Highlights of Winston Breakfast Club press conference with Robby Gordon, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo Robby Gordon: Driving for RCR, things are beginning to gel with the 31 car? "Things have been pretty good. Our biggest ...
Highlights of Winston Breakfast Club press conference with Robby Gordon, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Robby Gordon: Driving for RCR, things are beginning to gel with the 31 car?
"Things have been pretty good. Our biggest thing seems to be our luck. We've put ourselves in a position to have good finishes, and either we make a mistake, like at Sears Point last week, where I get into the dirt and lose four positions... There's things that we have done as a team that has cost us either a position to win or definitely some top-five positions. And then last weekend Kevin (Hamlin, crew chief) made a brilliant call in the pits and because I was just a little bit tight we were just going to take fuel and I pull out of my pit box and get run over. We're just on the receiving end of things right now and hopefully we can get beyond that and start positioning ourselves where we can have some better luck."
What about the rest of the season?
"I think the team as a whole - the one-engine thing has caught us behind the 8-ball a little bit, and we probably came out of the box a little too conservative. Richard Childress has been known in the past for reliability and we definitely have the reliability. I think 'Spinny' (Clendenon) and those guys might have been just a little bit conservative on the engine side 'cause they wanted to make sure that it could run all of practice, run all of the simulated qualifying runs and then make it for 500 mile races as well. So, each week they've been bumping up a little more power. Like this week we're starting to qualify better and we're starting to run better every week. So, I think that the second half of the season is going to be a lot better for our team because now we're going to start pushing the envelope just a little bit more because we have had reliability and we just need that little extra."
You raced at Indy with new barrier up, next week W.C. goes to New Hampshire, which is waiting to put in soft walls. What is your opinion on that barrier?
"As far as the barrier: I have some very close experience with that because of P.J. Jones. He was on our team at Team Menard at Indy and he got his car turned around going into turn 1 and backed that thing into that barrier. The speed he was going, the angle he hit that barrier at, it did flick him back across the race track, but the g-load hit was not that big. Another thing to show how good it was (is) it didn't even break the gearbox on the car. And he backed it in. It absorbed all that extra energy. I think New Hampshire is a place we need stuff like that. I think that -- I hate to step out of line and say this -- now they've lowered the groove another groove at New Hampshire which is only going to increase that angle at the wall, because you're going to be lower on the race track and you're going to head it at a steeper angle. I like New Hampshire because obviously I got my first Winston Cup win there. I thought the race track was just fine."
As a former owner/driver, is it practical to do that?
"I think in some situations it can be. The key to the whole thing is having a sponsorship. If you have sponsorship you can hire the correct personnel team managers, crew chiefs, engineers, etc. And it's really those guys' job to run the race team. Because obviously they're a team manager or public relations or whatever department they're in. It's their job to make sure the whole thing goes full circle. Obviously someone has to sit on top of it and make sure that everybody is going in their direction, but if you hire the proper team managers. I'm going to take Ty Norris for an example. He's the guy right now directing that (Dale Earnhardt Inc.), it seems like. We don't see Teresa (Earnhardt) around here every weekend. So, if you have the right people the team can perform and win races. The whole deal is obviously sponsorship and then people."
"If you look right now, Jeff Gordon supposedly owns part of the 48 car and he's still able to drive the thing. I think the key is having the right people and obviously having sponsorship."
On job description:
"That's why I lost my crew chief. He didn't want to work under a job description."
Ray Evernham's team did something different. They don't have a crew chief. They have a team engineer, etc. Do you have any experience with that?
"That's another reason I lost my crew chief. I think I do understand where Ray has taken his team, though. And the direction with those people. It will be interesting to see if it works. A couple of people have tried to do that in the past. I think originally Cal Wells came in and tried to do that same thing and ended up hiring Mike Beam because he has the experience. So, there's a certain point of this deal where experience means a lot, especially in this garage area. These crew chiefs that have been doing it for a long time. I'm standing on both sides of the fence here because I do understand the Indy Car side and I understand the Winston Cup side now after being around long enough. In Winston Cup I gotta say that experience is almost more important than book smarts. If you look at the team leading the championship right now, I think it's pretty much run by a crew chief."
If the opportunity presented itself and a sponsor came along would you consider putting together a team again?
"Why do you want to put me in these positions? I have a great sponsor, with a really good team owner. I've had Indy Car teams; I don't think I want to own Indy Car teams. We talked about the fabrication expense. For the amount of price we used to pay for some parts on those Indy Cars and throw them away after one weekend it would shock you guys. You'd throw $40,000 of transmission parts in the trashcan every weekend. I mean, done, you can't even use them again. A-arms that my Winston Cup guys could come pretty close to making in probably an afternoon you'd pay $5,000 for. It was shocking, the cost of the parts on the Indy Cars. On the fabrication side, yes, we have to pay a lot of fabricators to hang bodies. It's very time consuming. It's two weeks, three to four guys, just working on bodies, if you want a nice one. And then you're going to take the thing to the wind tunnel, you're going to test the thing, you're going to come back and cut some fenders off it and then say, OK, I think we got it right now. But the Indy Car side owning, that's not my gig. John Menard, he's a billionaire, he can own the Indy Cars. I just look at Winston Cup being a lot like off-road, because they're tube chassis and you put tabs on them and mount stuff all over them and you make them go fast. I'm not going to rule out a Winston Cup deal, but it would have to be plenty of money to have the right people in place, and I don't see that coming in the near future. I really enjoy working for Richard Childress Racing and we have great sponsors, we have three great sponsors, where we all share information, and the key to it is we have plenty of money to do that job."
"Things have changed obviously because of travel and we're going to other markets which is on one side more expensive, on the other side more opportunities to find sponsorship. We come to places like Chicago, which is a lot farther than driving to Rockingham or one of those other tracks that are closer. But on the other side of things that's good because we're heading into new markets, into new places, where we're attracting new fans and more fans which relates to more opportunity for sponsorship."