Robbie Gordon reaches quarter finals in Race of Champions

GRAN CANARIA, Spain -- NASCAR Winston Cup driver Robby Gordon broke records and became the first American driver to reach the quarterfinals in the Race of Champions on Dec. 9. Shortly after winning his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory, ...

GRAN CANARIA, Spain -- NASCAR Winston Cup driver Robby Gordon broke records and became the first American driver to reach the quarterfinals in the Race of Champions on Dec. 9.

Shortly after winning his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory, Gordon took to the track in Spain's version of the domestic True Value International Race of Champions (IROC).

In Spain, Gordon was part of a three-man team from the United States that competed against seven other nations in a total of nine heat events in Saturday's Race of Champions Nations Cup event.

Gordon posted the fastest lap overall, qualifying him for Sunday's Race of Champions non-team events and the possibility of becoming the first non-rally driver to claim the overall "Champion of Champions" title.

"We had only three laps of practice before we started racing and I had the fastest lap in any practice or race session the entire weekend," Gordon said. "That quick lap kicked me into round one of Sunday's Race of Champions.

"Nobody expected me to make it that far and no American has ever gotten to that point. But we raced in buggy cars Sunday morning and I started driving those when I was a kid."

En route to advancing to Sunday's prestigious Race of Champions event, Gordon won two of his three heat races in the Nations Cup, but flipped his SEAT Cordoba World Rally Car (WRC) in the third heat, emerging unscathed from the crash and ensuing fire.

Despite Gordon's personal success, he and his American teammates, Rhys Millen (rally racer) and Shaun Palmer (X Games champion) failed to claim the team championship in the Nations Cup.

Gordon said the Race of Champions is different from the IROC because the Race of Champions competitors don't race in the same lanes or try to pass each other on the track as they do in IROC. The drivers have their own lanes in the Spanish event and win by posting the fastest overall lap times.

"You race one lap on the inside lane, go over the bridge and under the tunnel and then switch lanes," Gordon said. "They take the best lap on the inside lane and one on the outside lane. It's more of an ultimate driver contest. Your competitor can't wreck you like he can in IROC.

"You race in separate lanes and it's all about raw speed. If your time is faster than the other guy's, you beat him."

Although Gordon became the first American to advance to the quarterfinals in the Race of Champions, he was somewhat disappointed with the final outcome. Gordon won all three of his heat races in a buggy Sunday morning, qualifying him for the quarterfinals.

The 32-year-old was one of 10 drivers to advance from the buggy competition to the World Rally Car competition. But he was disqualified in the quarterfinals after running into his competitor's lane.

"I had the fastest time to that point and was leading when it started raining," Gordon said. "I drove over a slippery spot on the track and got on the other guy's track and was disqualified.

"I was disappointed because I had a chance to win the whole Champion of Champions title because I'd had the fastest laps all weekend. But I'm going to do it again next year and win the whole deal. It was a blast for me. I love to race and it doesn't matter what I race or where I race."

Gordon enjoyed past success in the American IROC series, claiming runner-up finishes in the final point standings in 1996 and 1997. Currently, he is preparing to pilot the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in the 2002 Winston Cup Series.

-rgr-

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About this article
Series Offroad , Other rally , Road racing , WRC
Drivers Robby Gordon
Teams Richard Childress Racing