Robby Gordon wins NASCAR road race

Posted: Monday, June 23, 2003

SONOMA, Calif. This time Robby Gordon finished what he started, outracing Jeff Gordon on Sunday to win the Dodge/Save Mart 350.

Jeff Gordon, a three-time Infineon winner and no relation, looked for a while as if he might win. But Robby Gordon held off the four-time Winston Cup champion by 0.553-seconds about four car lengths in the battle of Chevrolets.

Two years ago on this same road course, Robby Gordon dominated only to see Tony Stewart slip past. Later that year at Watkins Glen the only other road course on the 36-race schedule Gordon was again the best car but lost an almost certain victory when the in-car camera battery exploded and started a fire.

On Sunday, he led three times for 81 of the 110 laps on the 1.949-mile, 11-turn course, including the last 31 laps. It was the second NASCAR victory and first on a road course for the former Indy-car star.

''I don't think there was any luck here today,'' Robby Gordon said. ''We had a plan and we stuck to it all day. We stopped when we wanted to stop and the strategy just worked out perfect.''

Jeff Gordon never led but pressured the leader after passing Rusty Wallace for second place on lap 86.

''We had the fastest car at the end,'' the runner-up said. ''Robby wasn't very good, compared to us, but he was good in the right places, the places where you can pass,'' Gordon said. ''This is a tough place to pass.''

Jeff Gordon, who moved past Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take second place in the standings, didn't want to take a chance on wrecking.

''We've got a points battle on the line here,'' he said. ''I thought, 'If I get a really clean shot, we'll take it.'''

Kevin Harvick, Robby Gordon's Richard Childress Racing teammate, wound up third after battling with Gordon in the early going. The teammates pitted under green on lap 66 and briefly fell well back into the field. Harvick beat Gordon back onto the track.

It stayed that way until rookie Christian Fittipaldi hit a tire barrier and brought out a yellow on lap 71. Gordon took advantage of the situation to pass Harvick as they raced back to the flagstand to take the caution.

Jeff Gordon was critical of the move.

''Really, that's what won him the race,'' Gordon said. ''You just don't do that. You don't pass a guy under caution. He did everything right today, except that. What he did can be done, but there's not going to be too many guys going to have too much respect for him.''

Robby Gordon said NASCAR made it clear that the drivers would be allowed to race back to the flagstand on cautions.

''I asked the question at the (prerace drivers') meeting three times. They said it was just like every other week,'' he said. ''Kevin Harvick may be mad at me, but it is what it is. I don't see what Jeff Gordon has to do with this.''

Harvick's only comment on the pass was, ''It was good hard racing except for that chicken move under yellow.''

Bill Elliott was fourth, followed by Ryan Newman. Wallace slipped back to eighth.

During the early stages of the race, Ron Fellows and Boris Said, road racing specialists hired just for this race, appeared to be fast enough to challenge Robby Gordon and Harvick.

Fellows slipped past both Gordon and Harvick under breaking on the hairpin 11th turn on lap 57, but both he and Said, who started from the pole, lost their shot at the win when they got caught out by pit strategy and wound up having to pit at the wrong time. Neither was in contention again, but Said finished sixth and Fellows seventh.

Matt Kenseth finished 14th and his series lead was cut to 174 points over Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt, who came in 185 points back, finished 11th and slipped to third, two points behind Gordon.

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