Gordon Makes Coca-Cola 600 Field
May 25, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
CONCORD, N.C. -- Robby Gordon was well rested and feeling good Thursday, mainly because a software program his crew designed helped him relax.
Gordon is trying to become just the third driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. A poor qualifying effort for the 600, Sunday's second race, almost ruined his chances.
But instead of trying to figure out how he could participate in Thursday's Carburetion Day in Indianapolis, then race back to North Carolina for a second day qualifying attempt, Gordon just punched some numbers into a computer and waited for the results.
The computer program told him no matter what, he'd get into the Coca-Cola 600 on a provisional - a free-pass into the race based on owner's points standings.
So Gordon decided late Wednesday night to stand on his time for the 600 and flew to Indianapolis relaxed and ready to go. After Carb Day he made it back to Lowe's Motor Speedway in time for the afternoon practice session.
"I felt great because I knew we were in," Gordon said. "I slept great, got about eight hours of sleep and then didn't get up until 9 this morning. Then I had a good Carb Day at Indy and a nice flight back here."
The only flaw in the new computer system was that it didn't tell Gordon which provisional he would get. Turns out he got the sixth of seven provisionals, meaning he'll start 42nd in the 600.
"That's a little disappointing, but that's the way it goes," said Gordon, who will start fourth in the Indianapolis 500.
"It's two different things. Put Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the pole here and he'd be 33rd down there."
Earnhardt is indeed on the pole for Sunday's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, although his car wasn't nearly as dominant Thursday as it was when he won the pole a day before.
Earnhardt was only the 20th fastest car in the afternoon practice session when he ran 175.707 mph on the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked tri-oval.
The fastest car of the day belonged to Stacy Compton, who ran a 178.873 in practice.
The slowest car belonged to Darrell Waltrip, who failed to qualify for the final 600 of his career. Waltrip, who has six career wins at the track, is retiring at the end of the year.
Bitterly disappointed at failing to make the 43-car field, Waltrip lashed out at the second-day qualifying process.
"I wish just one weekend, just for an experiment, just for fun, make everybody out of the top 25 qualify over and see what happens," Waltrip said. "You don't ever have a shot the way it is."
The current format has the first 25 positions in the 43-car field set in first-round qualifying. Those outside the top 25 have an option of trying to improve their fast lap in the second round or keep their time and hope it's good enough.
Most of the time, the 26th- through 36th-fastest opt to stand on their first-round times without fear of being bumped from the race. The final seven positions in the field are filled with provisionals.
Waltrip was one of just six cars to try to qualify on Thursday. Of those, only Compton and Mike Bliss made the field - and used provisionals to do so.
"Oh yeah, this one hurts," Waltrip said.
Others failing to qualify Thursday were Steve Grissom, a fill-in for Kyle Petty, Ted Musgrave, Ed Berrier and Dave Marcis.