NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 1
Topics: Gatorade Duel
February 23, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
ROBBY GORDON: Did you thank me for the parts department at midnight every night?
MICHAEL McDOWELL: You guys probably don't know much, but a lot of these small teams work together. We don't have the resources. We have six guys at the shop, if we need something, we can go over to Robby's and borrow it. And JTG pitted my car today. It's cool to see. This community has changed over the last few years in the sense that there's not an abundance of people, an abundance of funds, an abundance of parts. It's fun to see everybody working together.
ROBBY GORDON: Yeah, I'm really happy for these guys making the show. Our shops are maybe, if, a mile apart. I've got a nice parts department that's open 24 hours.
KERRY THARP: Also racing his way into Sunday's 54th running of the Daytona 500 is Robby Gordon. He drives the No.7 MAPEI/Menards/SPEED Energy Dodge.
Congratulations on getting into the 500. Talk about what that means to you as a driver and team owner.
ROBBY GORDON: It's big for us. We were in a position last year, kind of sounds crazy, but I've won IndyCar races, we've won NASCAR races, we were in a position, we didn't have funding to race all the races. We found ourselves outside the top 35.
Making the Daytona 500 is the big event for NASCAR racing. When you look at it, besides pure speed, I think three guys make it on speed, obviously Terry takes a past champion, which I still disagree with that, I think that should be based if you were with that team when you won the championship, not because you won the championship you're in. That takes a spot from teams that are working really hard, working hard to get into the Daytona 500.
Rules are rules. We made it fair and square to be fast enough. Proud of the guys, proud of the team, excited to be in the Daytona 500.
Q. Robby, your sense about the way the race started for you. You saw smoke coming out. Were you concerned it was the engine?
ROBBY GORDON: Well, what it was, it looked like when they changed the oil, we change obviously between qualifying and racing, and when they changed the oil, the bottom of the radiator tray gets a lot of seepage of oil into the foam. As we went at speed, we were running hot yesterday in practice, so we changed it last night and added some oil to it, changed the weight of the oil.
It was in that tray. It was splashing up onto the motor. I'm like, Oh, man, this thing is going to blow up. It kind of played into my hand because when the race started, I didn't know if I should go balls to the wall and make sure we run at the front, take a chance of being in one of those wrecks, or be around for the last dance.
Every time we come to restrictor plate races, we're usually around for the last dance, and when we are, we got a pretty good shot of running up front. It was good for us, good for our team, and it's big to be in the Daytona 500.
Q. First of all, you didn't consider pitting there at the start because of that? Second, you said on TV earlier, you were running hot most of the day. What are you thinking there? Did you think you were going to have to do something different? Do you think that's going to be a problem on Sunday?
ROBBY GORDON: Well, we're going to obviously have to do something on Sunday. This is our motor that we do with Arrington. If we can get a Penske motor for the 500, that's going to be the number one priority from here to the 500. For Dodge, it's the right thing. There's only three Dodges in the race.
At Talladega with the Penske motor, we were strong. I don't know if Roger is going to give us one. I know he's not going to give us one, but we'll pay for one. But if we can get one of their backup motors, we'll be better for the race.
Now we made the race, you're going to get 260 grand, I'll write a big check to Roger to get a motor. It's not like you keep the money at the end of the day in this sport.
Q. You've had a rollercoaster last few weeks, everything that happened down in South America. Are you ready for a calm Daytona 500? What are you hoping for on Sunday?
ROBBY GORDON: My life right now, there's never a calm day (smiling). I think if you have a calm day in life today, in this economy, you're going to get passed. You better be on the gas every day. That's what we're doing.
Go back to South America, we had the fastest cars down there. I'm really proud of that, proud of the guys for doing that. It's amazing that a small little team can take on a factory team like we did, or factory teams.
Q. Even though you had to kind of conserve everything with the engine running hot and all that, what was your perspective of how everybody raced with these rules, what do you expect to see on Sunday?
ROBBY GORDON: You know, we don't make the rules. Obviously, we play by the rules. I think right now the grill opening is too small. I don't know if other guys are running 230 all the time. We were 230 to 250 all the time on water temperature. Even if I pulled over, I couldn't get it down.
An engine is happy at 220, 210. I think we might be too small of an opening to do that with the size of the radiator. We're doing all we can do, like all the teams. We're working as hard as we possibly can.
Most important thing for me, I didn't care if it ran 300 degrees the last few laps, we were going to do anything we could to make the Daytona 500, which is what we did. I think when we crossed the line, it was 265 or it was about 300.
Q. I talked to Terry about why he parked it. He said that was the only car they had, they needed to save it for the 500. Does that change your opinion at all as another small team? What do you think the role should be for the past champs again?
ROBBY GORDON: Obviously I got a lot of respect for Terry. This is not a Terry Labonte thing. There's only eight cars that make the Daytona 500. He takes one of those spots, now seven guys make the Daytona 500. Four make it on qualifying races, three make it on speed. We're a small team, too. I guess I should hire Kurt Busch and I could put my other car in the show, too.
It's just not right. Why take a free ride when the rest of us have to bust our butts to get into the 500?
It is what it is. It's the rules. Like I said, we don't make the rules, we just play by them, and sometimes you can manipulate them.
Q. Robby, with all the racing you do, the variety, the history you had with it, how do you rate racing your way into the Daytona 500?
ROBBY GORDON: I get this top 35 rule. I've been out of the Daytona 500 before. When I started my race team, I believe it was 2005, we had Jim Beam here, great sponsor. I finished I think fifth or sixth, seventh, exactly what I finished today. They'll probably readjust it a little bit. Exactly what I finished today in 2005, and we went home.
It's crazy that you can actually finish seventh in the 150s, which would put you 14th on the grid, you load your stuff up and go back to North Carolina.
I've been in that position and I get it. I'm not complaining about the rules. It's really tough these days to get in. That's the point I was trying to make, not so much Terry Labonte, 32 car. I don't really care about them. I focus on our 7 car. Just try to do the best we can and win the Daytona 500, so I'm really proud of my guys.
Q. Michael said they got six guys at the shop. What is your team?
ROBBY GORDON: Do you want to count the receptionist, parts lady/merchandise sales? Do you want to talk about the marketing guys or the person that makes the decals part‑time? We have about 10 people that do a lot of jobs. Not only do we race racecars, we're building the brand of SPEED. There are different groups in different towns that do that.
We're down to seven or eight guys now, too. It's not that there's good guys out there. It's the fact there's no sponsors out there. Without sponsors, you can't hire people.
We're in a bad state right here. It's tough. It's really, really, really tough. We don't have anybody on the hook.
Q. Do you have people that go across from your off‑road team to NASCAR or are they so different you can't actually float people back and forth with the teams?
ROBBY GORDON: I'm glad you asked that. On the off‑road team, except for when we go to Dakar, we take 21 guys to Dakar and hire guys for the month. When we normally race off road, there's three guys. The guy that makes Water Jet that makes the parts that we ship back and forth across the country, and the machinists, are about all guys that go back and forth, except when I take some of these guys to Dakar. We're doing all we can to make the thing go full circle.
I say it's working. We're not comfortable doing it, but it's working. We're still racing, putting ourselves in a position to win races. We just made the Daytona 500, so I'm really, really proud of the guys that are working at the shop. You hear people complaining about working 40, 50 hours a week. Shit, my guys work half a day every day. That's 12 hours.
KERRY THARP: Robby, congratulations on making the Daytona 500 and lots of luck on Sunday.
ROBBY GORDON: I'm proud to be here, proud to be racing the Daytona 500. Thank you.
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