Robby Gordon Not Jeff
Robby Gordon is a man of ambition. His raw talent, openly expressed throughout his career, is one of the greatest and most sought after qualities in the motorsports industry. Robby Gordon applies himself completely to his career path with an uncommon integrity that makes its impact all the more thrilling.
Robby is often called the modern-day Mario Andretti or A.J. Foyt. He can and has driven virtually every type of racing vehicle on four wheels - a throwback to the days when racing was a passion rather than a business. He was discovered in the deserts of Baja, Mexico by Ford Racing executives at the same time he was running off five consecutive off-road championships (1986-1990). Ford later introduced the teenager to Jack Roush and the IMSA GTO series (four consecutive class wins in the famed Rolex 24 At Daytona), and he would eventually drive for such legendary owners as Foyt, Derrick Walker, Chip Ganassi, Michael Andretti, Richard Childress and others in Indy Cars, cup, off-road trucks and sports cars.
Not known for following a standard career path, Robby has climbed the ladder his way and on his terms. Today, he has reached the highest possible competitive level in motorsports and is having fun along the way. With career accomplishments dating back to 1985, Robby made an impressive mark in the SCORE/HDRA by winning the championship title four consecutive years in a row.
The year 1989 featured Robby winning the Baja 1000 in his first solo drive, four off-road truck victories for Veneble racing, and capturing his first championship for the Ford factory team. Robby enjoyed a diverse array of accomplishments in the 1990s; celebrating his first pole position in his first ARCA event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, winning in the IMSA GTO Series and the 24 Hours of Daytona, and his Winston Cup debut in the prestigious Daytona 500.
A six-time off-road champion, Robby Gordon moved to sports cars in 1990, took five GTO checkered flags in 1991 and won a Trans-Am race in 1992. He made the transistion to Indy cars in 1993, taking an offer to drive for A.J. Foyt. Two years later in 1995, Gordon took four poles and two victories in the CART series. He also proved he could drive a stock car, finishing second in the International Race of Champions series in both 1996 and 1997.
Robby's first taste of Cup racing actually came in 1991, when he entered the Daytona 500 for Junie Donlavey. Two years later, he drove the No. 28 Ford for Robert Yates Racing at Talladega in the team's first race since Davey Allison's death.
Gordon then made single starts for Kranefuss-Haas and Dale Earnhardt Inc. before signing with Felix Sabates in 1996. Gordon ran 22 races with the Sabates team over the following two seasons. Perhaps Gordon's most famous moment came at the Indianapolis 500 in 1999. After leading 33 laps, Gordon ran out of fuel while leading on the race's final lap.
Gordon's first start in the CART IndyCar series (now Champ Car) came in 1992. His first full season and Indy 500 start would come in 1993. He raced for Derrick Walker from 1994-1996, for whom he captured his two career wins. For 1998 and 1999, Gordon fielded his own team in the series with little success. During his time in open-wheel, Gordon earned a reputation as a tough and sometimes overly aggressive racer.
Arciero-Wells Championship Auto Racing Team and Precision Preparation, Inc. (PPI) announced today it has signed Robby Gordon as a test and engine development driver and consultant. Gordon, of Orange County Calif., will debut with the team at Championship Auto Racing Team's (CART) third annual spring training at Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex which will be conducted February 3 through February 5, 1998. Gordon also will compete in selected events in the 1998 FedEx Championship Series with the sponsors for this entry to be announced at a later date.
Arciero-Wells and All American Racers have been partnered as the two development teams for Toyota. Both of these successful Southern California- based teams have worked with Toyota for over 15 years in its many motorsports endeavors. All American Racers was nominated four years ago to be Toyota's CART development team and Arciero-Wells joined in this effort one year later.
"Adding Gordon as the fifth Toyota driver will be a true asset in continuing and furthering the Toyota program and getting it to the front," said Cal Wells III. "It's a natural fit. I have known Robby for most of his life and he won a drivers' championship for us in 1989. His father, Bob, drove for me and won the Baja 500 with me. Robby was just a kid winning his first Mickey Thompson Stadium Championship and was in a PPI-prepared Toyota. It is drivers to have him back. We selected Robby not only because of our strong personal relationship but because he is a seasoned driver who will help us continue the development of our CART program and the Toyota engine program. He has extensive experience working with development programs. His talent and technical knowledge will be an asset to everyone involved with the program."
