Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on June 12, 1995 · Page 45
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 45

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Monday, June 12, 1995
Page 45
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troit Grand P r i x j 0 E n d . . , . n I 7 Charlie 5 1 t1 Vllfllll.IV i 4 ..c ? Vincent rs I i ii r il s weekend ' a smashing success Somebody in my childhood fibbed to me. I don't remember if it was my dad or a mechanic somewhere or just the guy who pumped my gasoline. But I always lived by the words. "Once a car is wrecked," I was cautioned, "it is never the same." In the bump shop, they can bang away on it. Straighten the frame. Knock out the dents. Give it a new paint job. , , They will tell you: "See, it's as good as new," I was cautioned. Don't ever believe it, was the advice I received. Wreck a car, I was told, and the only thing to do is trade it. Get rid of it. Let it become someone else's headache, because, though it may once again look as good as new, it never will be as good as new. ; I've lived by those words. Robby Gordon doesn't. And neither does Derrick Walker. Gordon treated this weekend at Belle Isle as if he were here for a Demolition Derby instead of the Detroit Grand Prix. He is young and impetuous and faster than the wind. Just about the first thing he did after showing up at the track Friday was drive his Reynard-Ford into a wall. They towed it back to team owner Walker's garage area. They hammered and sawed and changed things. For all I know, they called Western Auto for replacement parts. Around the pits Friday afternoon, people were . shaking their heads. , . , ; " We couldn't believe he went out there with the track that green, with no rubber down or anything and pushed it that hard," said the member of one of IndyCar's top teams. : Gordon's crew put all the parts back together and when it came time for the first round of qualifying Friday afternoon, he slid back into the cockpit and avoided the walls long enough to post the time that earned him the pole for Sunday's race. Nice work, somebody said. Yeah, said a skeptic, but it cost them half a car to ' achieve it. Hey, said Gordon, that's the way this game is played. "The guys did a good job," he said. "They told me if I crash, they'll put the car back together any day if we can put it on the pole or win the race." Throttled again Saturday with just minutes left in the final round of qualifying Gordon brought his car out of the pits for a final hot run and collided with Michael Andretti, who claimed he was on his quickest lap of the day. s Back to the garage. Back to the yellow pages, I guess, to look up that number for Western Auto again. Or maybe this time they called Murray's Discount. Back to the wrenches and lug nuts and midnight oil. , Back to putting together the car for the second time in 30 hours. When Gordon showed up at Belle Isle Sunday morning, there was that red-white-and-blue racing machine sitting under the Walker Racing Team tent, looking as good as new. Yeah, looking as good as new. But how could it possibly run that way after hitting a wall Friday and another car Saturday? Gordon took it out for a test drive, just to get a feel, just to check the handling, just to see what the repair work had done to the way the car drove. And within minutes, he drove it straight into a wall of tires. It was only hours before the start of the Grand Prix and there sat Gordon and his car, wrecked for the third time in three days. "A cable got kinked for no reason," he said, pointing out, "when the throttle sticks, it's very hard to stop these cars." So it was back to the garage. Back to the tool box. A little more screwing and hammering and ratcheting. And when the race began, there was Gordon and his much-repaired car, at the head of the 28-car field. Survival of the fastest The machine looked as good as new, but in the back of my mind were those words from so long ago, spoken by I-remember-not-who, but taken as gospel all these years. And as it turned out, the 1995 Detroit Grand Prix was a wreck waiting to happen, and waiting impatiently. Just 13 laps into the race, Alessandro Zampedri and Eddie Cheever wrecked their machines and ' were done for the day. Christian Danner and Carlos Guerrero collided 23 laps later, reducing their cars to junk. Eliseo Salazar and Parker Johnstone smashed their cars a few minutes later. Bobby Rahal retired with a hole in the side of his car, the visible evidence something foreign had punctured his radiator. And Teo Fabi went 'round and around with the dark smudgy imprint of someone else's tire on the nose cone of his car. But Robby Gordon and his remade racing machine steered clear of all the trouble. After hitting a wall, a car and a bank of tires in three days of practice, he navigated 161.7 miles in heavy traffic Sunday and didn't hit a thing. "We struggled a bit this weekend," he said, in a classic understatement. "And maybe some of the crashes were my fault ... but everybody has to put what happened all weekend aside, because it didn't happen in the race. When you're going that fast, stuff happens." The car that wasn't supposed to be the same after the abuse it had endured finished ahead of everybody else Sunday. Somebody in my childhood fibbed to me. After falling behind on the ninth lap, pole sitter Robby Gordon charged to the front on lap 43, and then it was .Follow . . ,,.tfu':,''tv-'Ki!W,s'. A HI' 1 - :;.