Single-seater ace turned NASCAR star Robby Gordon will attempt the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 'daily double' for the fifth time in his career this 25 May, racing during the day at Indy and in the evening at the Winston Cup Series race in Charlotte.

Gordon, who has previously raced at Indianapolis with the likes of AJ Foyt and the Menards team - and memorably ran out of fuel with two laps to run in 1999 - will be lining up alongside Michael Andretti, Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon in the Andretti-Green Racing team this season, having been drafted in to replace the injured Dario Franchitti on the eve of practice.

Q:
Robby, I know you have been at the Indianapolis quite a bit, but I suppose you are going to tell me you still get butterflies when you go out on the grid?

RG:
I love the Speedway. I said, at the Brickyard, that I wake up for this place. And you know, we finished eighth at the Brickyard 400 last year, and we finished at eighth at last year's Indy 500, so we are closing in on to figuring out how to set up the Winston Cup cars as good as I have the Indy cars figured out. But the Brickyard is a very special place to me.

Q:
You seem like you like it....

RG:
I love that place and, every opportunity I get to go there, I am going. I am going to race.

Q:
Robby, how close was it getting to the point you did not think you were going to have a ride here?

RG:
I had a couple others, fairly close. I was kind of, how do I say it in a nice way, I was holding out for the best opportunity, and I feel this was an opportunity that I could win at. You know, the team still has a lot to do with the whole programme. It is not just about the driver. I have a lot of respect for Kim Green and Kevin Savoree and, obviously, Michael Andretti as a race car driver. Now I am the driver for him as a team. But I know how Kim and Barry have run that team. I am sure it has not changed very much, and Michael has some great people onboard there to help him.

Q:
Robby, did they call you or did you call them?

RG:
Actually, Kevin called me, and I called him back before I even got his message, so it was all about the same time.

Q:
And was this one of these things that, when you got the call, you realised they were interested?

RG:
It took about, to be honest with you, it took about ten days to get the thing done. So, from last Friday - well, actually, we got it done Thursday night. It was ten days prior to that we were talking about the programme.

Q:
But I have been in situations where someone has called me with a deal. and I knew the negotiations would have to go on, but there is that initial thing that says 'I am going to make this work; one way or the other I am going to make this work'. This is what I need. Did that pop in your head?

RG:
That was me. I definitely wanted to make the programme work right from the get-go.

Q:
I wanted to ask you this Friday when you announced this whole deal, but I did not get a chance. A lot of people were making kind of a lot about your and Michael's kind of relationship there from what happened at Cleveland in '95. Were they over-blowing that, or have you guys all ready buried the hatchet on that thing and moved on?

RG:
You know, that is the one thing that I think a lot of people probably misunderstand about race car drivers. We race cars for the moment, okay? When you get out of the car, your heat is for that moment; when it is all over, it is over. You know, you cannot dwell on it forever. Michael actually told Kevin this, it is coming to you third-hand. But one of his partners, I believe he is a partner or he is a business manager for him over there at Andretti Green, said 'this is going to prove that I am a pretty good team owner because I am willing to hire a guy that I have had feuds with in the past, but I know the guy is competitive.' And I give him a lot of credit for that.

Q:
There are some people out there in the garage saying that, you know, Michael is saying he is not even going to talk to you on this team, and that that was one of the conditions that he would bring you on the team - that he does not have to talk to you if he does not want to.

RG:
No. Just so you know, we have had numerous telephone conversations over the last ten days. My wife had conversations with Michael directly, and I see zero problem whatsoever with Michael Andretti and myself.

Q:
And how about John Andretti? Have you talked to him since then?

RG:
I saw what John said, okay? And I am sure you guys have seen what John said. And all I want to say to that is I would never wish for one of my fellow competitors to get hurt so I could get the ride.

Q:
It started with Michael where at Cleveland,? When he gave you a flat tyre and you ran him into a wall or something?

RG:
No, we bumped tyres after the race was over, okay? And he did give me a flat tyre during the race. And you know what? People do this all time in Winston Cup...

Q:
But when it is Michael Andretti or Dale Earnhardt Jr and Robby Gordon it seems to get a lot more blown out of proportion. Does that make sense?

RG:
It does. You see it happen week in and week out. I mean, guys get mad, and they go yell at each other in the garage. It is not really that big of a deal. And this is the point I was trying to make. I think that Michael obviously is a very good businessman, has done very well over the years, and I am proud that he could hire me as a driver even after us having feuds in the past.