"I think we have some of the finest young drivers in the world," said Lee White, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) general manager. "We already know what kind of talents we have in the returning drivers, PJ Jones, Max Papis and Hiro Matsushita. I think Alex Barron will really surprise some people. He doesn't have a lot of experience, but he's already shown us he's one of the top young Americans in the sport. Of course, in Robby Gordon we have a proven CART winner. I've personally worked with Robby at Roush Racing and there's no doubt that he's a true talent. He will bring a lot to the program, obviously from a racing standpoint, but also in Arciero-Wells testing program and in working with both Max and Hiro."
"Robby's first pro off-road win was with me," said Frank Arciero Jr. "The Arciero, Gordon and Wells families have always raced together; Robby grew up with us. He has a lot of talent and I believe he will push Max and Max will challenge Robby; this will help our racing program." Gordon's many accomplishments include two CART wins and four CART poles, as well as numerous off-road championships.
"Being on a team with the right chemistry is important in the equation and is especially important in racing," said Gordon. "I have a bond with Cal and Toyota; it is a winning combination. Cal and I have a strong personal relationship that goes way back."
PPI, started by Cal Wells III in 1979, specializes in building winning off-road racing trucks. PPI has won 23 off-road championships and now features a work force of more than 130 employees at its facilities in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Wells expanded his winning team and company into other racing venues, partnering with veteran CART team owner Frank Arciero Sr. in 1995 to form Arciero-Wells. In 1998, the team will campaign driver Max Papis in the MCI-sponsored entry and Hiro Matsutsushita in a Panasonic-Duskin-sponsored entry. Both drivers will use 1998 Reynard chassis with Firestone Tires powered by Toyota. PPI will continue its off-road racing division with Ivan "Ironman" Stewart at the wheel of a V8- powered Toyota truck in the Trophy Truck Class of the SCORE Off-Road Series. For the second year it also will enter two drivers in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship series. "Coming back to CART presents a real challenge," said Gordon. "The competitiveness, team to team, is incredible. I am going to work hard to get to the front as quickly as possible. I have had the drivers fortune to be associated with some of the best companies and teams in racing. Being back with Toyota is making my return very special. I know Frank (Arciero), Cal (Wells) and everyone at TRD is committed to the CART racing program and winning. I am glad to be back on the Championship Car circuit with this team."
Although Gordon had several cup Cup starts beginning with the 1991 Daytona 500, his first full time ride came in 1997 with Team SABCO. However, in 22 starts with SABCO, his only top-ten finish was a 4th at Watkins Glen. He returned to cup full time in 2000, attempting to run his own team. Again, the results were disappointing; he failed to qualify for several races and finished with only two top-tens in 17 starts.
Early 2000 brought Robby into the Winston Cup Series in a team he co-owned which eventually landed him the opportunity of a lifetime with Richard Childress Racing. Even more impressive than his early accomplishments was his ability to team with cup Owner Richard Childress to deliver career best finishes at a record pace. The team confirmed their ability to shine while Robby showed a new maturity and heightened confidence level when he captured his first cup career win in New Hampshire.
Robby Gordon remains secure with his alternative style and drive to become a cup champion and gain mutual respect from his competitors. His instinctive driving ability and passionate energy has gained him both massive popularity and admiration with motorsports enthusiasts. In the process of moving forward in the competitive industry, he has become aware of challenges and the joys of overcoming them. He doesn't feel like a superstar, just someone who is successful, happy and having fun. But, does Robby desire to be on the cover of every motorsports publication - absolutely!
In 2005, Gordon continued to build on his reputation as a driver with unlimited boundaries by becoming the first American in the history of the Dakar Rally (a 16-day 5,700-mile race from Barcelona, Spain to Dakar, Senegal) to win a daily stage. Gordon would complete his inaugural Dakar Rally with two stage victories and an overall 12th place finish in a field of more than 460 cars, motorcycles and trucks.
