Race/Date: The Winston Open/May 17, 2003
(non-points, all-star event)
Location: Lowe’s Motor Speedway
Start Position: 14th
Finish Position: 14th
The Winston Open is a driver’s last shot to get
into The Winston, NASCAR’s annual all-star event under the lights
at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Only the first team to cross the finish
line at the end of the 30-lap shootout will transfer to The Winston
and have a shot at $1 million. Robby Gordon and the No. 31 Cingular
Wireless team battled hard to beat 26 other teams in the Open Saturday
but came up short.
From the drop of the green flag, Gordon began
to make his way toward the front. He picked up four spots by lap
three to run in the 10th position and picked up another seven spots
over the next three laps to take over the third spot.
On lap 16, Gordon radioed that the car was developing
a tight condition and that the water temperature was reading 290
degrees. He kept the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) machine running
in the top 10 until the mandatory caution was brought out at the
completion of the first 20 laps, where all but the top-14 cars were
eliminated, and advanced to the final 10-lap dash to the checkered
Gordon came down pit road for right-side tires,
chassis adjustments and to pull tape from the grill during the mandatory
stop between the two race segments. Unfortunately, the car was dropped
from the jack before the front-tire changer was able to move the
air hose from in front of the car. Gordon ran over an air hose,
a rules violation, and NASCAR brought the car back down pit road
for a stop-and-go penalty. The Cingular team took on left-side tires
and added water to the radiator during the second stop.
By the time of the restart for the 10-lap shootout,
the RCR engine had begun to cool. Track position was at a premium,
though, and the team, unsure if it could make it to the front, made
the call on lap 26 to park the No. 31 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and
not take a chance at damaging the engine.
"I think right away we kind of got taken out of the Open, even
if we would have made it, I don’t know if our engine would have
made it. The thing ran 260 degrees before lap two. We don’t know
why that was; we even took tape off of it. I think that when we
broke the gear in practice yesterday we hurt the motor and we never
had a chance to go back out and see if everything was okay.
"We went for it at the start but we
just didn’t have the time or the power. At least we learned this
week what we have to do for next week."