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Cingular Wireless Racing

Weekly Racing Journal

Race/Date: EA Sports 500

Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

Start Position: 20th (qualifying rained out; starting field set based on

owner points)

Finish Position: 12th

Points Position: 19th

Race Recap:

NASCAR mandated smaller, 13-gallon fuel cells for Sunday’s EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in an attempt to break up the large pack of cars, but most people thought the biggest effect would be seen in the fuel mileage game. Although Robby Gordon and the No. 31 Cingular Wireless team led 21 laps in the caution-free race, fuel mileage ultimately took them out of contention for the win.

Gordon and the other 42 drivers took the green flag Sunday afternoon with apprehension of the possible “Big One,” as they usually do at Talladega. Everyone eagerly waited to see if the smaller fuel cells would indeed create smaller packs of cars, but that wouldn’t be determined until after the first couple of pit stops.

Patiently working the draft, Gordon moved into the ninth position by lap 20. As expected, the first cycle of green-flag pit stops began around lap 31 and Team Cingular made their stop on lap 35 for fuel only. Gordon was 13th by lap 38 and was consistently commended by crew chief Kevin Hamlin for his patience on the tightly-packed race track. Gordon carefully chose his line and drafting partners and worked his way into the third position by lap 67.

Team Cingular made its second green-flag pit stop on lap 72 for right-side tires and fuel only, but Gordon lost a little time on pit road when he overshot his pit box and had to back up before his pit crew could go to work. Despite the extra time on pit road, the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet was running 11th by lap 100 and third by lap 121.

Gordon found his best groove on the bottom of the track and powered past the competition to take the lead on lap 122. He easily held that position through lap 142, when the team pitted under green on the following lap for left-side tires and fuel. Gordon was still in the top five on lap 148 but got shuffled to 11th on lap 171.

Unfortunately, Team Cingular did not get the fuel mileage they had hoped for and were forced to pit with drafting partner Rusty Wallace on lap 174 for three seconds of fuel. Several teams found themselves in the same position but the extra pit stop probably cost Gordon a top-five finish, if not a shot at the win.

Gordon fought to get to the front of the pack in the closing laps but couldn’t get through the train of cars. He crossed the finish line in the 12th position.

Robby Gordon Quotes:

“We knew we were going to have to pit that last time, so we could afford to stay on the bottom groove and we stayed there for a while. That’s where the Cingular car drove best, anyway. I think we may have pitted one or two laps too early a couple of stops before, so I wonder if we could have made it on fuel. But Kevin Hamlin and those guys are the ones figuring it and I’m sure they were right-on with their calculations.

“We had a great race car. The guys worked hard all weekend and we were good enough to lead for several laps. The pit crew kept me up front with great pit stops all day long. We had a shot at the race if we could have gotten better gas mileage. We just were about two or three seconds of fuel shy of making it the whole way. I’m not sure if the smaller fuel cells did what NASCAR wanted them to do. I do think they made it kind of interesting with the fuel mileage games. Pit strategy was huge today — guessing when to pit and when not to pit, when to take two tires and when to take none. There weren’t any wrecks but I don’t know if that’s because of the smaller fuel cells or not."