Originally created 04/28/00

Other Gordon aims to get back on track



FONTANA, Calif. -- Perhaps familiar surroundings will help put Robby Gordon back on the road to success.

The native of Cerritos, Calif., needs something to get him pointed in the right direction as he heads into Sunday's NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway.

Through the first nine events of the 2000 Winston Cup season, the former Indy-car and off-road star has not finished in the top 10 and is 37th in Winston Cup points. Worse, he has been unable to make the field for two races when second-round qualifying was rained out, and he also failed to finish two of the races he did start.

Asked to assess his season, Gordon gave it a C-minus.

"We've got to work a little harder and understand what we're doing without making the same mistakes twice."

Gordon views getting back to California as a fresh start.

"This could be a real good race for us," he said. "I don't think we'll try any harder than we do anyplace else, but it's an important race. We're kind of using it as our goalpost. Hopefully, the season will turn a little bit and we'll start understanding what we're doing a little more."

Gordon's first run in NASCAR's top division lasted only 20 races -- driving for Felix Sabates -- in 1997. During that season, Gordon crashed during practice on the 2-mile California oval, suffering a concussion that kept him out of the race.

He has run here in the CART series, but not in a stock car.

"With all the miles I did last year on the track, at least I know the way around," said the 31-year-old driver. "I know all the bumps, but that doesn't mean that a stock car is going to react the same as an Indy car."

Still, the co-owner of Team Gordon is buoyed by his return to his native state and because he and the crew got last weekend off after 10 straight weeks of racing.

"I think the weekend off allowed us to regroup," said Gordon, a partner with Mike Held and Indy Racing League car owner John Menard.

Jeff Gordon -- no relation to Robby -- will be the favorite heading into the opening of practice and qualifying today at the track 60 miles east of Los Angeles. He has won a pole and two of the first three Winston Cup races in Fontana, and was fourth in the other.