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Robby Gordon Headed to Baja Following Homestead Race

WELCOME, N.C. (Nov. 10, 2003) — While most NASCAR Winston Cup drivers head home for a few weeks Sunday evening following the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, No. 31 Cingular Wireless driver Robby Gordon will board a plane for Baja California, Mexico, to compete in the legendary Baja 1000.

Gordon, a two-time Baja 1000 champion, is scheduled to fly to Baja Sunday night to pre-run the race course Nov. 17-Nov. 19. He will navigate the course in a pre-runner vehicle instead of his race truck to minimize the miles put on the No. 31 Red Bull Trophy Truck entered in the Baja 1000. The desert race, which spans only 765 miles this year instead of 1,000, will kick off in Ensenada, Baja California, on Friday, Nov. 21 at 8:30 a.m. local time. The course is a loop this year, commencing and finishing in Ensenada.

In the past, the 34-year-old would pre-run the course once to compile notes about the lay of the land and then return a second time to run with his notes. However, this year’s NASCAR Winston Cup schedule and sponsor obligations have allowed Gordon only one trip around the course before race day. His father, Bob Gordon, also a Baja 1000 champion, is scheduled to build the pace notes with Greg Till, Robby Gordon’s co-pilot for the event, prior to the driver’s arrival in Baja.

"The Cingular Wireless team comes first and I’ve been very busy finishing up the season and preparing for next year," Gordon said. "So, my first trip to Baja will be this week, and assuming we don’t get rained out at Homestead, I will hop on a plane after the race ends and fly to Miami, then to California and on to Baja. My dad will go to Baja before that and take Greg Till around so they can build our pace notes. Normally, we compile pace notes the first time and then actually run the course the second trip. But we’ll run off the pace notes when we pre-run next week and then make any changes necessary to them for the race.

"We’ll run about 250 miles a day during those three days until we cover the entire 765 miles. We’ll record our notes to a digital voice recorder and then type them up later. That way, we can keep talking and running without stopping to write."

Richard Childress Racing (RCR) is supplying the engine for Gordon’s No. 31 Trophy Truck (Chevrolet CK500) for the first time this year.

Gordon will compete in a Trophy Truck he built in his off-road shop in Anaheim, Calif. Five of the 22 Trophy Trucks entered in the Baja 1000 were built in Gordon’s shop, mostly for his customers. He drew the 20th-starting spot out of the 22 Trophy Trucks entered in the competition.

Gordon is a legend in Baja after several SCORE championships and successful runs in the Baja 1000. He won the Baja 1000 in a solo drive in 1989 and in 1987 as a co-driver with his father. Gordon says he puts all that work into preparing for the Baja because he loves the competition and putting on a show for the locals.

"Running the Baja 1000 is like taking the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 or the Super Bowl to the people of Baja," Gordon related. "They don’t get to see NASCAR very often like we do and the Baja is their thing. It’s amazing how they will follow and almost worship a driver down there. It’s pretty cool to see everyone support you because they consider you their friend after all the years they’ve watched you race down there. Sometimes, I think I could run for president or at least the mayor of Ensenada after all the time I’ve spent with the locals."

Running 765 miles through the desert is definitely different than the 400 miles Gordon will log turning left Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Gordon’s pit crew for the Baja 1000 also functions in stark contrast to his Cingular Wireless over-the-wall crew.

"We have a moving pit crew for the Baja that consists of about 50 people in six vehicles," Gordon said. "There are six pit areas along the course that will move, rotate and leap frog from one to the other. We usually pit the car in the middle of the desert just off the path but we do cross the highway sometimes. My pit crew moves as I move but doesn’t follow the same path — they go a different route to get to the next pit area.

"One small example of the difference in the pit stops is that it takes them longer to fuel the truck, as we normally stop for 30 seconds of fuel. I carry 70 gallons of fuel in the Trophy Truck. We are allowed to carry as much fuel as we want. It’s just a matter of how much you want your vehicle to weigh."

Gordon finished third in the Baja 1000 last year after making a lengthy pit stop to repair a wheel bearing seal. In addition to his two wins in the race, Gordon scored a fifth-place finish in the 1999 Baja 1000 and nearly won the grueling race in a late charge in 1997 before finishing in the runner-up spot. Additionally, he won four of the seven events in the 1996 SCORE Trophy Truck Series en route to the series championship, including a third-place finish in the Baja 1000. Gordon also won five consecutive SCORE/HDRA Heavy Metal Off-Road championships between 1986 and 1990.

For further information on the 36th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 or to follow Gordon’s progress, go to www.score-international.com