Race/Date: Aaron’s 499/April 6, 2003
(Eighth of 36 races)
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
Start Position: Sixth
Finish Position: 10th
Points Position: 13th
Avoiding the "big one" is crucial in restrictor-plate
races and Robby Gordon and the No. 31 Cingular Wireless team accomplished
this Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway and endured the smaller skirmishes
to score a top-10 finish and several spots in the points race.
Sporting a Special Olympics Team USA paint scheme
on his race car, Gordon qualified and practiced well all weekend
and easily moved into the top five when the Aaron’s 499 began. The
dreaded "big one" hit on lap five and caught about 26
cars in its wake. The Cingular team took the opportunity to pit
for four tires and fuel on lap 10 and returned to racing in the
The Richard Childress Racing (RCR) machine soon
got stuck on the high line, where Gordon said it did not run as
well. He fell as far as 21st before moving back into the top five.
Gordon was running 21st when the caution flag waved again on lap
37 and he brought the car down pit road for some work on the windshield.
A piece of debris from the race track had hit a windshield bracket
on the Cingular Chevrolet and caused the windshield to slip down
a bit and vibrate the windows in the car. The team made a lengthy
pit stop to repair the windshield, change four tires and take fuel.
Gordon returned to the track in the 21st position.
He continued to work the draft and ran between
the fifth and 14th position through lap 82 while battling a hot
engine that forced him to occasionally back out of the draft to
allow the nose of the car to breathe and cool down the motor. Team
Cingular pitted under caution on lap 84 to add water under the hood
to cool off the engine and change four tires and take fuel.
The team’s bad luck continued with a multi-car
accident on lap 91 in which another car rear-ended the Cingular
machine. The team brought Gordon in the following lap to work on
the left-rear quarter panel and rear bumper damage. The aerodynamics
on the car suffered a bit but not greatly as Gordon soon moved back
into the eighth position but radioed in that he had difficulty passing
cars. He stayed with the draft the remainder of the race, shuffling
between fifth and 16th, and brought the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet
home to a 10th-place finish. Gordon gained six spots in the NASCAR
Winston Cup points to move into the 13th position.
As part of its support of Special Olympics Team
USA, Cingular Wireless donated to the organization $100 for each
lap Gordon completed Sunday for a grand total of $18,800.
Robby Gordon Quotes:
"The Cingular car handled great all day and was pretty fast.
We had a little problem around lap 30 when something kicked up off
the track and hit the windshield and bent one of the brackets. It
was bad enough that it made the windows vibrate. When we pitted
we had to take a lot of time for the guys to bend that bracket back
so the windshield could be pushed back up. It took us awhile to
break into the top 10 again after that. I also kept having to step
out of line to let the motor breathe because it was running hot.
But everything was okay until I got hit in the incident that brought
out the caution with the No. 97. Someone got into the back of me,
dented up the rear bumper and knocked a hole in the left rear quarter
panel. Today was a good day to make up points. We were so close
between 10th and 20th last week in points that this race became
very important. The RCR cars are usually good here if we can have
some decent luck – we just didn’t get that today. But we weren’t
just running for us today, though. Cingular is donating $100 for
every lap I completed today, so that’s a good chunk of change for
a good cause."