Race/Date: Dodge/Save Mart 350/June 22, 2003
(16th of 36 races)
Location: Infineon Speedway/Sonoma, Calif.
Start Position: Second
Finish Position: First
Points Position: 13th (picked up three spots and 58 points out of
Gordon drove the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet to the sponsor’s
first NASCAR Winston Cup points-race victory in dominating fashion
in the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Speedway in Sonoma, Calif.
Gordon started on the outside of the front row
and took the lead on the second lap. He and RCR teammate Kevin Harvick
soon hooked up and ran first and second on the 11-turn road course
in the Northern California wine country. On lap 58 coming into the
tight hairpin of turn 11, Harvick dove under Gordon for the lead
but was carrying too much speed and pushed both cars out of the
racing groove. That allowed third-place Ron Fellows to take the
Being near the end of a fuel run on lap 65 and
thinking a full course caution might come out for a car that spun
at turn 7, Gordon and Harvick dove into the pits. The caution didn’t
come out until lap 71 and Gordon took advantage of the rule allowing
the drivers to race back to the yellow and passed Harvick in turn
11. Gordon came out of the pits in fifth place and Harvick in sixth
so the two RCR teams were set up to challenge for the lead when
the race returned to green on lap 75.
Gordon did just that on lap 79. He was challenged
for the lead late in the race by Jeff Gordon but Robby said after
the race that he was merely setting his pace in the Cingular Wireless
Chevrolet by how fast Jeff was going.
Gordon led 50 of the first 65 laps and 81 of the race’s 110, including
the final 32, to earn his second NASCAR Winston Cup victory. His
other victory came in November 2001 at New Hampshire International
Speedway in RCR’s No. 31 Chevrolet.
The victory was RCR’s 74th in NASCAR Winston
Cup competition and its third road course win. Its first-ever series
win came in 1983 at the now-closed Riverside (Calif.) International
Raceway with driver Ricky Rudd. The other victory came in 1995 at
Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International with the late Dale Earnhardt.
Robby Gordon Quotes:
YOU’VE SAID YOU LET ONE SLIP
AWAY HERE IN 2001, BUT YOU DIDN’T LET THIS ONE SLIP AWAY.
"I’m going to date it all the way back to 2000. We’ve been
the quickest car since about then, and we haven’t pulled the car
into Victory Lane. In 2001, we came real close, and then last year,
I was running second to Tony [Stewart] and we stuck with Tony’s
strategy and we knew at that point that we made a mistake we were
never going to be able to recover from and we finished 11th. Track
position is key here, and we had to use every obstacle we could
to gain as much track position as we could and our fuel mileage
to make it run full distance."
YOU SAID YOU HAD A PLAN YOU
WERE GOING TO EXECUTE. HOW DID THAT GO?
"Our plan was to come in between laps 26 and 36, to make our
first stop. We dictated our stops under green strategy and we didn’t
come in under any yellows. We knew that would take us to lap 68,
and if we could get to lap 68 and be the first car on the road we
could run from there home. We lived by that strategy and that paid
off for us. We just had a really good car all day long."
JEFF GORDON SAID THAT YOU WON
THIS ONE BY PASSING KEVIN HARVICK UNDER YELLOW.
"I sat and asked [NASCAR], and
it was very obvious in the driver’s meeting today, I asked ‘Are
you sure we can pass under the yellow?’ They said, ‘yeah, you can
race back to the line, just like every weekend.’ Kevin Harvick may
be mad at me, but it is what it is. To be honest with you, when
he got by me, he wasn’t going to make the corner if I didn’t move
out of the way. He would have wrecked me. Ron Fellows got under
both of us there. He took a shot at risking it, and I paid him back
under a caution."
YOU HIT THE TIRE BARRIER UP
THERE. WHAT HAPPENED? "I was
just using the whole race track. I knew that was foam and I knew
it wasn’t going to hurt me. The biggest thing here is we had to
save our tires and pace ourselves. I actually paced myself off Jeff
Gordon. There was no damage, other than a little wrinkle on the
left front. On a road course, we don’t go fast enough to make much
downforce difference. Every lap I tried to miss it [the barrier]
by an inch, and I was an inch off one time."
DID YOU ALMOST FEEL THAT THIS
WAS YOUR RACE TO LOSE?
"Not only here, we’ve been strong
many times this year. The team has been good and we were in the
top 10 a couple weeks ago. We knew if we put back the last couple
of weeks, we could probably jump ourselves back up toward the front
again. We knew we needed to come here-I think I said it three weeks
ago in Charlotte-we were going to come here and score maximum points.
That was our game plan. We just missed it by one spot in qualifying
back to the flag."
TALK A LITTLE MORE ABOUT RACING
BACK TO THE YELLOW FLAG.
"Jeff Gordon sat in the same driver’s meeting I did. I asked
the question three times and disrupted the driver’s meeting because
I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what they were saying.
They said, ‘under waving yellow, you can race back to the line until
you take the yellow. After you take the yellow at the start/finish
line, that’s what it is.’ I can’t help that I understood exactly
what the rules were and took advantage of it. Racing here at Sonoma,
it’s very hard to pass. You hear about on all the ovals the aero
push, and you get it here too. I knew if I could get track position,
we were definitely going to be the car to beat."
ON THE RADIO DURING THE RACE,
YOU SAID YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD A TIRE GOING DOWN. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
"I got a little nervous, because under the caution, we were
conserving as much fuel as possible because we stuck to our lap-68
plan. I didn’t scuff my tires because it takes energy to scuff tires.
So I probably got some buildup on my tires and it just slid around
for two or three laps on the tires. The key was, I didn’t want to
run out of fuel later, and I probably should have scuffed them a
couple of turns before we went back to green. But I thought that
saving fuel was more important at that point."
JEFF GORDON WAS PRETTY MUCH
ON YOUR BUMPER FOR THE LAST 15 LAPS. WAS HE MAKING YOU RUN A LITTLE
FASTER THAN YOU WANTED TO?
"I actually backed my car up to his front bumper, because what
I didn’t know was, at the pace we were running, if he was saving
his tires and was going to make a last-lap run at me. I paced off
his front bumper. I knew if I kept about three or four car lengths
between us going into the hairpin, there was no way he could actually
get to my bumper and knock me loose going into Turn 11."
HOW NICE WAS IT TO GIVE KEVIN
HAMLIN SUCH A WONDERFUL WEDDING GIFT
(Cingular Wireless crew chief Kevin Hamlin was married Thursday
in Napa, Calif.)? "It was great. Kevin has been working real
hard getting this program turned around. He’s had some stressful
times the last couple of years, and it’s just great that I could
put a car in Victory Lane for the second time this year with him
and prove that he’s still a good crew chief. What Kevin has been
doing is, he’s been allowing Chris Andrews, my engineer, and myself
to get a little bit on the wild side as far as setups and his experience
keeps us back inside the lines. The three of us have been working
real well on getting involved in the car and he had a plan this
weekend where he let me and Chris worry about the setup on the car
and he would worry more about how the strategy was going to work
out and help us in that fashion. I think it really worked out well.
If we continue in this direction, we’re all going to be in real