Based in Charlotte North Carolina, Robby Gordon Motorsports is home to the No. 7 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. With sponsorship for Menards, Jim Beam and Harrah's. The program will utilize motors from Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. The racecars will continue to be developed in-house at Robby Gordon Motorsports.
Several of today's young drivers are blessed with great talent behind the wheel. A few of these have caught my eye, mostly because I enjoy their driving styles. Being from the "old school", I prefer a driver with an aggressive, take-no-prisoners style. I guess that's hardly surprising coming from an old Earnhardt fan. Today, I'd like to tell you all a bit about that supposed "bad boy", Robby Gordon. I've had occasion to hear some detractive words aimed at Robby, and my desire here is to present the other side of the story and share all that I feel is right about this young driver.
Robby was born on January 2, 1969, which by my reckoning makes him only 34 years old today, but what a lot of racing he's packed into that time! His career started in 1985, when at only 16 years of age he won the first off-road race he ever entered by beating his father, Bob, who came in second. I never saw that Nevada 500, but two weeks later he managed to win his first of what would become many races in the Mickey Thompson Stadium series. The following year father and son teamed up to win four races in the SCORE/HDRA series and the Class 2 series championship.
In 1987, the pair won three more races in that series and Robby was voted Rookie of the Year. The year 1988 found him driving a Ford factory truck for Jim Venable Racing to four victories and a Class 8 championship. At the same time, he drove his own Super 1600 to a class championship in the Mickey Thompson stadium series. For a bit of icing on the cake, he was voted the Off-Road driver of the year.
In 1989 Robby won the prestigious "Baja 1000", making the 17 hour drive alone, and becoming the first driver to win the overall event in a pick-up truck, (Ford) a feat he would accomplish four more times. That same year he won six of the eight Mickey Thompson "factory truck" events in a Toyota, and was champion of that division. Oh yes, and he was once more voted Off-Road Driver of the Year.
In 1990, (still only 21 years of age) Rousch Racing signed him to drive in the IMSA GTO series with co-drivers Lynn St. James and Calvin Fish in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The trio won both! Robby also posted victories at the Meadowlands, Lime Rock and Del Mar to tie with Pete Halsmer for second place in the series. That same year he also won the SCORE/HDRA championship in Class 8 for Venable Racing. The next year, 1991, would bring more of the same as Robby again won the IMSA GTO class in the 24 Hours of Daytona, this time with partners Wally Dallenbach Jr. and Mark Martin, followed with another win at Sebring with partner Max Jones. After winning three more times, he finished second in the championship race to Pete Halsmer, by only four points. It was this same year that young Robby made his initial foray into Winston Cup, driving for Junie Donlavey in the Daytona 500, where he only managed an eighteenth place finish after spinning to avoid an accident.
1992 saw Robby debut in the CART series, driving for Ganassi Racing in seven races with a best finish of eighth (twice). Once more, he was on the winning team in the IMSA GTS (Formerly GTO) series in the 24 Hours of Daytona, this time with Wally Dallenbach Jr. and Dorsey Schroeder. He went on to win the IMSA event at Del Mar for a third time in as many years, and an SCCA Trans Am race at Long Beach, driving a Rousch Mustang in his series debut.
During the ensuing years, while he continued to race open wheel, sports cars and trucks, Robby made a few starts in Winston Cup, notably he drove the first race for the #28 Havoline team after the death of driver Davey Allison in 1993. At the end of 1996 he signed a contract with Felix Sabates and drove 22 races for Sabco Racing over the next two years, capturing one pole (Atlanta) and posting a best finish of fourth at Watkins Glen. After a few more "catch" rides, he formed his own team in 2000, running 17 races that year, the only highlights being at the road courses of Sonoma and Watkins Glen, where he managed respectable finishes of 9th and 4th respectively.
