ROOKIE OF THE YEAR TITLE AT STAKE FOR McGEHEE AT IRL SEASON-ENDING MALL.COM 500 IN TEXAS FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 11, 1999) -- It's not exactly the million-dollar bonus some of the veteran drivers will be fighting for, but Robby McGehee...
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR TITLE AT STAKE FOR McGEHEE AT IRL SEASON-ENDING MALL.COM 500 IN TEXAS
FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 11, 1999) -- It's not exactly the million-dollar bonus some of the veteran drivers will be fighting for, but Robby McGehee nonetheless has a once-in-a-lifetime points title at stake during this year's Pep Boys Indy Racing League season-ending Mall.com 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (Oct. 15-17).
McGehee, the bright young star from St. Louis, hopes to finish his inaugural Indy Racing League season the same way he started it -- with a Rookie of the Year title.
Last May, the 26-year-old McGehee made his IRL debut with a fifth-place finish at the 87th Indianapolis 500 that earned him Bank One Rookie of the Year honors for the race. He comes to town this weekend with a one-point lead in the season-long Spring PCS Rookie of the Year battle. The mission is simple -- finish ahead of the three other rookies chasing him in the standings and the $50,000 award is his.
"Rookie of the Year isn't something we expected to be fighting for, considering we didn't start the season until three races into it," said the driver of the #55 Energizer Advanced Formula Indy Car, who leads Scott Harrington 138-137 atop the rookie standings with Jacques Lazier (118) and John Hollandsworth (116) within striking distance. "Where we are is a testament to the great job the Energizer Motorsports team has done all year. We've been finishing races and that's what it's all about. Rookie of the Year at Indy was huge for us. The season-ending Rookie of the Year would be even better. If we keep doing business as usual, the points titles will take care of themselves."
This was supposed to be, and pretty much has been, a learning year for the Energizer Motorsports camp, under the leadership of chief engineer Dave Conti and crew chief Steve Fried. Having made the jump from Formula 2000 to the ever-competitive Indy Racing League this year, they were hoping to use an abbreviated schedule to build momentum for a full-scale assault for the championship in 2000. After the fifth-place finish at the Indy 500, where Fried was critically injured in a pit accident that he has been slowly but surely recovering from, the team suffered the not-so-unexpected teething pains of a first-year competitor.
That includes the 19th-place effort here at Texas Motor Speedway in June, when McGehee and the Energizer car made a valiant run from the back to second place before wheel bearing problems took them out of contention. The last four races have been an altogether different story as McGehee has made a steady climb up the finishing ladder with a 14th at Atlanta, 9th at Dover, 7th at Pikes Peak, and 6th at Las Vegas.
"I'm looking forward to coming back to TMS and showing what we can do," said McGehee, who just might have Fried back working over the wall this weekend. "It's a great facility where you can race three wide and feel comfortable. What a setting for a possible points title."
Practice for the Mall.com 500 begins Friday (Oct. 15) with qualifying set for Saturday (Oct. 16). The green flag falls on race day, Sunday (Oct. 17) at 1 p.m. CDT with a tape-delayed broadcast on ABC-TV set for 4 p.m. EDT.