Q:
I just wanted to ask, did you happen to get to see Mario's slide in testing last week on television and what your impressions were?

RG:
Unfortunately, I have not seen it. And I do not know why I have not seen it. I have not been watching TV at the time it has been on. But I am very happy that he got out of the thing okay. From what everybody tells me - and sometimes you hear from one person and it gets exaggerated - but it sounded like a big, big flip. Mario is very fortunate to get out of there safe. And that does concern me a little bit going in there. I mean if just a little piece of debris like that will catch enough air and send that car over like that.

Q:
I know you have not had a chance probably to even be anywhere near a Dallara-Honda, but what are you thoughts about that package and trying out that at the Speedway?

RG:
Very excited. One, Honda goes racing with the right attitude, in everything they have ever competed in. They have not won the Indianapolis 500, but they have come close. With Scott Goodyear, I mean they came very, very close, but they have not won the Indianapolis 500. So I know the effort that they are going to put behind this package, and I am honoured to be driving for one of their teams.

Q:
Do you think it will take you long to get your feet wet, you know, get your feet wet again and get used to the whole package of an open-wheel car?

RG:
Well, I think the biggest thing is that I do have all week. And I have learned from mistakes in the past. My very first time I showed up at the Indianapolis 500, I wanted to be quick right out of the box, and I crashed AJ's car. I have not, knock on wood - I am going to knock on some wood under the table here - crashed a car at the Speedway since. I give that to the lessons that AJ taught me back then about the Speedway. You do have to respect that place. If the car gets loose a little bit, you have to come in and work on it and make the car handle. You cannot manhandle a car around the Speedway. You can for a couple laps but, when it bites you, it bites you hard because of the speeds that you are travelling.

I am going to back to the Speedway this year in the same way I have gone ever since that very first year with AJ. We do not have to be the fastest car the first day. We do not have to be the fastest car the third day. We need to be very quick on qualifying day, but still there is no reason to risk everything to crash the car for qualifying. And the key is to make the car handle and try to have a very tuneable, well-balanced car for the race. If you do that, you are going to be there at the end, and I think my record over the past, does not matter what team it is been, even when I drove for AJ back in 2001, we led the first 27 laps. We had a good race car until the motor blew up.

Q:
Let's go back to the comment that you made after Mario's thing you that were just a little concerned that a little piece of debris might put enough air under that thing to send you over. What do you do to push that into the background? What do you have to do?

RG:
Well, I do not know what Mario's car was feeling like at that point. Mario did not crash. That is the first thing. This was not Mario's fault. If you have a piece of debris there... I do not know if the car was trimmed out in qualifying mode, I think he was all ready up to 225.9 or maybe even 226, but I am not quite sure of those numbers. And I think what happened, although I have not seen the car, from what people tell me he hit the fence and was 20 feet off the ground and all this stuff. I have not seen a car that high off the ground at the Speedway as long as I have been going there. And I have been going there since '93, so in ten years.

It does concern me, but I will give you my opinion why I think that - all it is is an opinion, it is no other reason. Back in '93, '94, we were making 850 horsepower, 900 horsepower. Now we are going there with less horsepower and almost running the same speeds, and what is happening is we have trimmed all the downforce off these cars to get back up to speed again. So now they are real light on their aerodynamics. So, when they lose their tunnels, they take off. That is just my feeling, that is not being an aerodynamic expert. We would have to get somebody to come in and analyse that a lot better than I could, but I am just giving you my feeling of why we are still almost as fast we were with 300 horsepower less.

Q:
How much of a difference is there from when you are driving that heavy stock car all the time and you get down into that little 1500-pound IndyCar Series car? How long does your seat get to really feel good about that?

RG:
Well, when I showed up in 2002, I was comfortable by the second day. I mean, even though I was comfortable the first day, man, it is just a different a feel, and it takes a little while. Once I caught on and then went back and forth, I was able to switch back and forth very quick, fortunate enough that I could start and have five days of good IndyCar Series running.

Q:
You mentioned just a while ago that you are going to make sure you get the extra sleep and try to be as fresh as possible for those two races. What else do you try to do, physically, to prepare yourself and mentally to prepare yourself for such a long day? Will you do extra roadwork in the next few weeks and stuff like that?

