Robby Gordon bides time, sails by late wreck to win Formula Off-Road race in Long Beach

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When Sheldon Creed and E.J. Viso took each other out on the next-to-last lap of Sunday’s SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road Presented by TRAXXAS race in Long Beach, Calif., Robby Gordon couldn’t have been in a better place.

Running third at the time, Gordon, who founded the series last year, had a front-row seat to the hard racing between Viso and Creed. And when they both wrecked, Gordon sailed by to claim the victory.

“I saw what was going on in front of me and it was cool to see two great young drivers going hard and putting on a great show for the fans,” Gordon said. “That’s what’s great about these trucks: we can beat and bang and keep going which is what the fans want to see.”

A Venezuelan native and IndyCar series veteran, Viso led the most laps and finished second in his first-ever Stadium Super Trucks race.

“It was great to have E.J. a part of the series and we know Sheldon is going to be a great driver and one to keep an eye on for many years,” Gordon said.

Creed, just 16, was challenging Viso for the lead when their two trucks got together. Creed finished third, followed by PJ Jones in fourth and Gavin Harlien, just 14 years old, finished fifth.

Creed appeared headed for a fourth-place finish, but shoved Jones out of the way on the race’s final turn, a 180-degree hairpin, and moved into third.

“Had to do it,” Creed said. “Last lap and I saw an opening and had to take it. That’s what makes these trucks so awesome.”

Jones held no ill will against his opponent as they jousted around the 1.96-mile, 11-turn course.

“Well, I guess he had to take the chance,” Jones said. “We’ll do this again and I’m sure I’ll have an opportunity to make a pass like that on him somewhere down the road.”

Apdaly Lopez of Mexico finished sixth, rookie Bradley Morris was seventh, Scotty Steele finished eighth, rookie Nick Vanis was ninth and Jerett Brooks Brooks finished 10th.

The race will air on NBCSN on May 2 at 10:30 p.m. PST. The first two rounds of the Formula Off-Road Presented by TRAXXAS series will be seen this Thursday, April 17, at 10 p.m. PST on NBCSN.

The next race will be May 23 in Indianapolis.

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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne