Robby Gordon: “This year could be our time” in Dakar Rally

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Since he first started taking part in the Dakar Rally in 2005, former NASCAR and IndyCar competitor Robby Gordon has netted nine stage victories but has yet to conquer the world’s most grueling race.

But Gordon, perhaps the most well-known American set to race in this year’s Dakar, could be set for a breakthrough with the help of what he’s calling the most technologically advanced machine that he’s ever built – a V-8 powered HST Gordini SUV that sits on 37-inch Toyo Tires.

And combined with the experience of his team, Gordon’s confident that he can better his career-best overall Dakar finish of third in 2009.

“I feel more prepared than in any of our previous trips to the Dakar Rally,” Gordon said in a release earlier this week. “Since our first race in 2005, where we accomplished our goal of becoming the first American to win a stage, our focus has been on winning the overall title.

“I believe with the experience we have, and the new car we have built, this year could be our time.”

Last year’s Dakar was a frustrating one for Gordon. Despite claiming two wins and 10 Top 5 finishes in 14 stages, issues such as a transmission problem in Stage 1 and a rollover in Stage 4 relegated him to a 14th-place overall finish – not bad in a field of 153 cars, but not what he was hoping for, either.

But Gordon has moved on and is looking ahead to another chance at Dakar glory.

“Racing is full of ‘what-ifs,'” Gordon said. “Like anything else in life, you learn from your mistakes and move on to the next challenge. We learned a lot about ourselves over the last 10 stages last year and it gives our team tremendous confidence returning to Argentina.”

The rally will begin Sunday in Rosario, Argentina and will run through Jan. 18. NBCSN will broadcast daily highlights of the 2014 Dakar starting this Monday, Jan. 6.

Supercross: Talon Hawkins to debut in Houston in relief of Jalek Swoll

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Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.

During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.

That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.

This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.

Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.

“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”

Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.