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NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference featuring Robby Gordon


This week’s NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference featured Robby Gordon, driver of the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo and team owner, Richard Childress. Thanks to Nancy Wager of Chevrolet Public Relations for the transcription.

This weekend, the series moves to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California for the Dodge/Save Mart 350. Gordon has enjoyed plenty of success in his last three races at Sonoma. He placed 9th in 2000, 2nd in 2001, and 11th in 2002. He has also led at least one lap in three of his five career races there with a high of 20 laps led in 2001. Robby is currently 16th in the Winston Cup point standings. He has one top five and four top-10 finishes this season. His best to date was a 4th place finish in the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond.

Q&A’s WITH ROBBY GORDON:

(ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THE ROAD RACE AT SONOMA?) "I’m definitely looking forward to going there. We have tested on some road courses to prepare for going there. We have not been to Sonoma to test, but we have been to other road courses. I think we have a really good package this year in the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet and Richard Childress Racing."

(ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO RACING IN YOUR HOME STATE?) "Yes, it’s nice to be back home. But I grew up in Southern California and it’s about a 10-hour drive up to Sonoma. So it’s a long ways away."

(SO, SONOMA ISN’T REALLY A HOME TRACK FOR YOU?) "No, California Speedway in Fontana is more of a home track for me."

(AT LAST YEAR’S SONOMA RACE, THE PIT STOPS DIDN’T FALL IN YOUR FAVOR. HOW MUCH WORK HAS THE TEAM DONE ON STRATEGY FOR SUNDAY’S RACE?) "I think that’s probably the only reason we didn’t have another top five finish (last year). We made a bad pit call early in the race and it hung us out. It was very hard to come back from that. Tony Stewart and I both made that call. It was very hard for both of us to climb back up through the pack after that."

(CAN YOU PLAN THESE THINGS OR DO YOU HAVE TO SEE HOW THE RACE UNFOLDS?) "Now we understand at least how hard it is to pass on a road course. It’s hard to give up that track position. We caught it at a caution and everybody else got to jump in and we didn’t get back up to the front. That hurt us. If we had played our strategy a little differently, we might have been the car the win. I think the most important thing to do is to work it backwards from the finish to figure how far we can go on tires and fuel. That would tell us where our stops needed to be. We have talked about it. We lost a couple of races last year because of pit stop strategy."

(HAVE YOU GAINED MOMENTUM IN THE LAST FEW RACES?) "We have a really good program but we struggle for some reason on these mile and a half, and two-mile race tracks. It’s across the board at RCR. Kevin Harvick has also struggled to finish in the top 10 on these tracks as well. I think the reason why is our downforce level from front to rear is off a little bit. We need to get those numbers closer in race trim instead of qualifying trim. We have really good qualifying cars right now and we need to shift that to better race cars. When we get that figured out, we’ll be a lot better on our mile and a half program."

(DO YOU FEEL AS COMFORTABLE ON THE ROAD COURSES AS YOU DID IN CHAMP CARS?) "I feel very comfortable. We went to VIR about two weeks ago (to test) and I believe we broke the track record there by about a second and a half. The closest competitor – there were about 20 cars there – was about two seconds."

(HOW DISTRACTING WILL IT BE TO HAVE CHARLIE’S ANGELS ON YOUR CAR?) "Yeah, it could be a very distracting weekend."

(BECAUSE YOU’RE HAVING A PRETTY GOOD YEAR, CAN SAY I TOLD YOU SO TO SOME OF THE DOUBTERS?) "I don’t think we can do that yet. The media make it hard on us race car drivers. This year and last year, we’ve proven that I can finish races and not wreck and bring home a complete race car. That’s why we’re somewhat decent because we have been consistent and finished every race this year. On the other side of things, we probably could have been in a better position to win races if we would have been a little less conservative. At RCR, we’re a little conservative on our engine packages. And that’s keeping us in the hunt but it’s kept us stuck around 10th place finishes.

(ON HAVING SIMILIAR PERFORMANCE PROBLEMS WITH HIS TEAMMATES AT RCR) "At RCR, we’re all struggling. When I say ‘we’, I mean Kevin Harvick, Steve Park, and myself on these two-mile tracks. If we’re all complaining about the same thing, we need to get our package better as a whole. We are working really hard on it.

"Last weekend at Michigan, Superman couldn’t have made my car turn. We did everything we could to make that car loose. It was the same problem Kevin Harvick had. We share so much information and talk about each other because of the problems we chase with the car. Everybody chases problems all the time with a race car. Race car drivers are always picking on little pieces of the car to make it more competitive. We’ve got a great race team at RCR. I don’t want to say we don’t have a good team. We’re just working real hard to get better."

(WHERE IS YOUR STRENGTH?) "My strength is in the car control area and then learning the race tracks. The more experience you gain, the better you are. The tracks where downforce doesn’t matter – like Richmond and Martinsville – we’ve been really strong lately as well as the road courses. I think this is going to be a good weekend for us and we should be able to score a lot of points."

(WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT ROAD COURSE RACING?) "I don’t know why, but my driving style suits the road courses really well. We have been very competitive on the road courses. I’ve had one of the strongest cars on all the road courses and we’ve let victory slip away because of everything from television cameras catching on fire to making bad pit calls and bad pit stops. We’ve made some mistakes that have cost us a victory and I think everyone on this team is working really hard to make sure that we can capitalize on it if the opportunity presents itself."

(WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RYAN NEWMAN’S CRASH & FIRE AT MICHIGAN LAST WEEKEND?) "That’s just an example of a team pushing the envelope on the engine package on every facet of it. It blew up big. I don’t know if a line came off it or what happened. But that was one of the biggest blow-ups I’ve seen in a long time."

