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Weekly Racing Journal

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

Race Recap:
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 15th position.

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."