Pocono: Robby Gordon race report

Charlotte, N.C. (June 8, 2009) -- On Saturday, Robby Gordon and his No. 77 Monster Energy / Toyo Tires team continued their dirt-defying dominance of the 2009 SCORE Desert Series season by winning the coveted Baja 500 title, strengthening Gordon's...

Charlotte, N.C. (June 8, 2009) -- On Saturday, Robby Gordon and his No. 77 Monster Energy / Toyo Tires team continued their dirt-defying dominance of the 2009 SCORE Desert Series season by winning the coveted Baja 500 title, strengthening Gordon's lead in the 2009 points standing. In the three races ran this season, the No. 77 team has two victories and a second place finish. Saturday's Baja 500 win marks Gordon's fifth class win and fourth overall victory in the legendary race.

But before reality could set in that Robby Gordon and his No. 77 Monster Energy / Toyo Tires team had won the prestigious off-road title, the NASCAR veteran was headed towards Pocono International Raceway for Sunday's Pocono 500.

After a rainy Friday afternoon, qualifying was rained out and the field was set by owners' points. The No. 7 Pittsburgh Paints Camry was set to begin the race in the 34th position. Due to the driver change resulting from Travis Kvapil practicing the No. 7 Pittsburgh Paints Camry in Gordon's absence on Saturday, the team was forced to start from the rear of the field.

Gordon decided that at the beginning of the race, he would just use the first few laps to feel out the car and analyze the handling. Shortly after the start, Gordon called in to the team to report a loose condition both entering and exiting the turns around the tricky 2.5-mile tri-oval. Crew chief Kirk Almquist called for a trackbar adjustment on a Lap 13 caution. The changes were meant to help tighten the car and allow Gordon to navigate through the corners with ease. The adjustment worked and Gordon returned to the track checking various lines through each of the three very different turns, deciding which way was the fastest around the track.

After the initial early cautions, the field underwent a long green flag run for the rest of the first half. During the run, the No. 7 Pittsburgh Paints crew made three pit stops, two of which were for routine maintenance and the third was from a feared flat tire. The green flag stops put Gordon in the 36th position, two laps behind the leader.

When the caution came out on Lap 103, the No. 7 Pittsburgh Paints team used the caution as an opportunity to reverse their misfortune. With the new double-file restart rule, lap-down cars are able to stay out under caution and circle around the field, gaining back one lap when all of the lead-lap teams pit. With a track as big as Pocono, a team can then come down pit road for a stop just after the green flag, without losing the lap they regained under caution. Knowing this, the No. 7 Pittsburgh Paints team did just that. Their plan worked out and they were scored just one lap behind the leaders. Shortly after their stop, a quick caution came out and Gordon was able to secure his position.

The team had hoped to use the same strategy again on the Lap 157 caution. However, instead of going straight to pit road following the green flag, the No. 7 Pittsburgh Paints team stayed on track for three additional laps to ensure they would have enough fuel to go the distance. Unfortunately, the team gave up a little too much time on old tires, and although they were briefly scored on the lead lap, the leader quickly caught the No. 7 Pittsburgh Paints Camry to put the team one lap down.

By the time the checkered flag fell, Gordon was able to fight his way up to the 31st position, just one lap behind the leader.

The Sprint Cup Series will travel to Michigan International Speedway for the LifeLock 400.

-credit: rgm

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robby Gordon , Travis Kvapil