IRL: GM Racing - Robby Gordon Charlotte/Indy 500 interview

NOTE: Robby Gordon will attempt to complete a racing "double" this Sunday, starting in the May 25 Indianapolis 500 from the third position and then flying to Charlotte to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the No. 31 Cingular...

NOTE: Robby Gordon will attempt to complete a racing "double" this Sunday, starting in the May 25 Indianapolis 500 from the third position and then flying to Charlotte to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Gordon completed his first true "double" last year when he finished eighth in the Indianapolis 500 and 16th in the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600. Gordon also had high hopes for the Memorial Day weekend challenge in 2000 and 1997, but he never completed the 1,100 miles in one day due to weather delays both years. A rain delay in the 2000 Indianapolis 500 caused Gordon to miss the start of the Coca-Cola 600, although he started the race late and completed it, while rain postponed the 1997 Indianapolis 500 until the following Monday. Gordon has logged five top-10 finishes in eight Indianapolis 500 starts and was leading on the next-to-last lap of the 1999 race before running out of fuel (he finished fourth).

Gordon flew to Indy Sunday morning for Bump Day, during which he ran 37 laps in race trim. He will fly from Concord to Indy Thursday morning for Carburetion Day and then back to Concord that afternoon for practice and qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600. He will then remain in Concord until Saturday evening, when he will fly to Indy for Sunday's Indy 500.

ROBBY GORDON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO DO WELL IN A RACE LIKE THE '600'?

"To succeed, even finish in the '600', you've got to stay strong all day and not let anything get to you. That includes keeping the car and your mindset strong. With a long race like that, there are more opportunities for mistakes because you're making more laps and more pit stops. The biggest thing is not to make any mistakes. If you are flawless, you can be in the place to win the race. Here at Richard Childress Racing, we're probably more conservative when we go into the '600' as opposed to other races because you're putting an additional 100 miles on that engine. That takes a huge toll. The Coca-Cola 600 is also a survival race. It's a survival race for the cars because if anything on the car is going to blow up or fall off, you usually see it happen in the '600'. But it's also a survival race for the drivers because it's such a long race, and it's usually hot at Charlotte. It's hard for drivers to feel good for the whole 600 laps and to be up on the wheel if the race goes green for a long time. That's a lot of laps around there, but it's all about your mindset and how well you can keep your attention trained on what you're doing."

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RUN IN THE WINSTON OPEN LAST WEEKEND.

"Going into the Winston Open last weekend, I felt pretty confident about the Cingular Wireless car and our chances in the race. But we had a little engine-overheating problem during the Winston Open that we corrected when we pitted and pulled some tape off. But by that time, we had lost enough ground to the leaders that we just pulled the car into the garage instead of risking tearing the thing up. Now we're taking the same car to the '600' that we raced in the Winston Open. It makes a world of difference to drive a race car that you've already got information on. I feel pretty confident that we'll have a great race car and know how to adjust on it when it needs a little help. We'd be shooting ourselves in the foot to take the other car. But if something happened and we needed the backup, I am confident that it's a good car, as well."

YOUR THOUGHTS ON ATTEMPTING THE INDY/CHARLOTTE "DOUBLE" AGAIN THIS YEAR?

"I'm 13th in points in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and I have to be at Charlotte to start the Coca-Cola 600. I have a Winston Cup contract with Richard Childress and Cingular Wireless to drive the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet in each race this year and that includes the Coca-Cola 600. I'm hoping it won't come down to me having to get out of the Indy car early to get to Charlotte on time, but if it does, we'll have to work it out. You can try to plan for those circumstances, but it doesn't seem to ever work. Obviously, we've got plans set up for both sides and how to work it out if something terrible happens. In a worse-case scenario like if I get hurt at Indy, we'll have a driver in place to take over for me at Charlotte. That's why I owe a huge 'thanks' to Richard and Cingular and all the guys on my team for allowing me to do this 'double' and supporting my effort, as well."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES IN THIS YEAR'S INDIANAPOLIS 500?

"I feel as good about my chances of winning this Indy 500 as I did in 1999. I remember driving in that race the first 100 laps and laughing at the cars falling out of the race while I was driving at about 75-percent pace. I thought the race was going to fall into our hands. I am confident enough about our car this year that I think I can run 75-percent pace to save my car for the end and still run in the top five. We ran laps without wickers in the back of the car at 232.900 mph and I think that's the second-quickest time of the month up there. It's been really smooth and I expect us to contend for the win in the Indy 500 Sunday in the Archipelago/Motorola car. The key is to do the best job I can and if all the stars line up, we'll be there to win the race. At least three times, possibly five times, we've given away the win in the Indy 500. We've made decisions or mistakes that have cost us ending up in Victory Lane. I don't know if it was lack of experience or conservative judgment, like not waving off my qualifying lap at Indy last week. I probably should have waved my lap off and gone again at 5 o'clock and we'd be sitting here as the pole sitter for the Indy 500. If I had won the Indy 500 just one of those times, my career would be a little bit different right now. I could walk into sponsor meetings as an Indy 500 winner and there are not too many other drivers who can say that.

