Charlotte, North Carolina (October 4, 2000) It was a dark day back in September when Team Gordon left the Richmond International Raceway. The familiar ...
Charlotte, North Carolina (October 4, 2000) It was a dark day back in September when Team Gordon left the Richmond International Raceway. The familiar #13 Ford Taurus was left without a qualifying position sending Robby Gordon into a funk. His mind was filled with questions about how one car can be so good, and yet another so bad. A monster began to brew, ready to rear its ugly head. So ready that the ugly head reared itself and appeared plastered on the hood and side panels of Gordon's neon-orange, Duracell/TurtleWax Menards stock car. It's the Wolf Man and he's arrived with a vengeance to dig his newfound claws into the Charlotte Motor Speedway this week, beginning with tonight's qualifying for the UAW-GM Quality 500.
Rarely in motorsports does a promotional campaign mirror a driver's current state of mind like Universal Studios' "Monsters of the Speedway" Robby Gordon edition as the Wolf Man.
"He's certainly taken a Monster-like approach the last few weeks in preparation for running this car," said team owner Mike Held. "There were some changes we needed to make to avoid what happened at Richmond as we move down the road and continue to build this team for next season. So we made them. One was to turn the reigns over to a new crew chief. We brought in Mark Tutor and he's been very good for us. He helped us recognize that fundamental problems in our chassis were the main reason for our struggles at Richmond and also at some of the other tracks we had been to earlier this year."
Gordon echoed Held's statement and continued further, "We've had a couple of weekends this season where we've literally gone home wondering why we've been off because they've come after weekends where we've been very good. I look back at our good run at Vegas and how we struggled the next race at Atlanta. We were fast a Bristol and then horrible at Richmond," explained Gordon, who last competed at Charlotte in May's Coca-Cola 600 immediately following a 6th place finish at the Indy 500. "After Richmond we isolated the problems to the geometry in the front and the rear of the car, or Lpick-up' points as some people also call them. We have two different arrangements and while they should both be fine in theory, on the track they haven't been. Since Richmond we've made changes to pick-up points, spent a considerable amount of time in the wind tunnel and also had an excellent test at Kentucky where we were able to compare old chassis data with new. Honestly, it was night and day on the track. Based on the way the new car performed at Kentucky, I feel very good about coming into Charlotte. In a nutshell, the car turns now. It's that simple. We've been loose in, tight in the middle, and loose off corners all year with the pick-up points we've had on some of our cars."
As Gordon mentioned, new pickup points and a modified aero package have been developed for Team Gordon's stable of cars and subsequent testing provided much better results than previous tests, which all made for a much more comfortable driver. But the addition of Mark Tutor has been key. He adds experience to an area on the team that has been a weakness all season. Tutor was the crew chief last season for Cale Yarborough's #'8 team, a season in which the team qualified for every race, using only one provisional, that for a rain event.
"Hey, there really isn't any witchcraft in this sport, it's all about basics first and knowing the animal you're trying to tame," said Tutor, who as a consultant this season was responsible for Darrell Waltrip's front row starting position at the Brickyard in August. "My first weekend we threw changes at Robby's car at Richmond that didn't register anything on the radar screen. Nothing. And I'm talking about big changes that just didn't help or hurt the car. Same speed, same driveability. It was consistently bad and unresponsive. That told me a number of things, but mostly that we had a geometry problem. I'm looking forward to Charlotte, I think everyone is because it's an opportunity to carry momentum from a good test and hopefully run strong, proving we've taking a big step."
Team Gordon's Wolf Man liveried car will run only at this weekend's Charlotte race as part of Universal Studios' October promotion, "Monsters of the Speedway." The promotion runs in conjunction with Action Performance who will be offering diecast collectibles of all the Monsters cars involved, including the other Winston Cup car, Bobby Labonte's Frankenstein. "Universal is very proud of our classic Monsters legacy, which dates back to the 1'30's" said Elliot Lederman, vice president of licensing and motorsports, Universal Studios Consumer Products Group. "'The Monsters of the Speedway' program will reach fans of all ages who will enjoy seeing the monsters Lscare' the competition."
Opening practice for Winston Cup cars begins at 3pm eastern time with qualifying slated for 8:05pm.