Gordon holding his own in tough race | NevadaAppeal.com

Gordon holding his own in tough race

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

Last week I mentioned that Robby Gordon was about to start the Paris-Dakar Rally, arguably the toughest test of man and machine in the world.

As of last Thursday night, Gordon was running 44th overall after the sixth Special Stage. That position would be a non-qualifier in a Nextel Cup race, but with an eye-popping 574 entries (including motorcycles, cars, trucks, and specialty vehicles), 44th is pretty good! The race is scheduled to end January 15 (next Sunday), so Gordon will show up late for NASCAR’s official Daytona test session. Not to worry, Champ Car start Paul Tracy, who has made no bones about his desire to move to stock cars, will handle the beginning of the test session for his former open-wheel rival.

“It helps me out and it helps him out, it’s a win-win situation for both of us. It lets him work around NASCAR when he’s not testing his Champ Car,” said Gordon.

Back in late 2005 we mentioned that NASCAR veteran Terry Labonte would start the 2006 season driving for the new Hall of Fame racing team, an offshoot of Hendrick Motorsports owned by former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Labonte’s past champion status will ensure starts in those races, giving the fledgling team an opportunity to build up enough owner points to guarantee a starting position at the remainder of the races on the schedule.

In addition, Labonte will appear in 10 races with his old Hendrick team, in a farewell tour titled “Shifting Gears – Lone Star Style.” The latest of the long-time NASCAR veterans to hang up his helmet, Labonte has had a 28-year Cup career and has scored a pair of championships, in 1984 and 1996. The November 5 Texas race will be Labonte’s swan song.

Another veteran who has been making only sporadic cup appearances for the past couple of seasons is Bill Elliott. “Awesome Bill” will appear at the Daytona 500 this year, but not in a Ford or a Dodge, his normal rides of choice. No,

Elliott will drive a MB2 Motorsports Chevy at Daytona with a primary sponsor yet to be announced. The 1988 Cup champion has won the fabled race twice, in 1985 and 1987. For Daytona Elliott will be teamed with Joe Nemechek and Sterling Marlin, and will drive the No. 36 car that will be campaigned by Boris Said in selected races this season.

The field for the Rolex 24 hour endurance race at Daytona will be even more star-studded this year than last. I have already written about some of the heavyweights from NASCAR and the open-wheel series that have announced their participation. Here are some more.

Paul Tracy (see above) will be aboard a Daytona Prototype Lexus Riley, teamed with three road-racing veterans. He will be joined by two other Champ Car regulars, Justin Wilson and A.J. Allmendinger, also running a Lexus Riley. And the darling of the Indy Racing League 2005 season, Danica Patrick, has accepted an invitation to join the Daytona Prototype Pontiac Crawford team of Rusty Wallace, Allan McNish, and Boris Said.

It will be Patrick’s first time in the 24 hour classic, increasing the number of IRL series drivers in the race to nine. The others are series champ Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon, Scott Sharp, Buddy Rice, Bryan Herta, Alex Barron, Dario Franchitti, and Patrick Carpentier. IRL team owners Eddie Cheever and Adrian Fernandez will also drive in the event. Gee, I wonder why Michael Andretti is sitting this one out.

Finally, the IROC (International Race of Champions) invitational series will hold one race on a road course in honor of the series’ 30th season. The first IROC season began in the fall of 1973 with three races on the same weekend at Riverside Raceway, and ended on the Daytona road course in February of 1974.

I was fortunate enough to be a turn marshal at Riverside that first IROC weekend, when some of the legends of motor sport participated: A.J. Foyt, David Pearson, Richard Petty, Mark Donohue, Emerson Fittipaldi and Al and Bobby Unser to name but a few. It will be good to see the series back on a road course for the first time since the 1991 round at Watkins Glen (Rusty Wallace won that one).