far. We will have two cars, and two cars will always be ready because that's the way our program is set up. But I think we'd have to take a good, hard, serious look at it, but I don't see it happening, to be honest with you.
Q: Robby, you've been coming around here for a long time. What do you think is missing on Pole Day now? Why do the crowds not show up like they used to, 10, 15, 20 years ago? What do you think, what's missing in the allure part?
GORDON: Man, that's a -- I mean, you've got the Ganassi teams back here, you have Newman-Haas here, you have a new team with Andretti-Green, you have our team, you have Walker with Patrick teamed up, you have Rahal. So you have most of the teams back. I think the competition level in the IRL is definitely getting more competitive. It just has to point back to drivers and drivers' popularity. We've got great drivers in the series. I don't know why that we don't have the Pole Day excitement that we used to have. I sure think it's still exciting. I know it's exciting. It's frustrating and exciting. You know, if we have 27 cars, does that make a difference of having 40 cars? Probably not. Because it's still going to be, you know, the guy that can go the fastest at the end of the day. And that's why people come out to watch Pole Day. You know, Bump Day never really has been a very popular day. You know, people come just to watch the poor guys have to load their stuff up and have to go home. I mean, I hate to say that, but there's a certain amount of fans out there that like to see that part of it. And you know, I don't know what the differences are. But I'm sure somebody in this room could tell me.
Q: Robby, do you foresee a situation on Saturday of having to make a decision between the primary and the backup or are you pretty much committed to the primary regardless?
GORDON: No, we don't care. One thing about the IRL cars and Dallara, you know, they all come out of the same mold. It's not -- there's very few hand-built pieces on these cars today. You know, even the suspension parts are fixtured. There's no reason that one car should be faster than the other except for the fine-tuning that we did on our qualifying car. But like I said, that car will be back. On Saturday morning, we'll probably run both of them; and we'll pick the best one of the two to qualify with and, how do you say it, hold your breath for four laps.
Q: Robby, I saw where you have to leave by like 2:45 on Saturday, on Pole Day. I know you're very loyal to Richard Childress and the Cingular Wireless Chevy. Worst-case scenario, you get showers Saturday morning, you're in line, your practice time Saturday morning show you have a legitimate shot at the pole, you're four or five cars away from going. Who makes that decision whether you wait 15 or 20 more minutes? Is that a decision you make? Is Richard Childress on the phone with you? There's a lot of people, obviously the Meijer and the Coke folks would like to see you have a shot at the pole as opposed to having you leave. How difficult will that decision be and who will help you make it?
GORDON: I talked to Richard last night at Charlotte. I'm pretty sure he's going to come with me Friday night after the Busch race and come down here with us. He'll be here to make the decision with me. It will be easier to put the screws to him when he's here. (Laughter) The worst thing that would have to happen is I would have to go to the back at Richmond. I could stay almost all the way to the end, because the race doesn't start until what, 7 or 7:30 there. So I don't want to get my Cup team all wound up, so please don't go off and say we're going to stay, because that's not the case. But if we have a legitimate shot at the pole and Richard's cool with it and Cingular is cool with it, then we will take those steps at that time. There's a lot of things, like I said, that our schedule kind of changes just like the Busch schedule. There's some things that change as performances change throughout the month. And that's one thing cool about racing, that you can't do a normal business. Race teams, they can turn and change direction real quick, we're going to do this instead. Where, you know, you don't have to go through a big committee to figure out what you're going to do.
KNG: OK. Guys, it's coming up on 11, and obviously Robby has a pretty busy day. Real quick, this will be Robby Gordon's 10th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. He's fielding his own team. Robby Gordon Motorsports fields this car as opposed to in years past when he's done it in conjunction with associate owners. This is his team. Michael Knight is here if you need any information on Robby or a schedule. There is a piece that's upstairs that details Robby's schedule for the month. Robby, good luck today, good luck this weekend; and we'll see you Saturday.
GORDON: All right. Thank you very much.