IRL: Robby Gordon's flight plan

IRL: Robby Gordon's flight plan

Robby Gordon is hoping the tenth time will be the charm for him at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Once again this year, Gordon is going for the "daily double", hoping to win the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the Coca-Cola 600, racing 1100...

Robby Gordon is hoping the tenth time will be the charm for him at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Once again this year, Gordon is going for the "daily double", hoping to win the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the Coca-Cola 600, racing 1100 miles in one day, the 30th of May.

Robby Gordon.
Photo by Earl Ma.
2004 marks Gordon's third consecutive try at The Double, this year with his own Robby Gordon Motorsports #70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone racer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, later in the day, Gordon intends to pilot the Richard Childress Racing #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, his "day job" in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

For a lesser driver it would be an incredibly tough challenge, but for Gordon, it's fairly normal. This is a guy who lives to race; motorsports is what keeps him going. And going he'll be throughout the month of May. Robby left the Brickyard circuit after practice ended yesterday afternoon, flying to Richmond to practice and qualify his NASCAR Busch Series Fruit of the Loom Chevy 10th for Friday night's race.

Tomorrow he's got Cup practice and qualifying and the Busch Series 250 in the evening. Once completed, Gordon flies back to Indy for MBNA Pole Day. He's got to be out of Indianapolis by about 3PM to contest the Pontiac Performance 400 Saturday night in Richmond, then he returns to Indy for Sunday practice and qualifying, then back to Charlotte later that evening.

Getting confused yet? It gets even more hectic as the month progresses, depending on Gordon's finish in Friday night's Busch race.

Robby Gordon.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.

Here in Indianapolis, Gordon's had a rather exciting week after smashing his primary car on Monday. "It didn't hurt the car very bad," he explained. "It didn't even hurt the radiator on the left-hand side, so it was a pretty light impact." Gordon was on his first qualifying simulation late in the afternoon and "it got a little bit sideways on me and did a little tank-slapper. The out-lap was a 218.4 so I think we'll get back into the 220s and not have a problem."

The new aero specifications delineated by the Indy Racing League have given engineers a big role in setups for the 2004 Indy 500. "What we've come across is the car is a little pitch-sensitive when it gets into the corner and gains front downforce at the middle of the corner. Then it tends to tail off at exit," Robby said. "You can't afford to have any understeer because it scrubs off more speed."

Relegated to the backup car for Tuesday and Wednesday practices, Gordon knocked out a lap of 219.034mph Wednesday afternoon that left him 21st in the combined practice results after five days of practice. His Thomas Knapp-led crew put qualifying suspension on the backup to achieve that lap in another qualifying simulation.

His team will put the qualifying engine from Chevrolet in the car before Robby makes his way back to the center of open wheel racing. "Chevrolet told us in a meeting yesterday that when we get this engine, this spec of qualifying will also be validated for the race, that they have put 500 miles on this spec on their transient dyno.

"We will be able to race this spec," Gordon revealed. "Chevrolet is real proud of the motor and they feel they're going to give us good race horsepower and good fuel mileage," he said.

Over the past nine tries, Gordon's done just about everything. He's learned how to lose the Indy 500 and he's ready, physically and mentally to win this great race. And Robby Gordon is still figuring out what he's going to do with the great group he's put in place. "I'm real proud of the race team that we have. It's very organized; it's pretty clean. So I'd hate to see the team go away.

Robby Gordon.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
"But when we built this team," Gordon continued, "We built it to come to the Indy 500 and try to win the Indianapolis 500. We didn't really look much beyond that. We have 15 people over there, maybe a little more by the time we come later in the week and I don't know if we'll [continue after Indy] or not.

"We will have two cars, and two cars will always be ready because that's the way our program is set up. In other words, Robby Gordon will take a "good, hard, serious look at it, but I don't see it happening [the IRL team continuing].

If predicted showers continue into Saturday morning, Gordon may have a big decision to make about his plans for the evening ahead. While his Cup owner Richard Childress may come with Gordon to Indy for MBNA Pole Day, there's a certain point in time - close to 3PM Saturday afternoon - where the duo need to make a precise decision whether to stay or go. "If we have a legitimate shot at the pole and Richard's cool with it and Cingular is cool with it, then we will take those steps [to stick around] at that time.

There's a lot of things that change as performances change throughout the month. And that's one thing cool about racing," he reminded. "You can't do a normal business. Race teams, they can turn and change directions real quick. You don't have to go through a big committee to figure out what you're going to do."

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About this article
Series IndyCar , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robby Gordon
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Robby Gordon Motorsports