NASCAR drivers who still don’t like the new qualifying system should count their blessings after hearing what happened to former NASCAR driver Robby Gordon.
Gordon had to sit through one of the longest qualifying sessions he’s ever experienced in his off-road racing career, waiting for nearly 90 Trophy trucks and off-road buggies before he had a chance to hit the track and lay down his qualifying run Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s Mint 400 outside Las Vegas.
Believing in the old saying that “good things come to those who wait,” Gordon was one of the last qualifiers on the grid and ultimately wound up with an outstanding run that placed him third in Saturday’s starting lineup.
Gordon and his No. 77 SPEED Energy/Toyo Tires/Traxxas truck overcame difficult desert track conditions – not to mention countless ruts left by those who went out in front of him – to cover the 3.4-mile track layout in 3 minutes, 12.943 seconds.
Gordon was less than three seconds off the qualifying runs of pole sitter Dale Dondel (3:10.295) and second-quickest Bryce Menzies (3:10.850).
Based upon the race’s rules, Dondel has the front row all to himself, while Menzies and Gordon will be side-by-side in Row 2. The Mint 400 consists of four 100-mile laps, with drivers not only racing each other, but also racing against the clock.
The race begins later Saturday at 4 pm EDT and will likely take longer than six hours to complete.
Taking the checkered flag in just over six hours, five minutes, Gordon won the 2012 edition of the Mint 400 (did not compete in last year’s race), while Menzies won last year’s event.
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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.