This Week in Ford Racing 2000-02-01

Robby Gordon and Scott Pruett have joined the Ford Racing team this season after spending last year in open-wheel competition. Gordon, who will be driving the No. 13 Team Gordon Taurus, is returning to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series after a ...

Robby Gordon and Scott Pruett have joined the Ford Racing team this season after spending last year in open-wheel competition. Gordon, who will be driving the No. 13 Team Gordon Taurus, is returning to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series after a two-year absence. He drove 20 races for Team SABCO in 1997, registering one pole and one top-five finish during his tenure.

Pruett, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, will be trying to qualify for his first NASCAR Winston Cup event when he arrives at Daytona next month for the Daytona 500. Both drivers spoke about their expectations for 2000 and why they decided to make NASCAR Winston Cup racing a top priority.

ROBBY GORDON --13-- Team Gordon Taurus -- ARE YOU HAPPY WITH WHERE YOU AND YOUR TEAM ARE AFTER TESTS AT TALLADEGA AND DAYTONA? "Oh yeah. I think we're very pleased with where we're at. Do we have a long ways to go? Yes. But are we happy today with where we're at? Yes."

ARE YOU MORE EXCITED THIS TIME AROUND SINCE IT IS YOUR OWN TEAM? "Last year we had our own team as well, so it's not all new, but it's a challenge. Not that I'm going to work any harder than I did when I drove for other people because I did everything I could to win races, but now you can guide the ship a little differently."

WAS THERE ONE MAJOR THING THAT DREW YOU BACK TO WINSTON CUP? "No. We never said we weren't coming back last time. When I left three-quarters of the way through '97, there wasn't what I would call a proper situation available that I was truly interested in. Now, after the whole CART thing for a year, we felt -- both Mike (Held), myself and John Menard -- that Winston Cup was the right place for us to be for numerous reasons. The fan base here is unbelievable. The competition is very close. I mean, NASCAR does a very good job at keeping everybody within a couple of tenths and that's different from the way it is in other series. If you can't get your hands on the right package, you're in trouble. No matter what you do, how you slice it, how much you want to pay, how many sponsors you have, what friends you have talking to people, if there are only five engines or six engines and that's all there is, and you're not on the list to get one of those, it's tough. Whereas here, if our engine isn't good enough, we go back to Peter (Guild) at Pro Motor and we sit down with him and talk about what we need to do. We're in this deal together as a team. NASCAR does a good job of keeping it pretty simple. Winston Cup engines are pretty simple, the cars are pretty simple and the competition is very competitive."

ARE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE HOW THE LARGE INFLUX OF OPEN-WHEEL DRIVERS TO NASCAR WINSTON CUP? "No, I think that today in America open-wheel racing is under a little bit of confusion. It's not bad and not in the wrong way, it's just that I don't think the fans understand what the differences are between the two series. When a guy wins a race on Sunday I think some of the fans wonder, 'was that CART, was that IRL or was that Indy Car? What do they call that? I thought Indy cars were the cars that raced the Indy 500.' I think there's just some confusion going on and it goes from fans to even corporate executives involved in companies. They're confused by the same thing. 'Is it CART, is it IRL and what's the difference between them?' As far as the reality, you don't have to sell NASCAR. We're not selling NASCAR to our sponsors today, we're selling our team to our sponsors. For us we've just worked hard on getting our good people together and to try and produce a competitive team. If we do that in a professional manner, we should be able to find adequate sponsorship to be competitive."

WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST PART ABOUT MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM INDY CARS TO WINSTON CUP? "It's communication and the way you go about doing the business is different. We're not going to give up everything we learned in Indy car. We're going to try and find a happy medium between the good things we've already learned in NASCAR and the technology our CART guys who are with us have learned. If we can make those come together and match, I think we can be competitive."

YOU SAT ON A POLE IN YOUR THIRD WINSTON CUP RACE IN '97 WITH TEAM SABCO. WHAT KIND OF GOALS DO YOU HAVE FOR THIS TEAM? "Similar goals. Poles are great, but the reality is you've gotta win on Sunday. I mean, the bottom line is that scoreboard. Everybody forgets after Friday who sat on the pole. We'd like to be competitive, don't get me wrong. We're going to do everything we can in our power to be competitive, but the most important thing today is assembling a team that can provide very good and reliable race cars for the race. That's something we've done with the group of people we have already."