-.. JOHN COLLIERDetroit Free Press ; Robby Gordon was leader of the pack for 43 of Sunday's 77 laps around the Belle Isle circuit. He remained out front for his second victory of the season. Gordon unsurpassed in final 35 hps on the island by Steve Crowe Free Press Sports Writer If you like parades, if you like Americans finishing up front, if you like leaving more than 30 laps early, then you must have loved Sunday's Detroit Grand Prix. If nothing else, the 77-lap IndyCar Series event on Belle Isle's 2.1-mile course was orderly. It finished with the top seven cars as they were 34 laps earlier with none having changed position in between. And that was fine with Robby Gordon and team owner Derrick Walker. After a weekend of run-ins with the wall, another car and a stack of tires, Gordon and his rugged Reynard-Ford Cosworth started from the pole and finished .345 of a second ahead of second-place Jimmy Vasser's Reynard-Ford. It was the best IndyCar finish ever for Vasser, who was followed across the line by Scott Pruett, Michael Andretti and defending series champ Al Unser Jr. For the first time since last fall, the top three finishers were Americans. At Vancouver last September, Americans Unser, Gordon and Andretti took the top three spots. And until Sunday, Americans had not produced a l-through-5 IndyCar sweep since 1992 at Monterey, Calif. Andretti, Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Eddie Cheever and John Andretti. Sunday's win was the second this year for Gordon, 26, and the second of his young career; he also was a winner in April on the one-mile Phoenix oval. Sunday's victory was worth at least $105,000, Marlboro's THE TOP 10 1. Robby Gordon . 2. Jimmy Vasser 3. Scott Pruett 4. Michael Andretti 5. Al Unser Jr. 6. Adrian Fernandez 7. Teo Fabi 8. Paul Tracy 9. Jacques Villeneuve 10. Emerson Fittipaldi Complete results, Page 8D. ON PAGE 8D ei Vasser happy with best-ever IndyCar finish. b Robby Buhl, from Grosse Pointe Shores, wins Indy Lights race. o "Indiana Jones" tops celebrity field in Neon race. rollover bonus for winning a race from the pole. The fund was last drained by Paul Tracy for winning from the pole last October at Monterey. Regular IndyCar race winnings are announced only periodically. Perhaps more important, it tightened the top of the IndyCar standings considerably entering the next event, June 25 at Portland, Ore. Gordon, who entered Detroit trailing Jacques Villeneuve by 22 points, cut it to 79-75 Sunday coupled with the latter's ninth-place finish. Behind them are Pruett (66), Unser (61) and Tracy (57). Depending on who you talked to, Sunday's racing was either brilliant or boring. "There was a heck of a race going on behind me," said Gordon, who led a race-high 43 laps the last 35 and first eight. "I definitely had my mirrors full." Indeed, the finish produced a tight top five. Pruett was just .79 of a second behind Gordon, then Andretti (1.05) and fifth-place Unser (4.03). Thirteen of the field's 28 cars finished on the lead lap. "The fans didn't see a lot of passing," Pruett said, "but you don't see a lot of passing at the Daytona 500 NASCAR race, either. When the leaders get up front, you see those guys in a train for the most part lap after lap after lap. "What's exciting is it's close, hard-core racing. What becomes boring is when you have a guy in first, miles ahead, a guy in second running by himself, and a guy in third maybe having a scrap with somebody. Now that's boring." Several track changes aimed at improving passing produced less-than-spectacular results, and there was noticeable crumbling of asphalt in spots. "But when you have guys going at it like today," Pruett said, "it has the fans on the edge of their seat, just waiting for somebody to make a dive on the inside or something. You could never say it was over." After 42 laps, Andretti's day took a' downturn during a pit stop under yellow,! when his Lola-Ford Cosworth stalled. The 15 or so extra seconds it cost meant a drop from third to sixth on the Lap 44 restart. ; "It was a tough weekend," said An-; dretti, whose Saturday pursuit of the pole; suffered from a crash with Gordon late in; qualifying. He started sixth Sunday. '. "I feel if I had started on the pole, the race would have been a different race. ...'. He (Gordon) got the breaks on the yellows.! They pitted early and would have had to pit again, and then that last yellow." ; The final caution period Laps 49-55 for a wreck involving Eliseo Salazar and Parker Johnstone allowed Gordon to conserve precious fuel. Gordon last pitted after 37 laps. ' ! v f i ;' !ma ' :. . ': . . . . p . M hi .-.i.. i..' il t.,..,. -,. L ......... ft...:.. iat. . : t ; .1 V ' i: : r.'jv . ' - There was a heck of a race going on behind me. I definitely had my mirrors full. Robby Gordon It's an all-American final three as, from left, Jimmy Vasser, Robby Gordon and Scott Pruett top off a grand day atop the winner's podium. JOHN YOUNGBEARDetrott Free Press iirtfmriH-'ifitirii. ffltarni' ntJiiWWrliiHI.iiiTiiTl-Vi,nTrtiiiwnirOTii"i,8iIiWirn mi' m-Ti if r rt rr-r i-iT1 - - I'r-frr 'TTVur 'if r-ii-"TTffi' mi -fl i-" i7i-r"J-.' rr ff-rri rT1i -Trfl" -" -i r- .-li " " " r"-Yrn'Yri -nti rrT". -rr '"vnW'TTcti 'nit ii fr--i' wii-rvi- TnTfii,i1 ,Lm rf r'rj.iWi'r'Mii iniT"TW try T t

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