Rockingham, North Carolina (October 20, 2000) There are a few places on the Winston Cup schedule that create anxiety for a first-year team. Bristol comes to mind, so does Darlington. If you're crafting a limited-schedule, it might seem ...
Rockingham, North Carolina (October 20, 2000) There are a few places on the Winston Cup schedule that create anxiety for a first-year team. Bristol comes to mind, so does Darlington. If you're crafting a limited-schedule, it might seem prudent to pass on those venues and move to the next. Rockingham falls into that category as well. It looks harmless from the outside, but inside it's a place that takes time to conquer. Nevertheless, to be successful in this sport, tackling the quirky, old-school tracks is a must. Given this, Team Gordon and Robby Gordon will unload the orange TurtleWax/Duracell Menards Ford at the North Carolina Speedway Friday with the goal of duplicating their first-day qualifying effort at the same track back in the season's second event.
It was back in February, Team Gordon had just come off an 18th-place finish in the Daytona 500. There was little time to think about the race at Rockingham's 1-mile oval, perhaps making their qualifying performance of 25th all the more unbelievable. It was a major achievement, both for the team and for Robby. But the weekend almost started with disaster on the first lap of practice. A lap where Gordon nearly hit the wall trying to drive too deep into turn one.
"I just remember getting that feeling where your whole body is tingling, your heart has just skipped a beat - but at the same time you feel relieved because you just got away with something!" laughed Gordon. "The driving style is so different going from Daytona to Rockingham - and beyond that, we didn't get a chance to test there before the season. We were so wrapped in the 500 because it was our first event, Rockingham just kind of appeared and unfortunately we showed up a little blind. That first lap of practice I went into turn one and forgot for a second that these cars don't brake too well. Then I found out they definitely don't turn and brake very well! The car went sideways, headed right for the wall and somehow, not sure how, but somehow I gathered it up. It would have been a disaster for us to crash. As it was I ruined the tires and had to struggle through that first practice. We did figure it out though later and had a good qualifying run. It's about seat time, especially at the places we can't test. Like a lot of the short tracks, by the end of the weekend I start having fun because we're figuring it out. So this weekend we'll have to see. Generally we've been a lot better when we come to a track the second time around."
The team will be bringing one of its favored cars to "The Rock" for the PopSecret 400, it's a car they refer to simply as, "The Vegas Car." Its distinction coming from the result it produced at the Las Vegas race in March where Gordon led eight laps after qualifying 12th. Generally, it's been a car Robby has felt comfortable with since he first tested it, and ironically, it was at Rockingham that the car was first raced. Since then the car has seen limited action, it's last appearance coming at Michigan in June, again a race Gordon qualified well. It's been dusted off and race-prepped for this weekend so the crew can compare apples to apples from the last visit to The Rock.
"Initially, we had this car slated to be a backup for Rockingham," said Team Gordon general manager Richard Buck. "The first plan was to bring the car we just ran at Charlotte as the primary, but there was no way to get it patched up in time, so we went to plan B and LVegas' got the call. I don't know how a team like ours with twenty or so races under its belt can say they have an Lold reliable,' but this is as close as we get. I do know that Robby feels very comfortable in this car and it responds to the adjustments we make. It's the same chassis we brought the first time around to Rockingham, so that should help us compare notes and give Mark (Tutor) a good jump on making it fast Friday. What we've tried to do is figure out why this car is comfortable for Robby by determining its roll-centers and other strengths in the area of mechanical-grip."
First practice Friday begins at 10:30am eastern time with Sunday's 393-lap PopSecret 400 slated to kickoff at 12:30pm.