RG:
Yes, I have, and I will continue to. One thing I will say is that it has taken me a while to get back to a good fitness level, and I feel I am almost to a good level right now. There is more to go before being 100 per cent ready for the 500. I broke my ankle last year, in September I believe, and it was four months of missing real exercise because I broke both ankles, not just one of them. But now I am back to the point where I can run and exercise. I do not feel fatigued at all even after like last week at Fontana, my car did not handle that well and I was hustling it all day long, got out of the car and still felt pretty good.

Q:
You know, you drive 500-mile races all the time in NASCAR. Why do they talk about Indy being so gruelling?

RG:
Indy is gruelling because the g-forces are higher, the side-load g-forces. And the other thing is it is still a survival race. These Indy cars are just more than half the weight of a Winston Cup car. The IRL has done a very good job with the engine specs. We have more cars finishing now than we used to. We have less transmission problems because we are not making the horsepower. You see a lot less mechanical failures, so it has become a little bit of a sprint race, but you could not race the Indianapolis 500 like a sprint race or you will end up in the wall. It is that simple.

I mean, I can name guys - actually, I do not want to even name guys. You can go back and look at guys that have led the first part of the races and end up hitting the wall. I think it happened again last year. So the deal is you have to pace yourself, and that is something I think that my NASCAR side can even help me more on the IndyCar Series side.

Q:
Are you more tired after Indy than you would be after a NASCAR race?

RG:
I will tell you, after last year's Indy 500, I was like normal, like I did not do anything all day long. You do have to be in the best physical shape, it is endurance. It is mental. It is recovery time. There are a lot of things that you have to be able to do quickly, that your body has to be able to do. And I got out of the IndyCar Series car last year, and I felt great. But I got in the Cup car and got a cramp in my stomach. So those are the things I am going to learn from mistakes and try to be better this year and work on my stomach muscles because it is a different, it is a different g-load than you get loaded in that IndyCar Series car then a Cup car.

We pull similar g's, but some of our courses are banked a lot higher than Indianapolis - Bristol and places like that. We have big banking so we get lateral g's or we do not get as much lateral g's, we get vertical g's pushing down into the bottom of the seat. It is different than an IndyCar Series car where you run on a flat racetrack and it pulls you sideways. So I do work a different stomach muscle, and I probably did not even notice it at the Indy 500, but then I went to the Coca-Cola 600, and my stomach got sore halfway through the race. And I got sore right underneath my left-side ribs, I got a cramp in there. And that could be from dehydration. I mean, I have asked endurance doctors what you could do to be better for that, and the key, he said, was he did not see anything wrong, he felt that I needed to not miss the IV. I did not take the IV last year so this year I will definitely take it. And that will help, for sure.

Q:
The first time I saw you race was at Mid-Ohio in 1989 with Jack Roush Racing. The hood blew off of your Mercury XR7, and you still finished second. I guess my question is, you kind of cut your teeth on endurance racing in sportscar. Do you think that helps you mentality when you approach these 500-mile races?

RG:
I think it does, for sure. It definitely helps because even my off-road was endurance racing. In my younger years, I always thought I could overdrive the car and make up a difference, which I can make up a little difference, but the key is working on the car to get the car to better. And that is something I have learned the last few years, probably the last five years. And I think that is made me a better race car driver, maybe a better race driver for the Indianapolis 500 as well, because I said earlier, you cannot manhandle the car at the Speedway because it will bite you, and when it bites you, it bites you big.

MC:
Robby, you addressed a little earlier the amount of time it takes to adjust from your Winston Cup car to the IndyCar Series car, and you mentioned that you cannot really carry an IndyCar Series for too many laps. But, come race day, you get out of your car here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you jet back to Charlotte, change driver's uniforms, and you hop in your Winston Cup car. Is there an adjustment period before you get a good seat-of-the-pants feel for getting back in the car that is pretty familiar to you?

RG:
Actually, there is, but you catch on real quick. I have to go to the back of the pack because I miss the driver's meeting at the NASCAR race. So, when I fall to the back, I get a couple of laps by myself to get the feel. I can only use last year as an example. I was 43rd and, by the time the first pit-stop came, I was fifth at the Winston Cup race. So I was able to move through the pack that good after getting straight out of the IndyCar Series car and into the Winston Cup car. And I think you just have to understand what the capabilities are of each car.

MC:
Well Robby, we certainly appreciate you taking time to join us today and wish you the best of luck in all your racing endeavours coming up during the month of May.

RG:
Thank you very much.