Robby Gordon to make most of chance to return

Robby Gordon vows to make most of chance with McClure By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 11, 2001) -- Robby Gordon hopes before 2001 is complete that he’ll see a drastic difference over anything that he’s ever experienced in his...

Robby Gordon vows to make most of chance with McClure
By Dave Rodman

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 11, 2001) -- Robby Gordon hopes before 2001 is complete that he’ll see a drastic difference over anything that he’s ever experienced in his Winston Cup career.

Gordon took a break Thursday, the first of a two-day General Motors stock car test at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for Speedweeks 2001, to speak of the latest chapter in his career path. That route has taken him from off-road to sports cars to Indy cars to Morgan-McClure Motorsports, a well-established and well-funded Winston Cup team that faltered a bit last season.

Gordon is looking at the coming season as an opportunity to re-build a couple reputations.

“I feel this is a good opportunity,” Gordon said after a brief lunch break meeting with team owner Larry McClure. “Obviously, both Larry and I have got something to prove. They struggled a little bit last year in points and I think this year it’s going to be important for both of us to come out strong and run good.”

Last year’s driver, Bobby Hamilton, had some competitive outings but he said staying with the 18-degree GM engine combination for too long and other mechanical woes, along with personnel moves, held the team back. Hamilton finished 30th in the driver standings with only two top-10 finishes in 34 starts.

Gordon sets aside his previous forays into stock cars, which began with Junie Donlavey in 1991 and totaled 28 starts prior to 2000, with a variety of owners including Robert Yates, Kranefuss-Haas, Dale Earnhardt, Buz McCall and a celebrated less than two-year run with Felix Sabates.

“Before, those were fill-in roles, a weekend here and a weekend there, but not the direction I wanted to take my career,” Gordon said of those experiences. Following the deal with Sabates, he returned to Indy cars but made a definite career path change in 2000 by establishing Team Gordon.

“Team Gordon is tough to close down because we worked so hard to get everything in place,” Gordon said of the operation, which has contributed a certain amount of equipment to Gordon’s effort at Morgan-McClure. “Year two would’ve been a lot easier, but the problem is, if you don’t have funding you can’t run good because you can’t buy the right cars and the right engines.”

While Gordon is currently negotiating to keep Team Gordon more active, he said he’s looking more toward his opportunity to work with his new organization.

“I think it’s good,” Gordon said of his initial workings with veteran crew chief David Ifft, who joined Morgan-McClure at the end of 2000 and has stayed. “We have a long ways to go as a whole -- I have a long ways to go as a driver and as a race team, obviously, if you finished 32nd last year (in owner points) you have 31 positions you have to improve.

“We’re just going to have to work really hard together and really concentrate on what it’s going to take to get to the front. It’s not easy. This series is competitive and every year it gets more competitive.”

Gordon acknowledged that the strongest facet of the operation was its engines, supplied by long-time engine chief Shelton “Runt” Pittman and his staff. Pittman was the force behind consecutive Daytona 500 wins by Sterling Marlin in 1994-95 and Ernie Irvan’s win in 1991.

“I think the strongest thing I bring is some technical things I’ve seen in the past,” said Gordon, whose diverse background is obvious. From the start, he has brought additional timing and data acquisition equipment from Team Gordon that was in effect at the Daytona test.

“I think the technical side can help and I think that’s where this series is going at the same time. You have to be on top of that part of the game and they’ve got a real good guy, Gary Grossenbacher, here as their technical director. I think being open-minded on both sides is gonna help, and giving them the best information I can about their race cars is gonna help out a lot -- but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Less than a month away from the Daytona 500 tends to bring things into sharp focus.

“Obviously, performance is our biggest goal right now,” Gordon said. “Everybody is out here because they want to win. It’s too early to set what our six-month goals are, or one year down the road. This is our second test together. This will help us to learn and allow us to work together more. I think by the time we come back to Daytona we should be able to set some goals.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Robert Yates , Felix Sabates