IRL: Indy 500: McGehee/PDM race report

McGehee Finishes 22nd in Indy 500 INDIANAPOLIS, May 30 - Despite a lack of track time enjoyed by many of his competitors, Robby McGehee finished his third complete Indy 500 out of five career starts Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor ...

McGehee Finishes 22nd in Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, May 30 - Despite a lack of track time enjoyed by many of his competitors, Robby McGehee finished his third complete Indy 500 out of five career starts Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Burger King came on board with the PDM Racing team just 24 hours before Sunday's race, joining Natoli Engineering, Royal Spa and a host of other sponsors on the PDM Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone No. 18. The deals came together late and McGehee qualified on Bump Day and started 33rd, but the St. Louis driver still brought the car home in one piece in 22nd position at the end of the rain-shortened and rain-delayed event.

It seemed like every driver wanted to share McGehee's pits on Sunday. First rookie Larry Foyt missed his pit and stopped in McGehee's, forcing McGehee to continue down pit road and pit again the next time around. Then an accident in turn four on lap 106 involving Darren Manning, Sam Hornish Jr. and Greg Ray caused Manning and Ray's cars to careen out of control down pit road and come to a grinding stop on pit lane in McGehee's pits and scattering the PDM pit crew members. The fuel nozzle on the team's fuel tank in the pits was hit and sprayed fuel everywhere, but luckily none of the pit crew members or the drivers involved were injured.

McGehee's car had a bad push initially and later it got very loose. But the PDM crew worked hard to dial in the car throughout the day, and towards the end of the race McGehee said it was "awesome."

His biggest battle of the day was with Sarah Fisher, who held the upper hand for most of the race until McGehee was able to pass her near the three-quarters mark. He stretched that advantage but at the end he finished one spot behind her after he pitted on lap 168 in order to have enough fuel to complete the 200-lap distance.

The rain came again before that happened, however, and Buddy Rice won the event with 180 laps completed. McGehee completed 177 laps, the same as Fisher. Former Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier was next, 16 laps down.

"We just needed more track time," McGehee said while walking back to the garage area in the rain after the checkered fell.

"The first couple of stints the car was loose in traffic, but the PDM crew worked hard to dial it in, and towards the end the car was awesome. We weren't as fast as the leaders, but we were running well with the cars we were racing with. When the car was loose at the beginning I thought 'This is going to be a long race,' but it came around. When it's that loose, it's a close call all the way around the track.

"I think we were a little heavy on downforce," McGehee continued. "And I hear things were pretty hairy in the pits; I had to ask the crew if they were OK when those cars wrecked in our pit area. We had good pit stops all day though.

"We weren't fast enough on the straightaways, but we were fast in the corners," he continued. "If we had more time to work on a good race set-up, we'd have done better. If the car was as good at the beginning of the race as it was at the end, we would have placed higher.

"For the success of both the team and myself, running once a year is not the way to go," he admitted. "But I enjoyed working with PDM this month, and I appreciate the support of sponsors like Burger King and Natoli Engineering. We have a couple things in the works for more races, but nothing definite."

Was running this race worth it?

"Absolutely!" he said enthusiastically.

-lm-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Robby McGehee , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Buddy Lazier , Larry Foyt , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr.