Jimmie Johnson pays tribute to Robert ‘Baja Bob’ Gordon, a former desert teammate

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CHICAGO – Jimmie Johnson has fond memories of Robert “Baja Bob” Gordon. He learned the feeling was mutual in a Thursday phone call with Robby Gordon, offering condolences on his father’s death.

“He said, ‘My Dad was so proud of you. He used to brag that you rode with him in desert cars,’ ” Johnson said, recalling the conversation with Gordon while meeting reporters on the Chase for the Sprint Cup Media Day. “But he didn’t go into anything emotionally. He just said that his dad was a big fan. It made me smile a little bit, but it’s still just complete and utter shock.”

Robert Gordon, 68, and his wife, Sharon, were found dead Wednesday by police in a house in Orange, California. The causes of the deaths haven’t been determined.

Gordon was the father of NASCAR and IndyCar winner Robby Gordon and Beccy Hunter-Reay, who is married to IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“Baja Bob” was a legendary off-road racer who put Johnson, a fellow Southern California native from El Cajon, in his first desert ride in the Baja 500. It was a memorable ride for the six-time series champion, who became an off-road champion before heading to NASCAR.

“I did know that I had a motion sickness problem riding in a car,” Johnson said. “And I rode in the Baja 500 and puked, literally, for 499 miles. My dad was in one of the pit stops, and we stopped and I’m just covered in vomit. And he’s trying to pull me out. But I wanted to race so bad I didn’t care how bad I felt. I said, ‘I’m staying in this race car. I’m not getting out.’ I made the race, but it wasn’t pretty.”

Johnson said Bob Gordon drove half the race.