(WILL YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THE INDY 500 HELP YOU WITH THE RACE THIS WEEKEND?) "The biggest thing about being at Indianapolis all month was that it will help me next year at IMS. There is not much that the Indy 500 car can help me with at Sonoma."

(IF YOU COULD SHARE YOUR FINEST MOMENTS WITH US, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU START WITH?) "I’ve had some really good moments in racing. Winning my very first race I ever entered in a car – and my dad finishing second – was probably one of the finer moments. It seems like every year there is such a good moment – from qualifying for my first Daytona 500 to qualifying for my first Indy 500. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to have good sponsors on both the Winston Cup and Indy sides that allow me to compete at a competitive level."

Q&A’S WITH RICHARD CHILDRESS:

(WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOUR TEAMS AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON?) "We’re excited. We’re disappointed in our season so far in some of our finishes, but the cars have run pretty good on the race track. Robby has done an excellent job driving the cars and he has adjusted to a full time Winston Cup schedule. We’ve just got to get our cars and our stuff where we can be a little more consistent and be in the top 10 and that’s when you’ll win races.

"We’re excited about having Steve Park on. Any time you make a change it takes time to get it worked out. And Kevin Harvick has done a great job. That whole team has been right there. For the past three weeks, we’ve struggled with all our teams for some reason. Robby had a really good run at Dover (9th). We’re looking forward now to having basically three weeks off to try to re-group going into Chicago."

(WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS ABOUT NEXTEL TAKING OVER AS THE SERIES SPONSOR AND HOW WILL THAT AFFECT YOUR CINGULAR WIRELESS SPONSORSHIP ON THE NO. 31 CAR?) "Cingular Wireless is a great sponsor. They do a lot in racing. I think they would look at it as opportunity. They accept competition. No matter who it would be, I’m sure they’ll do a great job. We’ve had RJReynolds ever since I’ve been in Winston Cup – since the 70’s. I was one of the few people left around when they came in. They did a great job of carrying the sport to the next level. I’m sure whoever else comes in will do a good job with it. If it is another communication company, I’m sure we’ll be talking about it.

"When we first found out that there was the potential of a wireless company, we spoke with them and there didn’t seem to be a great concern. But I’m sure they had to run it up the pole at their headquarters in Atlanta. I haven’t heard back that there would be anything negative. Knowing their marketing plans and strategy, there going to look at this as opportunity."

(DID YOU ASK NASCAR IF THERE WOULD BE A PROBLEM WITH CINGULAR IF NEXTEL CAME IN?) "There’s not going to be a problem with Cingular and the other wireless company that’s in there now because I think they would be grand-fathered in. I don’t know that for a fact. I haven’t seen it written. But that’s just what we all understand."

(DO YOU AGREE WITH THE EXCLUSIVITY OF NASCAR REGARDING SOLICITING COMPANIES TO SPONSOR THE TEAMS?) "Winston Cup racing has always been like that. We couldn’t have brought Marlboro into the sport or any other tobacco companies. There’ve been some smokeless tobaccos. But I think it’s always been under those restrictions. Most any series sponsor would want that."

(IS THERE A REASON TO THINK THEY WOULD GET OUT OF THE SPORT OR THAT IT WOULD BE A CONFLICT?) "I’m hoping they would look at it as an opportunity. They’ve done a lot in the sport. They’ve done a lot for RCR and Robby Gordon. We’re excited about continuing our relationship with them. We’ve got two more years on our contract."

(WHAT ARE THE MAIN FACTORS THAT ARE KEEPING YOUR TEAMS FROM BEING COMPETITIVE WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT?) "We can’t put our figure on it. If we could, we would have fixed it. We have some ideas. There’s a reason for it. There’s no excuse for it. We don’t accept excuses. We locate the reasons and try to fix the reasons why we’re not in the top five every week and one of the cars should be. The other two shouldn’t be out of the top 15 with the resources we have to work with. Sometimes we try so hard with our bodies and we’ve got to keep chasing our horsepower band to see where it needs to be. We’re making great horsepower. Our bodies are good. There’s balance factor between the crew chief and driver. Last weekend at Michigan, Kevin ran up there in the top five almost half of the race. We made one small adjustment on the car and got lapped. Those are the things we’ve got to fix."

(WHAT DO YOU SEE IN ROBBY GORDON THAT NOBODY ELSE IN THE WINSTON CUP GARAGE WAS ABLE TO SEE?) "If you go in that garage area, there aren’t many drivers that have that much talent. He is one of the most talented drivers that I’ve ever seen in my many years of racing. I think the thing is that Robby needed someone to help explain Winston Cup racing. Robby is a very intelligent person. He’s extra intelligent, probably, for a race car driver. Because of that, he likes to see things done and done right. I think he has struggled in the past with the way things were done. We just have a good working relationship and the main thing is that both of us have respect for each other."

(WITH THE CHANGES OCCURING IN NASCAR ALMOST DAILY, DO YOU FEEL THAT NASCAR IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?) "I think most definitely. With the change that they made in the schedule, the tradition in the Southern 500 was big. I have signs in my organization here that say, ‘change is opportunity’. I think we have to look at this change as an opportunity to grow our sport and go into a different market and bring in more places and to get us out of the southeastern hub. It’s going to be very good for the sport. With some of the changes they’ve made with the templates and cars and rules, they’ll catch up and help the car owner at the end of the day. But it seems like it’s pretty expensive at the time."

(WITH TOYOTA COMING INTO TRUCKS AND DODGE BEING VERY INVOLVED, DO YOU SEE CHEVROLET GETTING BEHIND FACTORY-BACKED TEAMS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?) "I think you will more factory efforts going into the truck series because of the high pick-up truck sales. I think you’re going to see Chevrolet step up with probably a more aggressive program than they have right now."