1989 was Robbie Gordon’s big year in the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group Stadium Racing. Not only was it his rookie season in the Grand National Sport Truck stadium series, but he took home all the marbles at the end of the year as the series driving and manufacturers’ champion for Toyota
The event at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, Calif. was a typical event that year, with Gordon being shut out in the heat races, but winning the Main event in the final race of the night in front of 42,300 screaming fans.
But, there was no question that most of the people in the stands were there because they came to see Robby’s teammate, Ironman Ivan Stewart, who was the hometown San Diego hero. Team Toyota had a solid following as long as Ivan was part of the team. He had won the first two championships in ’83 and ’84 and was a household word among off-road fans.
The outfit that Mickey Thompson himself had founded in 1983 was on a big roll as two weeks earlier at the season opener in Anaheim, an attendance record for off-road events was set when the MTEG group packed the stands with 65,000 spectators. 1989 was MTEG’s eighth season, and in their success, they added two more venues, the New Orleans Superdome and San Francisco’s Candlestick park to the season schedule.
Back to Jack Murphy action—in the first truck heat, Roger Mears rolled and trapped Robby and his Toyota behind him while the competition went around. After the mess was cleared up, Robby did his best to get back out front, and in the process the rough driving committee penalized Robby two positions and Walker Evans (Dodge) and Rob MacCachren (Jeep) one position each. Teammate Ivan won the heat.
In the second heat, Danny Thompson started in first, but Ivan Stewart got around him on the second lap. Driving “Like a man possessed” as some put it, Stewart kept the lead all the way to the finish. It looked like Ivan was going to sweep the heat races and maybe the main, like Robby had done in Anaheim.
As the trucks went back to the pits, crews worked feverishly replacing suspensions, tires, and fiberglass body parts, and sometimes entire engines and transmissions. In the meantime, the Super 1600 buggies, Ultralites, motorcycles and Quads kept the crowd entertained until the big race at the end of the evening.
For the Grand National Truck main, nine trucks lined up for the start but minus Roger Mears, who had blown an engine in the second heat.
Robby Gordon soon took the lead by passing two competitors, but was relentlessly chased by Glen Harris in his Mazda. Robby kept things clean and didn’t get into any mixups and went on to take the checkered. Harris took second, and David Ashley (Ford) edged out Danny Thompson in his Chevy for third. Ivan Stewart had worked his way up through the field and was on Harris’s rear end when mechanical gremlins put him out of the race. To point out the ferocity of the competition in this main event, only five trucks were running at the end.
Robby accumulated enough points during the season and went on the win the driving and manufacturers championship for Toyota that season . After a couple seasons in stadium racing, he went on to successful competition in CART, NASCAR, Paris-Dakar and SCORE events. In 2013 he started his own Stadium Super Trucks series at venues across the USA.