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Weekly Racing Journal

Race/Date: Pocono 500/June 8, 2003
Location: Pocono (Pa.) Raceway
Start Position: 37th
Finish Position: 28th
Points Position: 15th (lost five positions)

Race Recap:
Pocono Raceway is known for its tendency to wreak havoc on engines during the Pocono 500 and although the race track didn’t claim the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet’s motor entirely as its victim Sunday, Robby Gordon was forced to nurse the car around the track most of the day to preserve the engine.

Gordon picked up six positions on the first lap of the race but soon succumbed to a tight-handling condition and dropped to the 34th spot by lap eight. The caution flag waved for the first time on lap nine and Team Cingular pitted for four tires, fuel and several chassis adjustments to loosen up the car. The team pitted again a few laps later to top off the fuel tank in the event the race became a fuel strategy event, returning Gordon to the track in the 38th position.

Unfortunately, he soon discovered a problem with the transmission in third gear, causing the Cingular car to run slowly in that gear. There was no solution for the gear problem, though, as third gear is an essential one that must be used and cannot be corrected during the race.

Gordon slowly worked his way into the 33rd position by lap 64 of the 200-lap race before the engine in the Cingular machine periodically began misfiring. The team thought a faulty spark plug wire was to blame, but again, Gordon was forced to keep going in an effort to make it to the finish line. Team Cingular made a pit stop under caution on lap 156 for four tires and fuel, and quick work gained Gordon seven spots to the 27th position. He continued to work with third gear as best as he could, while the motor issue seemed to improve itself a bit.

The race went green through the next fuel window, as it had most of the day, and Gordon came down pit road for a final splash of fuel with 10 laps remaining. However, he exited the pit box with the gas can still in the car, generating a stop-and-go penalty. NASCAR told the team to pit on the next lap for its penalty before pit road was open. Team Cingular did as instructed but was soon told that Gordon pitted too soon and would be sent to the end of the longest line. Crew chief Kevin Hamlin made the team’s case to NASCAR that Gordon pitted when the NASCAR official in the pits instructed, but NASCAR still assessed the Cingular team the second penalty. Gordon lost several positions on that exchange and crossed the finish line in the 28th position.

Robby Gordon Quotes:
"Today was pretty much a disaster for the Cingular Wireless team. We had worked so hard and gotten into the top 10 and then turned around and ran like this. We started out the race and realized we had the wrong gear for third gear because the car just wouldn’t go in third. But our bigger problem came when the motor started misfiring. It did it for a long time, got better, did it again and so forth. It really hurt our speed and made us very slow. But when it stabilized, the car was pretty fast. I thought we had a motor issue Friday during qualifying but everything seemed to check out okay before the race. The car’s balance was good, though. We’ll just have to get past this and look ahead to Michigan, no matter how disappointed we are."