Richmond, VA (May 12, 2004) -- Between yesterday's practice and qualifying at Richmond International Raceway, Robby Gordon, driver of the No. 55 Fruit of the Loom Chevrolet Monte Carlo, made a trip to the track's media center for a short question...
Richmond, VA (May 12, 2004) -- Between yesterday's practice and qualifying at Richmond International Raceway, Robby Gordon, driver of the No. 55 Fruit of the Loom Chevrolet Monte Carlo, made a trip to the track's media center for a short question and answer session. Please note that questions are paraphrased however, the quotes are exact.
Q: From Indy, to the Busch car, to the Cup car and back to Indy this weekend. Just talk about what it's like jumping in those three kinds of cars?
Robby Gordon: "There is a big difference to driving them, but we went to the open test at Charlotte the other night, on Tuesday night and we had a really good open test. I think our times were really good for race runs. I think we had some 30.10's and some 30.15's, which was equivalent to what Tony and Harvick were and we did that right away going straight from the Indy car to the Cup car. We flew up from Indianapolis this morning, it was raining over there so that's a good thing for me because the competition isn't on the race track. They probably will get on the track later this afternoon but they didn't spend the whole day getting another day ahead of us. I think my first time in the car after 30 cars were on the track, we were third quick. Right away, I was able to adapt right back to the Busch car and we ended up I think 18th in the session, but we did scuff tires and stuff like that."
Q: How different are they (the cars) when you are making the transition?
RG: "When I get to the next race track, with the next crew chief, I sit down and go over what's under the cars as far as shocks, springs and sway bars. So when we do make adjustments, I at least know what we started with as we go forward. It's been working really good. It hasn't been a big adjustment back and forth. There obviously is a lot less movement in a cup car than there is in an Indy car as far as the car rolling over in the corner. But more and more, as this new tire goes on and what we are learning about the suspension, we are not traveling like we used to travel a lot with these Cup cars. The cars are getting stiffer. A smooth racetrack like we have here in Richmond, I think we are getting just a little over an inch of travel, where a few years ago here we were getting five inches. The way you set the cars up is a lot different."
Q: Can you talk about your busy schedule?
RG: "It's been pretty easy, we have really good people working for us back at the office. We have some great sponsor's with Citation Jet which is owned by Textron and they also own Bell Helicopters, so they make my travel arrangements really easy. This morning, I left Indy, flew here and I am here through Cup happy hour and the Busch race Friday night. The Busch program isn't going to lose anything this weekend because of the Indy 500. The Cup program really doesn't lose anything either. I am going to fly out Friday night after the Busch race and go back to Indianapolis, but right now it's looking like weather for Saturday, which is a good thing for me because if we are fortunate enough to get rained out on Saturday, then I can jump back on the plane, make my driver's meeting here at 5:00, race the Cup race and go back there on Sunday. If Indianapolis has rain on Saturday, pole day will roll over to Sunday and then I would be able to stick around for the fastest time of the day. A lot of people don't understand that at Indianapolis, at track will change about two miles per hour from 2:00 until about 5:00. From 5:00 to 6:00 it just comes alive for some reason and the speeds go up in the 222's like we saw yesterday. You don't see that in the middle of the day, everybody's down in the 219's and 220's. Having to come back here and be here in time for the driver's meeting because NASCAR is not as nice as the IRL because they don't care if I don't show up for the driver's meeting and they still let me start at whatever position we qualify. I know it's a rule, and NASCAR has always stood by the rules and they make no exceptions for anybody. If they would allow some juggling of the driver's meeting which is exactly the same thing that happens 34 or 36 times a year, it doesn't change, it would make my schedule a lot easier, especially for the Coca-Cola 600, because I would be able to make it in time to start the race. I would start in a normal position, but it's been the same way for Tony and it has been the same way for me for the last four or five years."
Q: Can you talk about your philosophy and your feeling about doing three different series like this?
RG: "The philosophy is I do it because I can and that we can be competitive at it. It is unfortunate that we are as far back in the Cup Series this year in points as we are. We have had some really good runs we showed up again last week in the top-10 and in Fontana, we ran up in the top-five and we are having good runs right in the middle of all this travel, all this testing, all this stuff. I don't feel that it's a distraction and I do it because I can do it, and find sponsorship to do it to be competitive in all of the series. If I didn't think I could go to the Indianapolis 500 and have a shot at the pole, I wouldn't do it. Last year I went there and sat on the pole for most of the day on Saturday and ended up getting bumped off in the last 45 minutes of the day and ended up qualifying third. I have interest to go there because we can go there and be competitive and if I wasn't competitive there, I don't think I would do it."
Q: How much does the Busch schedule add to it?