2001 saw him start the year driving for a seemingly struggling Morgan-McClure team, who informed him after five races that his services were no longer needed. A dejected Robby began to concentrate on the Indianapolis 500, which he would drive for that legendary and loveable curmudgeon, A.J. Foyt, and his brand new business partner in the person of Richard Childress, car owner for the late, great Dale Earnhardt. Strangely enough, the still grieving car owner and the young driver took to each other almost immediately, in what Robby has described as the turning point of his career.
It was my seventh Indy 500, and I was in my element I had never so much as sat down with Richard before then, but we had a blast. He saw that I was committed to my racing program, and we hit it off. We both speak the language of racers.
For Richard's part, he had this to say, "I saw how well he and A.J. worked together, the respect they had for each other and how drivers Robby was with the press, the sponsors and the fans. It was a totally different Robby Gordon than I had seen or how people had described him. Everyone knows he has great car control and the ability to win. He's a talented driver, and he has great feel for any car he climbs into."
Over that summer, Robby filled in at two races for an injured Mike Skinner, then driver of Childress' #31, and when Skinner left the team for knee surgery after the Dover race, the ride went to Robby since it had already been announced that Skinner's contract would not be renewed. By the end of 2001, both Robby and the #31 team had their first Winston Cup Victory, coming in the final race of the season at Loudon New Hampshire.
Last year, 2002, appeared to be one of "growing pains" for the teams at RCR. So much so in fact that Richard decided that a radical change was necessary, and literally swapped the teams of Gordon and his teammate, Kevin Harvick. From my point of view, that had to be a plus for Robby, since it put him with the crew of the late Dale Earnhardt, arguably the best in the business.
So far, the win at Loudon remains Robby's sole victory in Winston Cup, but as of now he holds a very respectable 13th place in the points race. At the last race, in Richmond Virginia, we watched him come back from being three laps down to place fourth. This year Robby will once again "do the double" which means he'll race in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on the same day. He has already qualified on the outside of the front row (3rd) for the 500. There is a lot of talent in this young man who seems to be able to drive anything, anywhere and do it well.
The problem is I'm really not a bad boy, I'm just not afraid to be aggressive. I just want to race, and I want to have fun. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't be doing it. My few months at RCR have been great and have been different than my past rides. I've got a ton of respect for Richard Childress. How can you not have respect for a guy that has won six Winston Cup, one Busch and one Truck Series championship? The guy's a winner. I have the same respect for Richard that I have for Derrick Walker -- the same respect I have for Cal Wells. Richard and those guys live and breathe this sport -- they live racing as much or more than I do. There are not many guys who can say that. Richard is a great influence on me and helps bring out the best in me. He believed in me and knew I could win in cup, and I did.
Robby Gordon is leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season to drive for what he hopes will be his own Nextel Cup team in 2005. Gordon was co-owner of a short-lived Cup team in 2000 with John Menard and Mike Held. Gordon then drove for several teams in 2001 before winding up with Childress and winning the season-ending race at New Hampshire. That victory earned Gordon a full-time ride with RCR. Gordon, who has run a part-time Busch Series schedule this year with his own team, said he has been putting the pieces in place for a Cup team for most of 2004.
Now is the time for me to start my future as an owner at cup's highest level. We don't have anything to announce yet for next season. We hope to make some announcements soon.
Gordon and Childress both said the parting is amicable, although the owner put the former open-wheel racing star on probation after he started a crash at New Hampshire in September that seriously damaged the championship hopes of title contenders Tony Stewart and Jeremy Mayfield. "He has won three points races, a qualifying race at Daytona and has had a lot of drivers runs for RCR since 2001, but sometimes change is drivers," Childress said. "Robby is a true racer and I will always be grateful to him for what we've been able to accomplish together and for the positive things he brought to our organization."
At 5' 10" tall and 180 lbs. Robby off the track, nicknamed "Flash," enjoys boating, mountain biking and waterskiing. Residing in Cornelius, N.C. and Anaheim Hills, California, Robby's controversial recent history in the sport makes it is not too surprising that Childress would be willing to turn him loose. Robby has found a new car owner that will have a hard time firing him. Robby will be driving for himself as he will be both the owner and the driver for the team. The more I think about it, perhaps it might be a drivers thing to be a Robby Gordon fan.
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