IRL: Pikes Peak: Robby McGehee race notes

McGehee finishes 17th Sunday at PPIR driving Beck Motorsports/Parsons Motorsports Marketing's ...

McGehee finishes 17th Sunday at PPIR driving Beck Motorsports/Parsons Motorsports Marketing's #54.

FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 16 -Robby McGehee finished 17th Sunday afternoon in the Radisson Indy 225 Indy Racing League event at Pikes Peak International Raceway. It was his first race ever in the Beck Motorsports/Parsons Motorsports Dallara Chevy #54, which was sponsored here by Norwalk Furniture.

The team faced many extenuating circumstances here Sunday.

The parties just came together the week before the race, and McGehee's first laps in the car were on Saturday. This event was a two-day show rather than a three-day show, so there wasn't much practice time prior to the race. One of McGehee's practice sessions was cut short by a shower, and in Sunday morning's practice session the team was forced to replace the car's fuel pump.

That sort of pattern continued during the race. The car had a big push in turn four right off the bat. The car's handling improved as its fuel load lightened up, but it was something the team combated all day.

McGehee made his first pitstop for fresh Firestone Firehawks, fuel and a chassis adjustment on lap 29 under a yellow for Robbie Buhl's blown engine. Four laps later the red came out for a bizarre hailstorm, and everyone who wanted to could add fuel and tires at their leisure under the red rather than during racing conditions.

"That hailstorm was one of the strangest things I've ever seen," McGehee said during that red.

The race resumed on lap 37, and McGehee soldiered on. He made his second stop on lap 73 under a yellow for Anthony Lazzaro's crash. After that one he was in 20th place, three laps down and all alone on that lap. After that stop McGehee's car improved, but then it started to pick up the push in turn four again.

He was also picking up a lot of marbles on his tires. Team owner Greg Beck brought him in for his final pit stop on lap 151. That gave McGehee en ough fuel to go the rest of the distance, but nine laps later there was a full-course caution for Jeff Ward's accident on the frontstretch and many of McGehee's rivals were able to pit under caution instead of green-flag conditions.

Greg Ray oiled down the track on lap 201. Under that yellow, McGehee radioed in that the car wasn't bad at that point.

"On full tanks it wants to push, but then it improves," he said.

"You're 2 mph to 10 mph faster than 10 cars ahead of you right now and you're about 5 mph faster than most of the cars ahead of you, but it doesn't show on the scoring monitor because we're down too many laps due to our other problems," Beck noted.

There were sprinkles many different times during the race and lightning was striking a few miles away from the main grandstand as the race drew near to its conclusion. Things were heating up on the track too, and after the final restart McGehee got pushed up into the marbles in turn four. He wisely slowed so he wouldn't hit the wall.

"That was scary," he said at the time.

The IRL officials noticed that McGehee had dropped off the pace momentarily and they black-flagged him at that point because there were only a few laps left and the leaders were getting ready to lap him again. Once he got back up to speed they rescinded that order, however, and McGehee crossed the finish line a few seconds after the eventual winner, Gil de Ferran.

"The car wasn't bad; it's just that every break went against us," McGehee summarized after the race. "We didn't get any breaks on our pit stop sequence. But we have four wheels on the car and hopefully we're going on to Richmond.

"I got pushed up in the marbles twice; once in turn one and once in turn four. But other than getting in the marbles, I didn't really have any other close calls. I guess I was closest to the Ward accident, but I was behind it.

"I'm surprised that 17 cars finished the race. On a 1-mile oval there's usually more attrition.

"The Menard Chevy engine was good," McGehee continued.

"It was a good first race for us together; we got to know each other," he added. "We lost a little time this morning when we had to replace the fuel pump. The lack of track time at a two-day show affected us. It seemed we never had enough time in practice. But we were here and we finished, so we'll try to build on that and go forward."

Beck's comments were similar. "I think we had a better car than our finishing position shows," he said. "On full tanks the car wasn't as good as we wanted it to be. We also got some bad breaks on pit stops. We're disappointed that we didn't do better, but we finished the race, the car is in one piece and now we'll try to go on to Richmond."

The Richmond race is the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va. on Saturday night, June 29.

-rm/lm-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Jeff Ward , Gil de Ferran , Anthony Lazzaro