"I have been very close to winning the Indy 500 several times and it's been pretty heartbreaking each time when it didn't happen. I was a little bummed when we ran out of gas on the next-to-the-last lap in 1999, but at the same time we had positioned ourselves to lead the Indy 500 and proved we were a force to be reckoned with. I think that until I was 30 years old, bravery, car control and enthusiasm got me to my results. We were really strong in the Indianapolis 500 last year, probably a lot stronger than many people remember, but we had that fuel fire. We started 11th and by the time the first pit stop came around, we were inside the top five. Unfortunately, we had the fuel fire on pit lane when the fuel hose got stuck in the car, and I ended up having to use fuel from one of (A.J.) Foyt's pits to finish the race. I have had so many opportunities to be competitive and I have let then slip away time and again. Now that I'm 34, I have learned from my past mistakes and I am a smarter race-car driver than I was before."

WHAT WILL YOU DO TO PHYSICALLY PREPARE FOR SUCH A LONG, DEMANDING DAY?

"I'll be honest. I didn't do a whole lot to train for the 'double' last year, but I wasn't tired at the end of the Coca-Cola 600. I did get a cramp in my stomach under my left rib section that I didn't expect. I'm sure that was because of the g-forces and dehydration. I didn't take the IV between the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 because I felt so good after Indy and had so much adrenaline running. I felt fine and I refused it but I'll take it this year. But since I had those cramps at Charlotte, I started rehydration, which is like a salt solution drink that I drink before a race that helps keep water in my body. Even with that salt solution drink, I'll still take the IV. Eleven-hundred miles is a long way. I've done the Baja 1000 by myself for 17 or so hours many times, and I don't ever get the two-hour or three-hour break in it that I get between the 500 and the 600. But I do get that break on May 25 and I think that because I'm in good enough shape and eating well, that with the addition of the IV, I don't foresee a problem like I had last year. I was just terribly cramped up for about the last 200 or 300 miles of the race in the 600 last year, and I learned my lesson. I will take an IV this year, but I think I'm in good enough shape on an everyday basis that I don't' need to step up and hire a trainer to get me ready for the "double." I've run 1,000 miles in the Baja 1000 before and that's pretty much non-stop. The Baja is a survival race and there is no break. But you're not up on the wheel all day in the Baja like you are in the Winston Cup or the Indy race. Sunday, the day of the big 'double,' is definitely going to be a big day for me but I think I'm physically ready for it. Mentally, I believe I'm ready for it, as well. The '600' is more physically demanding than the Indy 500, even though the Indy cars don't have power steering like Winston Cup cars. Indy cars don't generate the heat and high temperatures we have in Winston Cup cars. Indy is often a mental game and the way I drive those cars is I kind of sit back in my chair and go for the ride. You can't manhandle those cars or you'll be in the wall quicker than you can imagine. You can't yank on the wheel up in Indy like you can do with these cars."

HAS THIS BEEN A TOUGH MONTH PREPARING FOR TWO RACES ON THE SAME DAY?

"People keep asking me if I'm worn out yet. Yeah, it's been very busy this month, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. It has been so much fun for me to go back and forth between the Indy car and the Cingular Chevy on the Cup side. I enjoy both teams and both teams have the same goal of performance in mind. I want to win both races and we know we can do it. I've got the right people and equipment lined up. It's just a matter of putting the pieces together on Sunday, and of course, praying it doesn't rain at Indy. But we're planning to win both, and we're going to give it our best shot."

WHICH OF THE TWO RACES WOULD YOU RATHER WIN?

"I get asked a lot if I'd rather win the Indy 500 or the Coca-Cola 600. I've won a Winston Cup race and my current goal is to place the Cingular Wireless team in the top 10 this year and to hopefully win a championship one day. Winning the Indianapolis 500 has been a lifelong dream of mine and I've come pretty close. It would be like winning the Daytona 500 and this year we finished sixth in that race, won the 125 qualifying race and were in a position to win the Daytona 500. I'd like to win the Indy 500 over the Coca-Cola 600, but I'd also like to take those points from winning the 600 and put them in the bank just as easily because I want to prove everyone wrong, especially the naysayers, who said I would never fit into Winston Cup. My goal is to finish in the top 10 and we're not too far off from that. I've learned over the past couple of years that if you have a 10th-place car, then take it to the finish line in the 10th place. Don't try to win with it. I feel like I have grown up and matured concerning what it takes to finish races and we're going to do everything we can, even while running the Indy 500, to make sure the Cingular team has a shot at the Winston Cup championship, and to score points week-in and week-out."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robby Gordon