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Cingular Wireless Racing

Weekly Racing Journal

Race/Date: NAPA Auto Parts 500/Oct. 27, 2002

Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway

Start Position: 20th (starting field set based on owner points after rain cancelled qualifying)

Finish Position: 20th

Points Position: 20th

Race Recap:

Last year, officials at Atlanta Motor Speedway re-scheduled Sunday’s NAPA 500 from the final race of the season in order to avoid the usually rainy weekends in November. October is supposed to be the driest month of the year in Atlanta but Sunday proved to be nothing but a rain-filled ending to a wet weekend.

The inclement weather hurt Robby Gordon and the No. 31 Cingular Wireless team both during qualifying and the race. Team Cingular was very strong in Friday’s practice session but rain forced the cancellation of qualifying and the starting field was set based on owners’ points.

Rain began falling as the race kicked off Sunday afternoon but conditions were good enough to continue racing. Gordon moved into the 15th position by lap 12, although the car’s handling was tight. The Cingular team pitted on lap 21 for two tires, fuel and chassis adjustments to loosen up the car. Quick work in the pits gained Gordon three spots and returned him to racing in the 12th position. But the rain soon was too heavy and NASCAR displayed the red flag after 26 completed laps.

Almost two hours and 20 minutes later, the track was dry enough to resume racing, although a light sprinkle continued to fall. That light sprinkle remained the entire race — each and every lap. Gordon soon moved into the 10th position but the Cingular Wireless car got too loose and he fell to the 18th position by lap 85. Team Cingular pitted on lap 90 under green for four tires, chassis adjustments and fuel. Those changes helped a bit but since the sun had set and the teams were essentially competing in a night race, Gordon continued to struggle with the set-up. Team Cingular made chassis adjustments during the next couple of pit stops but really hit on something during a pit stop on lap 234. Gordon soon radioed in that the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet was much better and he began passing cars. Gordon’s lap times were among the fastest on the track. But the rain got much heavier around lap 243 and NASCAR called the race after the completion of 248 laps. Gordon crossed the finish line in the 20th position.

Robby Gordon Quotes:

"The Cingular Wireless team just can’t catch a break lately. We were good in qualifying trim but didn’t get the chance to qualify. Then we weren’t very good in the beginning of the race but Kevin Hamlin and the guys worked hard on the car and got it much better. We really dialed it in on the last stop and started posting lap times as good as the leaders. But the rain just wouldn’t cut us a break. We really didn’t want to see the race end early because we had something for the competition there. We had a top-five car when it was all said and done. But now we need to go into these last three races and do our best to pick up some spots in the points and hopefully take the Cingular car to Victory Lane."