SCOTT PRUETT --32-- Tide Taurus -- ARE YOU BECOMING MORE COMFORTABLE WITH THE STEPS AND THE LANGUAGE YOU HAVE TO USE? "Yeah, and I'm just amazed at how much little things make a difference. Typically, I'm looking at half a tenth or a tenth, something like that, and they're talking like hundredths and thousandths. It's just amazing how much little things make a difference."

ARE YOU GETTING MORE USED TO THE CAR ITSELF? "The balance has been good and this track (Daytona) isn't that demanding on the driver from driving the track. Now when we go to Rockingham after this it's gonna be a huge transition, it's gonna be more driver than car."

YOU HAVE ALL THESE COMPUTERS HERE AT DAYTONA, BUT WHEN YOU GO TO ROCKINGHAM IT WILL BE TOTALLY DIFFERENT WON'T IT? "When we go test we can use those tools that we have and it just gives us a little clearer picture of what the car is doing. Certainly, when we go to Rockingham, especially with the fact that we're not gonna be able to go test, I'm gonna be relying a lot on Doug Richert to say, 'OK, this is where we need to be and this is what the car is doing,' so it's gonna significant change in that aspect."

HOW ABOUT DRAFTING? "They're gonna teach me the way around here a little bit. The whole drafting side of it is new for me. We did it a little bit in IROC, but with Indy cars it's totally different. I mean, we stay out of the draft in Indy cars, so I have a lot to learn there."

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE SEASON. "The bottom line is we want to take the Tide car and qualify every race. If we can do that, then we'll feel like we've been successful because there are gonna be those tremendously difficult weekends and we've gotta stick together as a team. I mean, the highs are easy to get through, it's when you have those hard weekends that's when everybody's gonna come together and really focus and dig deep or break apart."

WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY OPEN-WHEEL DRIVERS HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL HERE BECAUSE IT SEEMS THE TWO STYLES OR RACING ARE TOTALLY DIFFERENT? "It is totally different and, hopefully, I can make the transition as well. For me, I've had a lot of experience racing. I had the opportunity to come down here and do IROC and it's just having a very basic understanding of going racing and what it takes. Up to this point, it's just going out and doing our job. Now when we go racing, for me, I have a lot to learn. The last time I ran in the draft was five or six years ago in the IROC race and these guys do it week in and week out, so that's gonna be a pretty big hurdle for me to get over."

TONY STEWART CAME IN WANTING TO LEARN AS MUCH AS HE COULD. IS THAT KIND OF THE WAY YOU'RE LOOKING AT IT TOO? "Exactly. That's the same position I'm at. There are a lot of great drivers out here and a lot of terrific teams and we'd be fooling ourselves to think that we're gonna come in and show these guys the way around the track. That's why we've set our goal as qualifying for every race. That's a very basic, simple achievement for us to set and, if we can do that, then we've been successful. And with that, we just focus on every race and try to get the most out of the car. Sometimes we're gonna be struggling to make the race and, hopefully, other times we'll be running toward the front."

IS THERE ANY WAY TO DESCRIBE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN INDY CAR AND WINSTON CUP CAR? "They're just two totally different types of race cars in what they do and what you can do with them. Here, you probably have let's say three to four inches of spring travel and in an Indy car you'll probably have a quarter-inch of spring travel. So that's just one of many things, and it's also how we approach things. I mean, the aero program is totally different. In Indy cars we can adjust the front wing and the rear wing and the underbody and make significant changes to the shocks and it just goes on and on and on. A lot of those things you just can't do here, so we're just trying to figure this whole thing out and learn how to get the most out of one of these cars, which is totally different than an Indy car."

DOES COMING OUT OF DAYTONA ONE OF THE FASTEST MEAN ANYTHING? "It means that we're on the right track and it means the guys back at the shop have been doing their jobs and the work load is gonna be a little bit less. If we came out of here say 20th-quick, there would be a mad scramble at the shop trying to figure out how to make this thing faster. If you come out towards the top, I think we can really focus on going racing."

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robby Gordon , Scott Pruett , Doug Richert