Food City 500/March 23, 2003
(Sixth of 36 races)
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
Start Position: 36th
Finish Position: 17th
As the saying goes, “rubbing is racing”
and Sunday’s 500-lap race at Bristol Motor Speedway lived up
to that reputation from the green flag to the checkered flag. Between
a flat tire, an injured crew member and numerous on-track skirmishes,
Robby Gordon and the No. 31 Cingular Wireless team bumped and battled
hard at Thunder Valley.
The Cingular Wireless Chevrolet was pretty good
at the beginning of the day, allowing Gordon to move into the 28th
position by lap 56. He radioed in that the car was a little tight
in the middle of the corner and lacked grip to the race track.
Gordon pitted under caution on lap 57 for two tires and air pressure
adjustments to correct the handling condition. Quick work by the
Team Cingular pit crew picked up five spots for Gordon and returned
him to racing in the 23rd spot.
Those adjustments were just what Gordon needed
as he began posting laps with the leader and moved into the 20th
position seven laps later. Unfortunately, a flat left-rear tire
halted his charge to the front, forcing Team Cingular to pit for
new tires on lap 69. Gordon fell to 31st after that
exchange but set his sights on repeating his move through the field.
During the next few rounds of pit stops, crew
chief Kevin Hamlin worked on fine-tuning the Cingular car and Gordon
climbed into the 13th position by lap 194. He moved
into the fifth spot by lap 205 but slight contact with the outside
wall on lap 212 damaged the right-rear fender and upset the handling
of the car. The team called Gordon down pit road a few times to
repair the damage but lost several spots because no other drivers
pitted at that time.
During those repairs, Jason Fowler, rear-tire
carrier for Team Cingular, suffered a severe laceration to his left
index finger while working on the car’s damaged sheet metal.
He was treated at the infield care center and transported to a local
hospital for further treatment. It was later determined that Fowler
sustained a torn nerve, torn tendon and chipped bone in his finger
but he is expected to fully recover and perform his pit crew duties
next weekend at Texas.
In the meantime, Gordon lost a lap to the leader
as NASCAR forced him to make an additional pit stop to repair fender
damage before returning to the race track. Although one lap down,
the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet was still competitive and Gordon
claimed the 19th spot with about 100 laps remaining in
the event. He continued to battle hard and finished in the 17th
position, his career-best finish at Bristol. The team gained one
position in the NASCAR Winston Cup points to take the 20th
spot — a mere 40 points out of 15th and 66 out of 10th.
Robby Gordon Quotes:
“What a day. We had a pretty good car all
day at Bristol but it seemed like we kept having little hiccups
when we began to get good track position. Just when we had moved
up, we got a flat tire and when we worked our way back up to the
top-five, I bumped the wall and damaged the car. Then we kept having
to pit to repair the damage and ended up getting stuck one lap down
during that deal. But we had a good car throughout the day and
the guys gave me great pit stops. We were really hoping to bring
back a top-10 finish for the Cingular car but we were able to get
a decent finish and pick up some ground in the points race. We’ll
take that to Texas and race them from there. I also want to say
‘get well’ to Jason Fowler, our rear-tire carrier.”