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Cingular Wireless Racing
Weekly Racing Journal

Race/Date: Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400/Nov. 9, 2003
(35th of 36 races)
Location: North Carolina Speedway
Start Position: 17th
Finish Position: 20th
Points Position: 16th

In the beginning laps of Sunday’s race at North Carolina Speedway, it appeared Robby Gordon and the No. 31 Cingular Wireless team would post at least a top-10 finish as Gordon continuously ran laps as fast as, and sometimes better than, the leader. But the combination of pitting right before a caution came out and another car forcing the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet to brush the outside wall resulted in the Cingular Wireless team falling two laps down. Despite these circumstances, the Cingular Wireless team did not give up. Instead, the team and driver fought back with a mix of pure persistence and patience that resulted in Gordon finishing 20th, still holding onto 16th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings.

Gordon started the race 17th and did not let a slightly tight-handling race car keep him from moving up to 11th place by the time the first caution flag was displayed on lap 84. Just before the yellow flag waved, Gordon radioed his team the Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo was coming to him, so crew chief Kevin Hamlin decided to not make any changes to the machine, taking four tires and fuel only. After the Cingular Wireless pit crew clocked a 14.79-second stop, Gordon was back on track, still in the top 15, when racing went back to green on lap 90.

Just after dodging the second accident of the day and putting up another excellent 13.74-second pit stop, the Cingular Wireless team was approaching lap 100 in 11th place and making a strong charge toward the front of the field. Then, the No. 99 car began to spin, forcing the No. 31 Chevrolet to brush the outside wall to avoid it. Gordon pitted so his team could assess the damage and pull out the left and right-side fenders of the race car. No major damage seemed to have been done to the Chevy, except the loss of valuable track position. The Cingular Wireless Chevrolet was 29th when racing resumed on lap 106.

Although Gordon was back up to speed by lap 200 and running inside the top 25, the loss of that vital track position put him in range of the fast-approaching leader. Nearing lap 239, the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet was 17th, but the tight-handling conditions seemed to be returning and were worse than Gordon first encountered earlier in the race. Struggling with the difficult steering, Gordon was lapped. He radioed his crew he wanted to short pit, pitting before the scheduled and necessary time, hoping that would give him the ability to get back by the leader. So the team pitted on lap 241 and Gordon was on his way off pit road when the seventh caution flag of the day was displayed, putting the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) Chevrolet two laps down.

With less than 100 laps to go, the earlier brush with the outside wall seemed to come back to haunt the No. 31 Chevrolet as Gordon reported the toe was off, and as the sun began to set, the tight handling continued to worsen. The Cingular Wireless team did not give up and managed to post a top-25 finish among a field in which only 10 cars finished on the lead lap.

Gordon Quotes:
"We had a good race car today and that is what made everything that happened so frustrating, but I guess what really matters is 20th is not that bad, especially for being three laps down by the end of the day. In the beginning the car was a little tight, but it really came to me, then we were forced into the wall, and in the long run, that really messed up the toe of the car. One thing is we were two laps down there and the Cingular Wireless team did not give up. These guys kept me going and keep me going every week. I just wish I could get a better finish for them. Hopefully, we’ll get that strong finish in Homestead."