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Weekly Racing Journal

Race/Date: Pontiac Excitement 400/May 3, 2003

(11th of 36 races)

Location: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway

Start Position: 32nd

Finish Position: Fourth

Points Position: 13th

Race Recap:

Robby Gordon and the No. 31 Cingular Wireless team were the talk of the evening Saturday at Richmond after coming back from three laps down early in the race, resulting from a flat tire, to bring home a fourth-place finish.

Although he qualified a disappointing 32nd, Gordon began the Pontiac Excitement 400 with high hopes of a good finish after running extremely well in Friday’s Happy Hour session. As soon as the race began under the lights Saturday night, Gordon radioed in that the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet was terribly loose but managed to steer it into the 28th position. However, crew chief Kevin Hamlin called him into the pits under green-flag conditions on lap 21 after Gordon said the car was too loose to drive. The team gave Gordon four fresh tires and fuel and discovered the car had a cut tire that caused the loose condition.

Gordon found himself three laps down in the 43rd position but driving the best car on the race track. He immediately began posting laps faster than any other car but could not move up in the running order because first he had to regain those laps. Gordon worked his way into the 37th position by lap 146 and still had the strongest car, able to pull away from the competition effortlessly and make up one of his laps under green-flag conditions simply by passing the leader.

Team Cingular’s hard work paid off and its luck began to change, though, when Gordon caught up to the leaders around lap 224 and took advantage of a caution period to regain a second lap. Still one lap down and running 33rd, Gordon raced the leaders hard and again put himself in position to repeat the remarkable feat once more on lap 262, putting the Cingular Wireless Chevy on the lead lap. Finally, passing cars could actually gain Team Cingular that precious track position. Gordon pitted on lap 263 for four tires and fuel and excellent work in the pits gained him two spots to restart in the 27th position.

He didn’t stay there for long, though, as he steered the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) Chevy into the lead by lap 301. Gordon immediately pulled away from the field and led until lap 333 when a car with fresher tires passed him. The team’s strategy turned to a fuel-conservation mode in hopes it could make it to the end of the race without pitting again. So, Gordon drove his line but held back a bit and didn’t overdrive the car. He was running fourth when a series of cautions began waving on lap 364, allowing Gordon to save fuel and ensuring he could make it to the end of the race while a couple of the leaders still would have to pit for a splash of fuel.

However, the rain that had plagued the race all evening began to fall again on lap 391 and NASCAR was forced to call the race after the completion of 393 laps. Gordon was credited with a fourth-place finish, the team’s first top five of the season. The Cingular team had a great points day as it picked up three positions to the 13th ranking, a mere 41 points out of 10th.

Robby Gordon Quotes:

“What an incredible day for the Cingular team to come from three laps down to finish fourth. I couldn’t even touch the gas in the opening laps because the car was so loose. We pitted under green and lost three laps, and realized we had a cut tire causing the loose condition. But the car was soon awesome — the fastest car on the track by far. But we couldn’t go anywhere because we were three laps down. But we were patient and kept our nose clean and made up those laps one by one. We’ve needed a good finish like this to boost our confidence and morale. We always knew we had a good team but couldn’t seem to get all the pieces to fall into place at the same time until now.”