RG: "The Busch schedule is interfering with it right now. We didn't expect to be running as good as we are running with the Busch car. I didn't expect to be 93 points out of the lead a third of the way through the season. Our Busch program was set up to be a limited schedule, a 24 race program and our quest for the championship could end this Friday night. Whenever we have a bad weekend, we will probably just park the car for the rest of the season, because that's not how the program was sold to Fruit of the Loom. It was sold as a 24 race, have fun win races when you can program."
Q: Has the schedule crept in on you trying to find another sponsor to come on board when Fruit of the Loom is not, in case you do run all the races?
RG: "We didn't start the season chasing that to be honest with you and we didn't start chasing it until probably after Talladega. It's not very often that a Busch team starts up with new people, pretty much a new Busch driver without a lot of experience in Busch, in a position to win races every weekend. That is what has changed our mindset a little bit. Fruit of the Loom has slid some of their races from the end of the season that we were supposed to do towards the front of the season to that we could continue to chase it. We talked them into Vegas earlier in the year, just too kind of keep alive because we are running so well with it. We are chasing sponsors and if we find a sponsor, we will continue to do it, but if we don't, we won't."
Q: With the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 being two of the hottest races of the year, how do you prepare for that, and which of the two is tougher?
RG: "I think the Coca-Cola 600 is a tougher race because NASCAR has so many competitive teams. There are 25 guys that could win the Coca-Cola 600 and at Indianapolis there will be 10 or 12 of us that could actually win the race. The Coca-Cola 600 is also two times the length of period that I will have with the other race car. We still almost go as fast with the Cup cars. We probably run pretty close to 200 miles per hour at Charlotte going down into the corner where I think our maximum speed in Indy car is 225 down the straightaway. But because the engine is in front of you, it's hot, it's humid down there that time of the year, it's a pretty hot race at Charlotte so the Cup car is probably more difficult."
Q: Does the fact that you have already run the races before make it any easier?
RG: "I think it does. The key to the whole thing is that the schedule is well planned out. We started scheduling along time ago. We probably could have told everyone what the schedule was two months ago and that helps. Some of the things that Tony has done in the past, that I've done in the past is an IV on the plane, that helps. The biggest problem I have ever had at Charlotte was dehydrating. I dehydrated two years ago but last year, I felt really good. I was running 9th when it started raining. I came down pit lane because I never thought that they would call the race with a hundred and something laps to go and we ended up 14th, but we were a top-10 car all night long. I look forward to doing them both this year and I think we have a really good shot at it. The Chevrolet engine at Indianapolis gets really good fuel mileage and we are supposed to get a new spec engine I believe tomorrow to install in our car. It's supposed to be 15 horsepower and if it's 15 horsepower, we will be in the 221's. The numbers that we are seeing at 222.6, those are drafts. Nobody has run over a 220.3 by themselves with nobody in front of them."
Q: If you go to Nazareth what could you miss?
RG: "We actually just went through the schedule and the only thing I would miss at Nazareth would be happy hour and the way we operate our Busch car right now, because we are a new team, we start the weekend with race set-up. The same thing we did today, we started the practice session and spent the first hour and 30 minutes in race set-up and went out to spend the last 10 minutes doing our qualifying runs. What we learned in that last 10 minutes, we will be able to make an adjustment. The track is obviously going to change because there is not a lot of cars on it, but hopefully it's the right adjustment and we qualify inside the top-10."
Q: Will you miss the driver's meeting for the All-Star Challenge?
RG: "Nope, I will not miss the driver's meeting for the All-Star Challenge, I can't miss it. I can't miss anything on the Cup side. The one thing that I am allowed by Richard to miss is the driver's meeting before the 600. Like I said, I don't know why it' that big of a deal, I go to the same driver's meeting and I hear the exact same thing 36 times a year. You could probably even say 70 times this year with the Busch car."
Q: You are such a perfectionist, are you having to step back and just let people take control with the busy schedule?
RG: "I feel really great now, I have a great Cup ride. On our own team, we have some really good people at Robby Gordon Motorsports with John Story and the other guys that lead the camp over there, it has been a no brainer for me to be honest with you. Bob Temple who runs the Busch car and Thomas Knapp who runs the Indy car, these guys have complete control of what's going on in their programs. Just because I'm not there, they keep it going. They will have it running and running efficient enough, and professional enough, that the car is competitive and fast ever time I climb behind the wheel. So, basically, I have just been a racecar driver. Even though I happen to own the race team, I have been able to show up and just drive the racecar and not really have to worry about the day to day operations."
Q: Your chances at Indy?
RG: "You gotta believe you can do it, that's the first thing. I have led the race in AJ Foyt's car, I have led the race in my own car, I have led the race in Derrick Walker's car and I have led the race in Michael Andretti's car. There is no reason that we think that we won't lead the race again in 2004 with the Meijer/Coca-Cola Chevrolet."