The #039;other#039; Gordon wins Dodge/Save Mart 350

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 23, 2003

SONOMA, Calif. -- Robby Gordon knew he had to get in front of teammate Kevin Harvick to win the Dodge/Save Mart 350.

So, Gordon ignored an unwritten rule to pass Harvick under caution and went on to the victory at Infineon Raceway.

The move also drew a fusillade of criticism from four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon, who chased the unrelated Robby Gordon to the finish of Sunday's race.

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''Really, that's what won him the race,'' Jeff Gordon said. ''You just don't do that. You don't pass a guy under caution. He won the race fair and square except for that move right there. What he did can be done, but there's not going to be too many guys in that garage area who are going to have too much respect for him.''

NASCAR had no argument with Gordon's pass. A NASCAR spokesman said it was made clear in the pre-race drivers' meeting that racing back to the finish line under a waving yellow would be allowed.

''Do you think I really care what Jeff Gordon says?'' Robby said. ''He's won enough races. I guess he just doesn't like it when someone comes in and rains on his parade a little bit. 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 wound up third.

The controversy arose when the teammates stayed on strategy and pitted under green on lap 66 and briefly fell well back into the field. Harvick beat Robby Gordon back onto the track even though Gordon smoked his tires trying to get out ahead.

Harvick stayed in front of Gordon 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 sat in the same drivers' meeting as I did and I asked the question three times during the meeting to have the rule clarified,'' Robby said.

Jeff Gordon said Robby broke a gentleman's agreement not to pass for position under yellow.

''On a waving caution in a corner you can pass if you happen to be making a move on a guy, but that's not what happened because he about did it the caution before that,'' Jeff Gordon said. ''In that situation, we kind of maintain our position because you don't know what's on the track.''

Harvick heard what Jeff Gordon said, but his only comment on the pass was, ''It was good hard racing except for that chicken move under yellow.''

Controversy aside, the victory was particularly satisfying for Robby Gordon, a former Indy-car star who had two NASCAR road races slip through his fingers in the past.

Two years ago on this same course, Gordon dominated only to see Tony Stewart slip past when Gordon wasted time trying to keep Harvick a lap down.

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.

''I don't think there was any luck here today,'' 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.''

Robby Gordon led 81 of the 110 laps on Infineon's 1.949-mile, 11-turn road course and outraced Jeff Gordon over the last 25 laps to earn his first NASCAR win on a road course and second overall.

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.' I ran all over him hoping he'd make a mistake, but he didn't.''

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. 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 back, finished 11th and slipped to third, two points behind Gordon.