IRL: California: Robby McGehee race report

McGehee Finishes 17th Sunday In the Yamaha Indy 400 at California Speedway FONTANA, Calif., March 24 - Robby McGehee brought the Cahill Racing Dallara Chevrolet ...

McGehee Finishes 17th Sunday In the Yamaha Indy 400 at California Speedway

FONTANA, Calif., March 24 - Robby McGehee brought the Cahill Racing Dallara Chevrolet #10 home in one piece Sunday in the Yamaha Indy 400 at California Speedway, finishing 17th.

The car carried the decals of Scottrade, Dollar Rent-a-Car and the Double Tree hotel of Ontario, Calif., in the 200-lap event on the track's 2-mile, D-shaped oval.

Unfortunately the team was hampered by a mysterious lack of speed throughout practice, qualifying and the race. Its members had to simply make the best of the situation and persevere.

"The Cahill Racing team worked very hard and had excellent pit stops today," McGehee noted. "The Scottrade car handled great; we just were down on power.

"At least we finished," he added. "I believe we're still in the top 20 in points, which is very important for the owners' program."

Cahill Racing is officially 19th in the entrant point standings following Sunday's race, while McGehee is 17th in the driver standings.

The race, which was won by Sam Hornish Jr., had a surprisingly low rate of attrition.

McGehee dodged a huge bullet in that department when he was right in the middle of an accident in turn four on lap 164 and yet escaped unscathed.

The accident occurred when the car of Tomas Schecker, which was running right in front of McGehee at the time, blew its engine and then was hit hard by the car driven by Hideki Noda.

"There was smoke and pieces flying everywhere, but we came through fine," McGehee said. "We were lucky on that one."

Schecker was unhurt but Noda was transported by ground to Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., complaining of back pain.

Earlier McGehee got off to a great start in the race, advancing from 24th to 19th by lap two. He reported a push on the exit of turn two early, but he worked with his weight jacker and struck up a battle with George Mack and Rick Treadway which lasted throughout most of the race.

McGehee was as high as 11th on lap 36 due to a bevy of pit stops. He made his first stop one lap later for four Firestone Firehawk tires and fuel. When the first round of pit stops were over he settled into 19th spot, one lap down.

By lap 50 he was sandwiched between Airton Dare and Treadway, with Mack right behind.

Around lap 70 Jeff Ward, who went on to finish tenth, was part of the mix and McGehee was running in 17th spot.

McGehee made his second stop on lap 76 for four Firestone Firehawks, fuel and a half-turn more front wing on both sides. When that round of stops was over he was 19th, three laps down, between Shigeaki Hattori and Mack.

The pace slowed for debris on the track on lap 85, and team owner Larry Cahill used that yellow to bring his car in on lap 88 for fuel and another half-turn of front wing. After that stop McGehee was in 21st, with Mack ahead of him and Eliseo Salazar right behind. McGehee reported that he still had a pretty big push at that time, especially when he was running close to another car.

He pitted again around lap 127 for four sticker Firestone Firehawks and fuel, and by lap 141 the only other drivers on his lap were Treadway and Mack.

There was another yellow on lap 146 for Hattori's blown engine and at that point there were four drivers battling for position, three laps down: McGehee, Treadway, Mack and Salazar. McGehee stayed in 18 place until the close call with Scheckter and Noda.

McGehee made his last pit stop of the day on lap 168 under that yellow. The Cahill crew had four new tires on; the car refueled and performed a quick exam for any damage in only 11.8 seconds, which moved McGehee up one more spot to 17th. He drifted back to 18th and had a battle with Mack at the end before moving up to 17th when Eddie Cheever Jr.'s engine let go on lap 190.

McGehee said that before the race he was worried about his back, saying "I must have pulled a muscle or something in the crash at Phoenix, because my back hurt yesterday and today. But actually in the race it wasn't a problem, because my back felt fine in the car."

The next IRL race is April 21 in Nazareth, Pa.

-cr/lm-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Eddie Cheever , Shigeaki Hattori , Eliseo Salazar , Jeff Ward , Airton Daré , Rick Treadway , George Mack , Hideki Noda , Sam Hornish Jr.