Racingone On One: Robby Gordon

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Following a strong performance at Atlanta on Monday, which ended as a result of a late race pit stop for fuel and subsequent speeding penalty, Robby Gordon has turned things around in 2006. He took time on his way to Bristol to talk to RacingOne about last week's race, the future of his race team, and various other subjects.

RacingOne: How does it feel to be closing into a top-35 spot?

Gordon: We’ve had a good year so far, it’s been a lot of fun. Obviously making the Daytona 500, finishing in the top-15 and running inside the top-10 was good for us. We were good in California and in Vegas and obviously in Atlanta we were good at the last race.

I feel good about where we are at. I wish…We should be higher in the points than where we are at, but it’s that time of year when you have a bad day like we had in Atlanta, you fall hard.

RacingOne: Did you take any positives out of last week’s race or is everybody bummed out because of the overall result?

Gordon: I think there were a lot of positives as far as morale goes around our race team. And personally with our performances lately, we are excited about going to the race track because we are competitive. I think we found a recipe that works for me as far as driving and setup. I’m hitting it off really well with my crew chief and things are starting to flow.

RacingOne: What happened during the closing laps at Atlanta (where he had to pit from third place) – was it a fuel mileage issue?

Gordon: We didn’t think we could make it (on fuel). For some reason, the other three DEI cars (Editor’s note: DEI supplies engines to Gordon), they felt they could make it and they did – and we felt that we were definitely going to run out.

RacingOne: Was that a gamble on their part?

Gordon: We were sure we were going to run out, they got better gas mileage than we did.

RacingOne: Was that just ‘one of those deals’ with the engine?

Gordon: I don’t know. We were running faster than them at that point in the race, so maybe we were burning more fuel, I don’t know. Kasey Kahne, all of us, stopped at the same time there at the end, and we felt that we were four laps short. After we stopped, we were just waiting for more of them to come and they never came.

RacingOne: It’s been a good season since the switch from Menards to DEI engines, Do you think that has helped you this season or is it because of the experience from last season that your team is performing so much better?

Gordon: I am going to point it towards the team more than even the engines to be honest with you. The engines are good that we are getting from DEI. We had some reliability issues, but as far as power wise, we were pretty good last year. We would race ourselves into the top-10 but we wouldn’t be there at the end of the day. I think we have worked really hard on our car and our equipment and now with DEI powerplants, we are making it to the finish as well.

RacingOne: This is the last race where you won’t have to worry as much about qualifying since you will be inside the top-35. What would you tell drivers outside the top-35 after this week?

Gordon: Well, I’ve lived it. I understand what it’s like. There are a lot of guys in our sport that don’t know what it’s like to load up your stuff and haul back to the shop and try to keep the morale up in the race team – and that’s the hardest thing to do. We were able to keep our team together last year, able to keep our sponsors and I am really proud of where we are at.

This year we have come out of the box in a respectable form, I would say. Obviously we haven’t won a race, and racers aren’t happy unless they are winning, but we are definitely respectable and presentable at the racetrack this year and our results are starting to speak for themselves.

RacingOne: At Daytona, you told me that your goal was “to make the ‘Chase.’” Many people back then would have scoffed and laughed at that, how does it feel to have so many people on your bandwagon now?

Gordon: It’s pretty cool. When you can look at your team and honestly believe that when I show up at the racetrack, and I do believe this – look at last weekend, that we can compete with the Evernham’s, the Hendrick’s, the DEI’s and the Richard Childress Racing’s. I worked for Richard for three years, and I am going to credit some of our success to what I learned from him working there.

We are continuing to go forward every week. We are getting more competitive, we are better prepared, our systems are in better place and we are just not falling out of races now. That’s half the battle.

Coming into Bristol, am I excited about starting 39th if we get rained out? Absolutely not. But at the same time we are starting, we’ll score points here in Bristol, go on to Martinsville and move up the grid as far as how we line up in the garage area. When you line up next to those cars, you see more things. You get more time to go through tech, there is a lot of time that we have missed practice at California and Vegas this year due to not getting through the tech line fast enough because being lined up 39th going through the tech line.

That is going to help us be a better race team as well.

RacingOne: Would you consider going to a multi-car operation?

Gordon: We are currently looking at a two-car situation right now. I think that is our goal at the end of this year. We are building a new race shop, we are expanding our company, and we need to be in a position to run two cars come 2007 so we can learn more information and we can be better prepared. Half our cars we won’t even be able to use next year, so if we can split them up so that it’s half for one and half for the other and build all new cars, that would help us.

RacingOne: What will be the emblem on the front of those cars…Chevrolet or Toyota?

Gordon: At this time and day, I am not 100% sure what that is going to look like. I am pleased with where I am at right now with Chevrolet. We are catching on to the Monte Carlo for sure as a race team, but it does all change next year, even for Chevrolet. It’s another new body, another new template, another new way of tuning the race car that we are going to have to learn as a race team.

RacingOne: What about the impact Alan Kulwicki had on you?

Gordon: He was the ‘little guy that could.’ We are kinda in that same boat right now. We are up against some elite teams and we are starting to make our mark. Obviously Alan has won championships and won more races than we have as an owner-driver, but we are definitely competitive and we are putting ourselves in front of that door and hopefully it’ll open up pretty soon and we’ll find ourselves in Victory Lane.

RacingOne: Is the confidence building?

Gordon: I have always kinda had the confidence, I believe you have to have the confidence if you are going to take a step like this. I think two years ago when at the end of the year at RCR and we went in different directions, people looked at me as if I had three eyes. But I have built race teams forever, we built all of our own road-race cars, and we’ve won cup races with now – off-road championship teams where we’ve built the entire vehicle. Stock cars are just another vehicle. Obviously everything gets tuned a little bit different, but we are starting to understand what it takes to tune this car to be competitive against the top teams out here.

RacingOne: Talk about the partnership this weekend.

Gordon: We’ve got Energizer on board this weekend, which is a relationship through Menard’s. John Menard and Menard’s stores, which for people that not familiar with them they are the third largest home-improvement store in this country and they are based in the Midwest. It’s been an IndyCar supporter for years, and in 2000 when I first came into stock car racing he was one of our supporters. He is still a supporter of ours, they are a great company, and they open up a lot of opportunities for us and Energizer is one of these opportunities where they’ll be on the hood of our car this weekend.

RacingOne: What is the state of the Red Bull sponsorship?

Gordon: Red Bull has been a great supporter of mine for years, it started as an off-road sponsor – they still sponsor our Chevrolet trophy truck that we run in the Baja 1000. Our Red Bull deals go though the end of 2006. I know they are starting their own team in 2007, I know those guys very well and I am confidant they will do a pretty good job on it.

RacingOne: Is it your dream to go back and win the Indianapolis 500?

Gordon: We talked about this at Daytona, it depends on how competitive we are. Right now, I honestly believe we can win races right here in stock cars and I would hate to dilute that at all. Let’s stay on track with the stock car program and obviously we’ll run the off-road at the Baja 500 and Baja 1000, but besides that it’s full steam ahead with the No. 7 Chevrolet.

        

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