IRL: Cahill Racing Gateway race report

McGehee Scores a Top-10 Finish for the Hometown Crowd Sunday at Gateway ST. LOUIS, Aug. 26 -Robby McGehee made the hometown crowd proud Sunday by finishing a solid tenth in the first Indy Racing Northern Light Series race ever at Gateway...

McGehee Scores a Top-10 Finish for the Hometown Crowd Sunday at Gateway

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 26 -Robby McGehee made the hometown crowd proud Sunday by finishing a solid tenth in the first Indy Racing Northern Light Series race ever at Gateway International Raceway.

Driving Cahill Racing's Dallara/Olds Aurora #10, which sported a paint scheme honoring the St. Louis Cardinals for this event, the St. Louis resident battled Anthony Lazzaro and then a big push before crossing the finish line in the 200-lap Gateway Indy 250, which was broadcast live on ESPN.

It was McGehee's third top-10 finish in the four races he's competed in since breaking his left leg June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway.

His car's paint scheme was courtesy of a special promotion between the Cardinals and his primary sponsors this weekend, Atlas Van Lines and ABC Moving and Storage, and other supporting companies: Parallaxmusic.com, the She raton St. Louis City Center Hotel and Suites, Dollar Rent-a-Car and Compton Roofing.

"I said before the start of the race that considering that we didn't get to test here, if I got a top 10 I'd be happy. We got that top 10, so I'm happy," said McGehee after the race.

Since he missed two races due to his injuries, the Cahill Racing team is 18th in the entrant point standings. When qualifying was rained out Saturday the starting line-up was determined by the entrant points, so McGehee had to start 18th.

Gateway has many characteristics of a bull ring, and passing was difficult. The 18th starting position was a handicap because McGehee went down a lap early, a situation that turned out to be impossible to overcome.

But McGehee and the Cahill Racing team persevered, and spent the bulk of the first quarter of the event in 14th place. McGehee was 13th by the halfway point and 11th by the three-quarters mark.

Donnie Beechler hit the wall in turn two 12 laps from the end, which allowed McGehee's number 10 to flash on the scoring pylon for the first time Sunday three laps later. McGehee was still in tenth place, three laps down, when Al Unser Jr. took the checkered on lap 200.

Two races remain in the 2001 run for the Northern Light Cup - Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. on Sept. 2 and a return to Texas on Sept. 16. McGehee is 17th in the overall driver point standings following Sunday's race and Cahill Racing is 18th in the entrant point standings.

McGehee wanted to be dicing for the lead, of course, but he still said he "had a blast.

"This track has long straightaways, but overall it has the characteristics of a bull ring," he said. "It's hard to pass here, but it's good, hard racing. We weren't the fastest, but we drove a smart race today and we learned a lot.

"In turns one and two you really have to pay attention," he continued. "I got pushed up to the wall a couple of times that I'm not happy about, but in the beginning and the middle of the race I had a really good time. We got pushed up into the marbles there with the last set of tires and I couldn't get the debris off them, so we had a really bad push from that point on.

"In the beginning I had a good battle with Anthony Lazzaro, and we were having fun. In the middle of the race I has fun too, because I was able to experiment with different lines through one and two, and eventually I found a really good one."

McGehee said the track was slippery in the early going. He made his first pit stop on lap 42 for four fresh Firestones, fuel and a half-turn on both sides of his front wing. He'd been moving his weight jacker around before that, and said that the car was good through turn two but pushing a little in turns three and four at that point.

He pitted again on lap 56 under caution to get his fuel tank topped off with methanol, but he went down another lap on lap 101. His third pit stop came on lap 116 for tires, fuel and another front wing adjustment, but the Cahill Racing team was so efficient that he came into the pits in 13th spot and was still 13th following the stop.

"The Cahill Racing team had excellent pits tops today," McGehee noted. "We've come a long way in that area this year, and I'm really proud of everyone on our team. If we have good pit stops at Chicago and Texas like we had here, it will really make a difference."

McGehee ran his fastest lap of the race around lap 128 but then his rhythm was broken by another yellow caused by an electrical problem with Eliseo Salazar's car.

"That front wing [adjustment] helped a ton," McGehee said on the radio while circling the track under that yellow.

McGehee made his final pit stop on lap 135 for four fresh Firestone Firehawks and fuel. Team owner Larry Cahill directed McGehee to make the fuel mixture as lean as possible from that point on so the team wouldn't have to pit again.

Around lap 145 McGehee was almost put into the turn two wall by another driver, but he kept his cool and persevered. That incident and another one a few laps later caused him to go up into the marbles, where his tires picked up debris that he was unable to scrub off. That caused a push for the rest of the race, but McGehee hung on in 11th place and was able to realize a top-10 for the effort when Beechler had his problems a few laps from the end.

McGehee's car came through without a scratch, although its driver wasn't quite so lucky.

"I had a new set of gloves today and they were too soft," McGehee disclosed. " I have blisters the size of golf balls on my hands now."

The media attention and the fan interest made the race like the Indy 500 for McGehee in many ways.

"Racing in front of my hometown crowd was fun," he said, waving to fans carrying signs of support who were calling to him from the grandstand as he spoke to reporters on pit lane after the race.

"I'm sure that they'll all be over here to see us after the race," he added. "It was great to have so much support, and it was a thrill to be carrying the colors of the Cardinals. I'm happy!

"I think we put on a great show and I'm sure both I and the Indy Racing Northern Light Series will be back here at Gateway for many years to come," he concluded.

-CR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Donnie Beechler , Anthony Lazzaro