IRL: Road to Indy: Gordon covets Indy 500 win

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 11, 2004 -- Even though Robby Gordon makes his living driving stock cars, there's one race he wants to win more than any other -- the Indianapolis 500. "I love that place," said Gordon, who announced his plans on ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 11, 2004 -- Even though Robby Gordon makes his living driving stock cars, there's one race he wants to win more than any other -- the Indianapolis 500.

"I love that place," said Gordon, who announced his plans on March 8 to drive in the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. "It's Indianapolis, and you have to respect the racetrack, because it will bite you if you don't respect it. Racing heritage, from the beginning, started around Indianapolis. We're just fortunate enough that we get to go back there with good sponsors and good people and have an opportunity to race there again."

Gordon, who will drive the No. 70 Meijer Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, has made nine previous starts at Indianapolis with a best finish of fourth in 1999. His effort this year reunites him with engineer Thomas Knapp, who directed Gordon's career-best effort.

"I thought if we were going to do a 2004 program, we need to try to align all the same stars we had back in '99 when we came so close to winning the Indianapolis 500," said Gordon, who ran out of fuel while leading with two laps to go.

Gordon's love affair with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway began when he was growing up in California. His most memorable race was 1984 when his hero, Rick Mears, came from a lap down to earn the second of his four Indianapolis 500 victories.

"I've always enjoyed competing at Indianapolis. As a young child growing up, I always wanted to be able to compete there," Gordon said. "I have a saying: I say I wake up for Indianapolis. It's true. I mean, doesn't matter if it's the stock car there or an Indy 500 car, we seem to get around that racetrack real well."

Gordon's schedule for May will again be hectic as he tries to accomplish "The Double" for the fourth straight year. Gordon is one of three drivers to attempt compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Indianapolis native John Andretti and 1996-97 IRL IndyCar Series® Champion Tony Stewart are the only other drivers to race in both events on the same day.

"I think the ones that may think I'm nuts haven't been fortunate enough to drive one of these cool cars and understand why Tony (Stewart) and myself and John (Andretti) still like to do it," Gordon said.

"To do 1,100 miles is pretty tough. If you get your car set up right like we had in '99, like we had in 2002, the cars drive good, and you can do that race. It's almost more mental than physical. Even though you pull a lot of Gs in the middle of the corner, it's a very mental race. I've been able to do it, slide over to the Coca-Cola 600 and be very competitive there, as well, even though we have to start last."

Gordon would like to join Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to win the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. He acknowledged that a win at Indianpolis would be the ultimate.

"For me, it is (the biggest prize,)" he said. "The names and faces change as the years go on. It's still the Indy 500, though. It's still a very, very difficult race to win. You have to be a fast driver, but a smart driver, and have a good team behind you."

***

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Copper World Indy 200 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 21 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series Phoenix 100 will take place at 2:45 p.m. on March 20. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 on a tape-delayed basis on March 25.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers John Andretti , Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , A.J. Foyt