OJOS NEGROS, B.C., Mexico (November 2, 1999) – Fresh off his first full season as the only owner-driver on the hotly competitive CART FedEx Championship Series, Robby Gordon makes the switch from Toyota-powered Champ Car to Toyota-powered Trophy Truck with this weekend’s 32nd running of the legendary Baja 1000 off-road marathon.
It was with a heavy heart that the 30-year-old from Orange, Calif., closed out the 1999 CART season this past Sunday at Fontana, Calif., on a day marred by the tragic death of fellow competitor Greg Moore. It was the second CART driver death in as many months, and more than reason enough to leave Gordon in search of a change of scenery.
He won’t have to wait very long, or look very far, as on Friday (Nov. 5) he’ll be behind the wheel of his Turtle Wax Extreme Cleaner Wax-sponsored Toyota Tundra V8-powered Trophy Truck at the Baja 1000 starting line here in this tiny village some 125 miles south of the border.
“I have always loved this race … it’s the ultimate test and it’s a race like no other on earth,” said Gordon, who finished second here in 1997 and has won several stadium and desert series off-road championships since he was 16. “It’s been such an eventful year, in good ways and in bad. So, among other things, I’m looking at Baja to be my outlet, my therapy, where we can go and just let it all hang out. It’s that way every year. And I can hardly think of a better way to finish out the racing season than to bring home the win.”
Among Gordon’s competitors will be his father, Bob Gordon, the defending champion of this event who’ll be driving a Toyota-powered Class 1 single-seater. The elder Gordon did his son the favor of helping test and pre-run his year-old Tundra pick-up in recent weeks while he was closing out the 20-race CART season.
All favors aside, the Gordons and some 250 competitors in all will take off from the starting line Friday morning, each hoping to be the first to complete a pair of 350-mile loops over some of the harshest terrain and conditions imaginable on the Baja peninsula. It’s the final stop on the six-race 1999 Laughlin SCORE International Desert Series.
“We had some mechanical problems with our truck last year, but we’ve worked all year to take care of those initial problems,” Gordon said. “With the CART schedule, I haven’t had a lot of time to pre-run the course. So, thanks to Dad, we’ve been able to fill in some of the blanks.
“The truck’s improved, we’ve got a great new sponsor in Turtle Wax Extreme Cleaner Wax, and a wild green paint scheme. It's time now to get it on Baja-style and have some fun in the desert. I can't wait!"