Robby Gordon sweeps 2003 road course races

Robby Gordon sweeps 2003 road course races

Robby Gordon scored his second win of the season and third of his career at the road racing course in Watkins Glen, New York. It is Gordon's second Winston Cup road course victory; the first came at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway earlier this ...

Robby Gordon scored his second win of the season and third of his career at the road racing course in Watkins Glen, New York. It is Gordon's second Winston Cup road course victory; the first came at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway earlier this year.

#31 Robby Gordon.
Photo by Steve Rossini.
"I'm really pleased ... a great day for us," said Gordon in victory lane. "The other one (Sonoma) maybe we deserved to win a little more, this one we had all our cards lined up - we had our strategy planned. Great race team, they prepare really great racecars. That's what it takes sometimes, you don't have to be the fastest car to win every time."

The win makes Gordon only the fourth driver in NASCAR history to win both road course races in a single season.

The break of the race for the 33-year-old Cerritos, California native came on lap 53 when the No. 31 team pitted for gas, just after the No. 2 of Rusty Wallace spun into the gravel, bringing out the caution flag. Gordon dived onto pit lane before NASCAR waved the yellow flag and closed pit road. When the field cycled around Gordon had put his Chevy into the lead.

"We came in about two laps earlier than we thought," said Gordon. "We were hoping that we'd get some cautions later on. As soon as Rusty (Wallace) spun we were on the radio talking and Kevin (Hamlin, crew chief) was like 'come now, come now' - that was the call. We needed that track position, track position is so important.

"I'll be honest, the first half of the race I just kinda saved my brakes, saved my car. I don't know if we had the best car today, but we ended up winning the race. That's what it takes to have a team."

Kevin Hamlin, Gordon's crew chief, surmised that the No. 31 team would not have to pit again for fuel. Gordon wisely conserved fuel in the races ending laps, to earn the victory.

Scott Pruett.
Photo by Earl Ma.
Trans Am champ Scott Pruett, a road race specialist hired for this event by Ganassi Racing, scored a second.

"We had a strategy that we thought we could play," said Pruett. "It was an aggressive one. It all depended on those yellows, and they happened to work out exactly how we wanted them too. Fortunately, we pitted so soon at the end, we had to conserve fuel at the end. They kept saying 'go after Robby (Gordon)' but conserve fuel at the same time. We could pace him, but we just couldn't catch him."

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was third, gaining his 14th top-ten this season.

"I had a lot of fun," said Earnhardt. "The car drove real good. We tested here and worked real hard to get here, and get the car that competitive. The hard work paid off, it wasn't looking to good there on that last restart. We were sitting about 20th, and I had to drive real hard to get up there. I wore my car out and didn't have anything left for the leaders. Just tried to stay out there and stay out of trouble. We got a great finish to be proud of."

Jimmie Johnson, who had to start from the rear of the field due to an engine change, earned a fourth place finish, and continues to sit in fourth place in championship rankings.

"This is like a win for the Lowe's team to be able to have a day like we did today," said Johnson. "Sometimes not being the fastest car is going to pay off for you, it's just being consistent and fast enough.

"I've got a lot to learn on the road courses, this year's been a struggle for me, and I have been able to learn in the race and do what I need to do. Luckily, we had a good enough car."

Kevin Harvick was fifth, rebounding from troubles early in the race on pit road. During the first round of green flag pit stops Indianapolis race winner Harvick's rear brakes were on fire, and when gasoline spilled during the refueling process it ignited Harvick's Chevy - Harvick managed to pull away while his pit stall exploded into flames. Crewmembers and NASCAR officials scurried to put out the fire, no one was hurt in the incident.

Things continued to get worse for Harvick, as on the restart on lap 25 Harvick accidentally hit the kill switch in the car and shut off his engine, hurtling him backwards through the field. Harvick used strategy and patience to work his way back up and land his ninth top-ten of 2003. His fifth place finish propels him two spots into fifth in championship points, 516 points out of the lead.

Matt Kenseth's eighth place finish keeps him comfortably ahead in the point's lead. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sits second, 258 points shy of first.

It was an exceptionally bad day for four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon. On the first lap, Gordon was tapped from behind by the No. 16 Ford of Greg Biffle, sending the No. 24 Chevrolet into the gravel pit. By the time Gordon got back on track, he had lost 41 positions. Gordon exercised his patience, passing one car at a time, until he placed the No. 24 back into contention within the races last ten laps. With one lap to go, Gordon ran out of gas in turn 10, and was trying to get to hang on to the checkered flag when the N0. 29 of Kevin Harvick spun Gordon into the wall. Gordon finished 33rd, but retains the third spot in the race for the Winston Cup, 396 points out of the lead.

"I was trying to get out of his way," said Gordon. "But when you are out of gas, you don't have many options. It's our fault for running out of gas, but I felt like he was fighting a little bit too hard, cause it was pretty easy to pass me.

"That was one of the hardest I've ever driven the car. These last two weeks have taken a lot out of me, and this race team. Last week we saw results, and unfortunately today we didn't."

Defending race winner and reigning Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart finished 11th. Stewart was never a threat for the win Sunday, but tried a variety of strategies to get the No. 20 Chevy into the lead. A miscue on pit road landed him at the rear of the field near the end of the event, but he was able out of sheer will to push his car back towards the front for a top-fifteen result.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Robby Gordon , Scott Pruett , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Hamlin
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing