CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach Team Gordon Preview

HOME AT LAST: TEAM GORDON PREPARES FOR THE RACE IN THE STREETS OF LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 13, 1999) - And the No. 1 after-effect of running up front in just the second race ever for your new team: 1. You just can't wait to get...

HOME AT LAST: TEAM GORDON PREPARES FOR THE RACE IN THE STREETS OF LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 13, 1999) - And the No. 1 after-effect of running up front in just the second race ever for your new team:

1. You just can't wait to get back out there and do it again.

With all due respects to a particular late-night talk show host (and CART team owner) who shall go nameless, this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is just what the doctor ordered in the Team Gordon camp, where Robby Gordon, the youngest owner/driver on the CART FedEx Championship Series, is coming off a wild weekend of racing in Japan.

"You know you're headed in the right direction when you get out of the car after a race and all you care about is when you can strap yourself back in and do it all again," said the 30-year-old Gordon, whose bid for a podium finish came down to the final laps this past weekend at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi. "The best thing of all after a run like that is getting to race the very next weekend ... and in your own backyard. I can't wait."

Gordon and the No. 22 Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota-Reynard now switch from oval track to temporary road course mode in a legendary and very familiar setting less than a half-hour's drive from the Anaheim-based Team Gordon facility, which opened for business for the CART FedEx Championship Series just this past winter.

"This is our best race on the series right now, one that we've been eyeing for a long, long time," said Gordon, a Bellflower native now living in Orange. "Not only are we based just down the road, but Toyota, our engine supplier and loyal supporter, is nearby, as well. A lot of our local supporters will be there. We know the place well. I saw my first open-wheel race there when I was a kid. I've won there in Trans-Am. It's always a fun race."

After a blur of a season-opening weekend in Homestead, Fla., last month, brand new Team Gordon put itself unmistakably on the CART FedEx Championship Series map.

Gordon shot from the seventh row to fourth place on the very first lap of the race. He ran with the leaders until the very final laps - twice battling back from mid-pack after the car stalled exiting the pits.. He was running fourth when a late-race caution sent the leaders in for a splash of fuel. Rejoining the race with three laps left, gearbox problems left Gordon with only first gear, and he was able to hold on for an eighth-place finish.

"I was angry, I was elated, and I was a bit confused all at the same time," Gordon said of his finish in Japan. "We had a shot at being on the podium. But we scored championship points in only the second race of our existence. We were going so well for so long, it was disappointing how it all kind of slipped away from us.

"We've got a lot of momentum going as a team.  I was always hoping it
wouldn't take long for us to get into a groove.  But it looks like we're
getting there very quickly.  That's a great feeling."

"We'll have the locals out in droves to support us at Long Beach," added co-owner Mike Held, who with Gordon helped bring this team - only a dream late last summer - to reality with Gordon and fellow co-owner John Menard. "Robby and the Toyota motor proved their mettle at Motegi. We'll stick with the Reynard chassis because when things are going good, you don't mess with a good thing. Let's hope that three - as in our third race - is a charm!"

Practice for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins Friday (April 16), with qualifying set for Saturday (April 17). Race time is 1 p.m. PDT Sunday (April 18) and it will be broadcast live by ABC.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon