CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Gordon Nazareth Preview

IT'S A WELCOME RETURN TO OVAL RACING AS TEAM GORDON STORMS INTO NAZARETH NAZARETH, Pa. (April 27, 1999) - No one ever thought that starting a brand new race team would be anything less than a giant roller coaster ride. So it...

IT'S A WELCOME RETURN TO OVAL RACING AS TEAM GORDON STORMS INTO NAZARETH

NAZARETH, Pa. (April 27, 1999) - No one ever thought that starting a brand new race team would be anything less than a giant roller coaster ride. So it comes as no surprise that Robby Gordon and his brand new Team Gordon have already seen their share of ups and downs in just the first three races of their existence. "On one hand, we're very much still in our infancy as a race team, but on the other, it already feels like we've been at this forever," said the 30-year-old Gordon, whose commanding run with the leaders at Motegi, Japan, two races ago was flanked by a pair of less-than-satisfying finishes at Homestead and Long Beach. One thing about roller coasters: they're incredibly fun, as has been the case within the walls of this start-up operation, that officially came into being in mid-January. But everyone in the Team Gordon camp knows that the measure of a successful race team is smoothing out those peaks and valleys. "Ideally, you want to be hitting those peaks every time you come to a race, and leave the valleys on the test track," said Gordon, who will be piloting his now-familiar No. 22 Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota-Reynard in this weekend's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, Presented by Toyota, at the famed 1-mile Nazareth Speedway oval. "Unfortunately, we had to have our first oval test during race weekend at Homestead, and our first road course test during race weekend at Long Beach," Gordon explained, the team having taken delivery of its Reynard chassis a little more than a week before the season opener. "So our results (19th at Homestead, 16th at Long Beach) have been what you'd expect." But as Team Gordon showed everyone on the 1.5-mile oval at Motegi, where Gordon charged from his 14th qualifying position to fourth place on the very first lap, then stayed with the leaders all race long, it doesn't take this team long to get up to speed. "You learn to appreciate the luxury of time in this business," said co-owner Mike Held, who partnered with Gordon and John Menard to make Team Gordon a reality this past offseason. "We're a very confident bunch. That's the part of Robby that is infectious. We all believe we should be on the podium every time out there. And we're a group of racing veterans, so it's not like this is new to us. But the reality of the situation is that nothing takes the place of time on the racetrack, whether it's a day-long test session, or Friday-morning practice on race weekend. Once we get into a testing groove, you'll see a night-and-day difference in our results." Needless to say, since his strong run at Motegi, Gordon has been eyeing very closely this weekend's return to Nazareth, which starts a string of four consecutive oval races. A year ago this weekend, he made his debut here in an Arciero-Wells Racing Toyota-Reynard and finished seventh - which represented the highest CART FedEx Championship Series finish by a Toyota. "I love Nazareth, and I love the short ovals," he said. "The Toyota motor has come a long way since last year here. We proved at Motegi that we're for real as a race team. I think we can expect good things from here on out. But that's the way it always is at Team Gordon." Practice for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, Presented by Toyota, begins on Friday (April 30), with qualifying set for Saturday (May 1). Race time is 12:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday (May 2) and it will be broadcast live by ESPN.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon