IRL: Homestead-Miami: McGehee qualifying report

McGehee to Start Outside of Row Seven Tomorrow At Homestead in IRL Season Opener HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 1 - After practicing 16th fastest, Robby McGehee of St. Louis advanced two positions and qualified 14th Friday afternoon at Homestead-Miami...

McGehee to Start Outside of Row Seven Tomorrow At Homestead in IRL Season Opener

HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 1 - After practicing 16th fastest, Robby McGehee of St. Louis advanced two positions and qualified 14th Friday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway for tomorrow's 20th annual Grand Prix of Miami. The Indy Racing League season opener will be televised live on ABC beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern.

McGehee was behind the wheel of the solid black Cahill Racing Dallara Chevrolet #10, which is carrying the colors of the on-line brokerage house Scottrade, Inc. and Dollar Rent-a-Car here this weekend.

McGehee qualified at an average speed of 198.055 mph, which puts him on the outside of row seven beside Al Unser Jr. Defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. earned the pole.

McGehee, the last of 26 drivers to take time Friday afternoon, turned the track 1 mile per hour faster than the team has ever gone here before.

That's a remarkable achievement considering that the team was unable to do any testing over the winter due to financial constraints. Valuable time was also lost when the team ran into some unforeseen problems while working on the set-up during practice here on Thursday.

"We basically lost a day of practice yesterday because of a mistake we made, so we're just continuing to progress today," McGehee said immediately after climbing out of the car following MBNA qualifying. "I'm happy with the car and I'm really happy to be here in the race and to have Scottrade on board.

"There was a strong headwind going into four, but the push in two is gone and the car is good.

"In qualifying we went one mile per hour faster than we've ever gone here, so that's good," he noted.

McGehee and everyone else in attendance at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday was saddened when Jeff Clinton was killed in a freak accident in practice for the companion Grand-Am race that is part of this weekend's program.

Like McGehee, Clinton was from St. Louis and the two were friends.

They raced as teammates on the St. Louis team in an American Cities Racing League event Aug. 5 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Although McGehee was in a car new to him that weekend, Duke Johnson's Team Duke Racing Carbir, he won the pole, set the fastest lap recorded in that race and won the event.

Duke Johnson drove in the race too and finished second, while Clinton finished fifth. Together the trio earned enough points to bring home the "top city" honors for St. Louis that day.

"It was hard to focus in qualifying because I lost a friend today," McGehee said. "Things like that make where you qualify and where you finish seem trivial. I still can't really believe it.

"But I know Jeff would want us all to give it our best shot, and that's what we tried to do."

The revised schedule for tomorrow shows a half-hour practice session at 9:30 a.m. before the cars are gridded at noon. The 20th anniversary Grand Prix of Miami, a 200-lap/200-mile event, is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

-lm-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Al Unser Jr. , Duke Johnson , Jeff Clinton