Sat Nov 02 2013 19:59:56 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Beccy Gordon gets her shot at Long Beach.
Robby Gordon's sister, primarily an off-road driver, will be in Saturday's Pro/Celebrity race.
Beccy Gordon just might be an accident waiting to happen Friday on the streets of downtown Long Beach.
It's not that NASCAR driver Robby Gordon's sister, one of the competitors in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race, can't handle a race car. In 2006, the Dana Hills resident teamed with her sister Robyn Gordon and Heather Bonnani as part of All American Girl Racing and finished the Baja 1000 while competing in the Baja Challenge division. That made them the first all-female team in the race's history to complete one of the most grueling endurance tests in motor sports.
The way she learned how to drive, though, is as untamed as the terrain in the Mexican desert that she conquered two years ago.
Passing is not something that happens a whole lot in off-road racing. But whenever she happened to come up on a slower driver, she gives them a tap, a signal to let them know that it's time to move over and let her by.
Those kinds of tactics, though, might not play well on a narrow, twisty street course, like the one she will have to navigate today during today's qualifying session, which will set the starting lineup for Saturday's 10-lap race.
"I guess I will have to do some of that … bumping on Saturday," she said with a laugh. "I have been pretty clean in practice, but we will have to see what happens on race day."
This whole experience, Gordon said, has been "surreal." She's getting a chance to drive on the same streets on which Robby finished third while driving in the featured CART Champ Car race during the 1994 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
While her brother drove for Toyota, she kept pestering the Pro/Celebrity folks to give her a chance in their extremely popular race. And finally she's getting a chance.
But she's not just in the race. She is considered one of the pros, so on Saturday she'll have to beat defending NHRA Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon and Mike Skinner, who drives in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series like Robby, to win her class.
"I really can't believe this. I mean to be considered a pro … it's a huge honor," said Gordon, who was a part of the United State national softball team that traveled to the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.
But being considered a pro is also a huge disadvantage for her because she will be starting 30 seconds behind the celebrity field, which includes Raymond Cruz ("The Closer), William Fichtner ("Prison Break") and Wilmer Valderrama ("That '70s Show").
That's a lot of time to give up for someone like Gordon, who never has done anything like this. Still, she hasn't ruled out winning the whole thing.
Her strategy: Keep Skinner in sight.
"If I can do that, then maybe he will make a mistake and then who knows? I think I can find a way to keep up with him, I will be fine," Gordon, 29, said. "But I am here to win. There's a difference between drivers and racers. Anyone can drive. It takes someone special to go out there and race. And if I am racing in it, I want to win it."
Besides going through the Pro/Celebrity training camp at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park in Rosamond, she's been driving go-karts with her boyfriend and IndyCar Series driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Just like Gordon's brother, Hunter-Reay has driven in the big race during the Grand Prix of Long Beach, so he's given her pointers on where to brake and shift on Long Beach's 1.968-mile street course.
But she will have to go it alone on race day. Hunter-Reay will be competing in the Indy Japan 300 in Motegi and her brother is in Hungary and Romania, driving his Hummer in the Central Europe Rally. It's a make-up event for the Dakar Rally, which was scheduled for January but was canceled because of terrorism concerns in Mauritania.
"Finally, I get my chance to race in Long Beach - and where are Robby and Ryan? My two biggest sources for info this weekend will be out of town," she said.
But her brother is going to be there for her this year in the Baja 500 and 1000. He's letting All American Girl Racing use his buggy, which she said will likely be entered in Class 1."But we keep pushing him to let us use his Hummer," she said. "Maybe if he brings it back in one piece from the rally, and it's just sitting in his shop in Anaheim, we might have a shot at racing it."