CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Gordon U.S. 500 (Michigan) Preview

TEAM GORDON DIGS IN FOR THE LONG HAUL AT THIS YEAR'S U.S. 500 ENDURANCE TEST BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 19, 1999) -- After a block of four road course races that netted a pair of top-10 finishes, Robby Gordon and his first-year Team Gordon are...

TEAM GORDON DIGS IN FOR THE LONG HAUL AT THIS YEAR'S U.S. 500 ENDURANCE TEST

BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 19, 1999) -- After a block of four road course races that netted a pair of top-10 finishes, Robby Gordon and his first-year Team Gordon are ready to stretch their legs and test their endurance mettle in this weekend's U.S. 500, presented by Toyota, at the 2-mile Michigan International Raceway high-banked oval.

Gordon and his #22 Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota-powered Swift have developed a penchant of late for being at their best on race days. In recent weeks, they picked up 15 places from where they started for ninth- and eighth-place finishes at Cleveland and Road America, respectively. And they gained another nine spots Sunday afternoon in Toronto, where they just missed their third-consecutive run in the points.

Heady strategy, on top of the Team Gordon crew giving its 30-year-old owner-driver a reliable race car week in and week out, gets a good deal of the credit for the developing steady stream of positive results.

"One of the virtues that has really shown us the way here is patience," Gordon said. "The more we have, the better we seem to do. One place patience really pays off is in calling races on Sunday. We've gotten good at taking what the race gives us and making the most out of it. It really sends you home on a high note. It gives you something to build your next race on."

The major calming influence in the Team Gordon camp, Gordon says, is the presence of co-owner John Menard, who with Gordon and Mike Held established Team Gordon this past offseason. Gordon learned a major lesson in patience at the Indy 500 last May, when he and Menard first worked together as driver and race caller and came within a gallon of methanol of walking away with the Borg-Warner Trophy.

"That race was one of the most amazing things I've ever been a part of," Gordon said. "We started out with a not-so-great race car, but John kept us patient and focused. We worked and worked the car to where we ended up being the fastest car on the track. Between John and Mike and the crew from TRD in our pit tent, we do a good job of working the race to our advantage."

As is the case at every U.S. 500, patience will once again be the key, only this one is an endurance test more than twice as long as the typical CART FedEx Championship Series event. While this past Indy 500 was by far his best 500-mile race in his seven-plus seasons driving open-wheel race cars, he's fared well at Michigan -- and at its sister track in Fontana, Calif. -- over the years, as well.

"It's all about being there at the end," said Gordon, who was ninth in a Toyota at the California Speedway last fall, eighth the previous year there, and eighth at Michigan in 1996. "You plan the race backwards from there. You want to start well, and run up front, but it all comes down to who's running at the finish. There are a lot of factors that will come into play, not the least of which is drafting and playing the fuel windows. I enjoy these kinds of races."

Practice for the U.S. 500, presented by Toyota, Round 12 of 20 on this year's CART FedEx Championship Series, begins Friday (July 23) with qualifying set for Saturday (July 24). The green flag falls Sunday (July 24) at 1:30 p.m. EDT with a live broadcast set for ABC-TV.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon