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Wednesday, February 13

Robby Gordon
RCR teams working well together
By Robby Gordon
Special to

Robby Gordon
It's hard to believe the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season is already underway here in Daytona. It seems like yesterday the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team was celebrating its first win at New Hampshire.

Although the off-season was short, it provided some much-needed time for the Cingular Wireless team to prepare for a new year. Winning at Loudon, N.H., was a huge momentum-booster for this team and the guys are more motivated than ever. It makes it easier to keep working all those long, hard hours at the shop when you can say your team was the last to win a race.

A lot of people ask me how my life has changed since winning in November, but in all honesty, my personal life is very similar. It was a good confidence-booster for me to finally get my first win in my 62nd Winston Cup start. We've got a new sponsor with Cingular Wireless and they are behind us 100-percent this year. Cingular is all about self-expression and most people know that I don't lack in that category. I think it's a pretty good deal for everyone involved.

It's not like the Cingular team is starting from scratch this season. I ran 10 races with the No. 31 team last season and we had some ups and downs. We start off the 2002 season as race winners, but we could have easily won three races last year. We were extremely strong at Watkins Glen, N.Y., and everyone knows about the infamous telemetry box incident that all but took a win away from us. We were pretty strong at Phoenix and that was only my second race with my crew chief Gil Martin and we're gelling more and more with each week.

Qualifying has always been my weak spot and the guys are working hard with me on that. We did some testing over the winter and made some strides. I guess that was most evident with the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet's sixth-place qualifying effort last Saturday for the Daytona 500. We still have to race in the Gatorade Twin 125 on Thursday, but we are locked into a starting spot for the Daytona 500.

I couldn't be happier with my car here at Daytona and I'm expecting great things out of this weekend. With the rules changes this season, everyone is reverting back to their notes from two years ago. RCR has a notebook as thick as anybody's full of information about Daytona. Daytona is all about the team and the car they build for the driver. If the guys do their homework and you roll off of the truck good on the first day, you're probably going to be off to a good start.

This weekend's race should be a really exciting and fun-filled one. The Daytona 500 has been known to go down to the last lap so many times that it's hard to make predictions ahead of time. The key to doing well is knowing when to make the move for the front. The cars run so close to each other in restrictor plate racing, but this aerodynamics package will spread them out a bit -- but not much.

The drivers will still go through the middle three-wide and there's nothing you can do about that. Good pit stops are also crucial to putting the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet up front and keeping it there. How many times have you seen a car that got out of sequence on pit stops and couldn't catch back up with the draft? The poor guy just rides around by himself and usually gets lapped.

All the RCR teams are off to a great start here at Daytona. We all qualified in the top 10, which just goes to show how well Richard's new project is going. During the off-season, he moved all three Winston Cup teams into one building while we await the completion of the new building. All three cars are built the same and we share the same information at the track, starting with our test at Daytona last month. It paid off and helped us kick off the season in the right fashion with excellent qualifying efforts.

If we keep on doing what we're doing and working as one team, hopefully one of the RCR cars will pull into Victory Lane at Daytona. But it's no secret that I'd really like it to be the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet.

Robby Gordon drives the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. He will be providing a diary to throughout the Winston Cup season.

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