FAIRFIELD, N.J. (February 19, 1999) -- After a successful season of U.S. F2000 National Championship competition in 1998, driver Robby McGehee and team owner Dave Conti will tackle the Pep Boys Indy Racing League in 1999.

Conti Racing, Inc. has acquired the Dallara chassis campaigned by Greg Ray in 1998 along with three Oldsmobile Aurora engines for the 1999 campaign to contest six races, including the Indianapolis 500 and races at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and twice at Texas Motor Speedway. With the former Thomas Knapp Motorsports car, Ray, who won the ACC F2000 Championship in 1992, sat on the front row at Indy in 1998, and recorded a career-best finish of second at Texas.

"This is a culmination of a lot of hard work," said Conti, of Indianapolis, Ind. "We are excited about testing ourselves in America's premier open-wheel oval track series. It's a great challenge, and we look forward to proving our capabilities."

McGehee, 25, of St. Louis, Mo., drove the No. 2 VisionAire/Energizer Tatuus Ford to second in the 1998 U.S. F2000 Oval Crown Championship and third in the National Championship on the strength of two wins (Homestead, Atlanta Motor Speedway) and eight podium finishes in 14 races. It was McGehee's second full season of F2000 competition following a seventh-place finish in the 1997 point standings.

"Dave (Conti) is absolutely fantastic when it comes to knowing his way around car setup and racing dynamics," said McGehee. "We had a great working relationship last year, and I think this represents a tremendous opportunity for everyone involved. We talked to other IRL teams, but when Dave called and said he was moving ahead to the IRL, it was a really easy decision for me."

Conti's resume goes deeper than his association with McGehee, which began in 1998. Prior to finishing second in the 1997 U.S. F2000 with driver Matt Sielsky, Conti worked with a list of drivers including Jeff Gordon, Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Jr. Cars prepared by Conti Racing have recorded top finishes in nearly every form of open-wheel developmental series, including Super Vee, F2000, Toyota/Atlantic and Indy Lights.

"It's rare to see an entire team move up the ladder, but extremely satisfying nonetheless," said Dan Andersen, U.S. F2000 co-promoter. "F2000 is a place for drivers to learn and build relationships with other players in the motor racing industry. A relationship such as the one Robby and Dave have built is a testament to their hard work and talents, as well as their success gained in the U.S. F2000. We're always sad to lose top talents like those of Robby and Dave, but it reaffirms the success of the series in preparing drivers and teams for the next level of racing."

"There's no question in my mind that F2000 is the best place to learn oval racing in order to get to the IRL and the Indy 500," said McGehee. "Every kid dreams of racing in the Indy 500, and I've taken a major step toward making my personal dream a reality."

In addition to the six IRL races, McGehee may return to the U.S. F2000 for one race at Phoenix, March 28.