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Robby Gordon’s Double Duty Diary – Episode 4
May 13, 2002

Every driver and crew that attempts to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 wants to win the pole. It’s really a race all by itself. It’s nothing like winning the actual race and getting to drink the bottle of milk and getting your face on the trophy but winning the pole is a very prestigious honor in itself.

I think we got messed up a little bit. We changed engines and a lot of other stuff. I think we though we were going to come out in the 31T and run 230 mph. We knew we were going to have some more engine. We played around with the engine a little bit and had a hard time getting it idling. That didn’t bother us much on the race track but it was more of a mental thing and I think it messed me up a little bit. We finally just said, "The heck with it," and switched back to the primary car.

I climbed into the other car, the 31, and right out of the box we were at 228 so we picked up three and a half miles per hour. I was pleased with that but obviously a little disappointed because I thought we would have a legitimate shot at the pole. But you never know so we went back to the garage, looked at all of our data, made some adjustments and looked into the crystal ball to find the magic setup we were looking for.

I thought there would be a couple of cars that got to 230 mph in practice but I didn’t think there would be 12 or 13 cars that would do it and had no idea that someone would run a 232-mph lap. The one that impressed me the most in practice was Bruno Junquiera. I watched him do a 231, a 230, a 230, a 230, a 230 … so it looked before qualifying that he would be the guy to chase for the pole.

But Team Menard has always had a car that has been capable of getting pole position here and I knew we weren’t that far out of it. I knew I could suck it up a little more, hold my breath a little longer. My teammate Raoul Boesel was 10th or 11th quick in practice so I was very, very happy for those guys there.

The weatherman called for showers later in the day on Saturday. We had chosen the 20th spot to qualify from so we kept our fingers crossed that we could get through before the rain came. There was only one other car in front of us in the tech line when the first sprinkles came. But it was quick and the safety crew got the track dried out quickly, too. When it was my turn, I rolled away and clicked off two 229-mph laps before sprinkles forced the flagman to bring out the yellow and wave off our run.

When I got back to pit lane, the officials had told the crew that all we could do to the car was refuel and change tires. The track barely got wet and another car actually went ahead of us in line before we got done getting the tires changed. Getting waved off like that didn’t really bother me because that’s sometimes just part of the deal. The way I look at it, I just got Cingular Wireless and Menards two more laps of exposure than they would have if I had gotten all four laps in the first time. So when I did get back in line and roll back onto the speedway, my concentration was still focused on doing the best job I could.

I was wide open all four laps and that’s all there was. We had a good car and the team worked real well. We have a lot of work ahead of us before the race, for sure, but we gave it our best shot.

We probably didn’t spend enough time focusing on our qualifying effort. We did a couple of laps Sunday night after the Cup race and then got rained out Monday and again on Wednesday. John Menard just kinda said, "Hey, let’s just stop until I get down there and we’ll work it out." So we missed a couple of days that might have made the difference between 11th place and the pole. But I did the best job I could, held it wide open and all the guys did a great job. So we’ll just go work on race setups next week. I have a lot of confidence in Butch Myers and the engines his guys build at Menard’s engine department. I know they’re doing a really good job and I know the reliability will be there so we’re just going to work at it real hard to get a car that will handle on full-tank runs.

We chased a car in practice that had terminal push so we spent about a day and a half playing with the car. So we probably should have worked on the 31 a little bit more. We anticipated qualifying the 31T instead so, in hindsight, that time lost and the work that we could have done on the 31 may have gotten us on the pole.

Obviously, I’m a little disappointed with 11th because it’s the furthest back in the field that I have even started from. I’m very happy for Boesel and the Menard guys for starting on the outside of the front row. John’s (Menard) happy so we’re happy. Both Menard’s cars qualified ahead of the Penske cars and there are some other strong cars out there that are struggling a little bit. All qualifying 11th means is that there will be that many more cars I have to pass on the outside as I head into Turn One on the first lap.

We flew back home Saturday night. I thought a little bit about staying until Sunday morning before flying out but decided I needed to get a full day at home to do some things and just get away. I had been in a race car every day for the past nine days. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be in a race car any chance I can get but there’s still two more weeks left in this journey so I wanted a day or two to unwind a little bit.

This is how the schedule for this week looks so far. We’ll be in North Carolina Monday and Tuesday and then fly back to Indy Tuesday night. We’ll test the Indy Car on Wednesday and Thursday, then fly back Thursday night. Practice and qualifying for starting position for The Winston (we’re already in the race from the win last year at New Hampshire) is Friday and the race is Saturday night. Then, we will probably fly back to Indy on Sunday morning for some more practice there.