IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2003-03-05

Indy Racing League Notebook McGehee soars with Blue Angels; Johncox boosts Infiniti Pro Series team INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 5, 2003 -- 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year Robby McGehee took a 45-minute flight with the ...

Indy Racing League Notebook
McGehee soars with Blue Angels; Johncox boosts Infiniti Pro Series team

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 5, 2003 -- 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year Robby McGehee took a 45-minute flight with the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy stunt acrobatic flight team, on March 1, calling the experience "amazing."

McGehee, a licensed pilot, flew as a passenger in an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet from the flight team's winter base in El Centro, Calif. His body was subjected to forces nearly eight times that of gravity, nearly double that experienced by IRL IndyCarTM Series drivers in turns.

"I only passed out twice; really it was more like one and a half times, but I never had to use the safety bags," McGehee said of his stable stomach. "Basically we did all the standard maneuvers.

"The first time I passed out for a few seconds was when we were doing the Immelman (maneuver). We were flying straight and level, and then we pulled up into a quick climb. We went to seven and a half G's. I was able to stay awake for the first half.

"We started that one at 500 feet, and I woke up at 11,000 feet. I had to put the pieces together and figure out where I was there for a minute. The second time was also right at seven and a half G's, when we were doing a split S. The whole flight was amazing."

McGehee was impressed with the fitness of Blue Angels pilots.

"These pilots are big-time athletes," he said. "While I was passed out, my pilot, Lt. Craig Olson, whose call sign is Merlin, was still there flying the airplane. It's extreme fitness. It's just amazing.

"It's unlike anything your body will ever experience. My racing background helped a little bit because I'm used to being strapped in tight and having a helmet on, so that was like racing, but the G load was just unbelievable."

McGehee, from St. Louis, is working hard to return to the IndyCar Series, hopefully in time for the Purex Dial Indy 200 on March 23 at Phoenix International Raceway.

"That's where I want to be," McGehee said. "I'm very used to that. In an IndyCar Series car in Turn 1 at Phoenix you pull over four G's, not seven and a half."

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Johncox adds talent to team: Rev1 Racing, which fields a car in the IRL Infiniti Pro Series for veteran Ronnie Johncox, recently made two key personnel additions for the 2003 season, bringing on Hayden Harris as a co-owner and Harvey Spencer as a race engineer.

Harris joins Rick Ehrgott and Ron Johncox Sr. as a co-owner of the team. Harris is a general partner of EDF Ventures, a venture capital company based in Ann Arbor, Mich. He is also chairman of McLaren Performance Technologies and a racer who has competed in airplanes, hydroplanes and cars. Harris was a co-owner of Blair Racing, which finished fifth in the IRL IndyCar Series standings last season.

Spencer was the race engineer for Hemelgarn Racing with drivers Cory Witherill and Aaron Fike in the Infiniti Pro Series in 2002. He also guided Guy Smith and current IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon to second- and third-place finishes in the 1998 and 1999 Indy Lights seasons, respectively.

Spencer began working in Formula One in 1979 as a mechanic on the McLaren team for legendary driver Alain Prost and also worked at Brabham Racing with driver Nelson Piquet.

"Hayden will bring valuable experience to our decision-making team," Ronnie Johncox said. "What we liked about Hayden is that he has the same goals we do -- to build a team that will eventually race in the IRL and one day win the Indianapolis 500.

"Harvey has a great deal of experience. He has engineered in Indy lights, Atlantics and Formula One, and most importantly, on the same cars as we drive in the IRL Infiniti Pro Series. He's worked with some of the legendary drivers in the sport -- Prost and (Nelson) Piquet -- so I'm looking forward to learning a lot from him."

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No temptation: 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. missed his first IRL IndyCar Series event in seven years when he didn't compete in the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Cheever is focusing on his owner's role with Red Bull Cheever Racing and driver Buddy Rice this season and won't race until the Indianapolis 500. The only time he missed an IndyCar Series start was March 1996 at Phoenix.

But Cheever had no second thoughts about his decision to step out of the car while he watched Rice race to a 16th-place finish in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Gear problems and loose handling plagued Rice throughout the race.

"I know that Buddy was having a hard time in the car," Cheever said. "It is very difficult to have to watch someone go through that for 200 laps.

"I never once thought that I wanted to drive."

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Panasonic happy in IndyCar Series: Officials from Panasonic, one of the world's leading manufacturers of innovative electronics products, are excited about the company's multi-year sponsorship of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing and rookie Roger Yasukawa in the IRL IndyCar Series.

"As primary sponsor of the Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Team, Panasonic is proud to have this opportunity to compete in the challenging IRL IndyCar Series, to include the internationally recognized Indianapolis 500 race," said Vince Sarrecchia, president of Detroit-based Panasonic Automotive Electronics Company, which markets multimedia, environmental and safety-related products for OEM automotive use. "We see this as a marriage of some of the most respected names in our respective fields, and one which is sure to help grow interest in IndyCar Series racing and electronics."

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Hot laps: Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran will be a guest Friday, March 7 on "Despierta America" on the Univision television network. de Ferran is scheduled to appear between 7-8 a.m. (EST) on the popular morning talk and news show -- IndyCar Series standout Robbie Buhl will visit with patients at Phoenix Children's Hospital at 10 a.m. (MST) March 20, part of his longtime work as national spokesperson for Racing For Kids -- A Purex IndyCar Series car will be on display March 7-9 in the Nazareth Speedway booth at the Syracuse Motorsports Expo at the New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse, N.Y. -- A Delphi IndyCar Series car will be on display March 7-9 in the Gateway International Raceway booth at the World Of Wheels Show in the Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Guy Smith , Robby McGehee , Eddie Cheever , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Alain Prost , Nelson Piquet , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Aaron Fike , Ronnie Johncox , Ed Jones
Teams Team Penske