McGehee battles up to 12th after starting 22nd Sunday at Gateway International Raceway. MADISON, Ill., Aug. 25 - Robby McGehee gave his hometown fans something to cheer about as he advanced to 12th spot after starting 22nd Sunday in the Gateway...
McGehee battles up to 12th after starting 22nd Sunday at Gateway International Raceway.
MADISON, Ill., Aug. 25 - Robby McGehee gave his hometown fans something to cheer about as he advanced to 12th spot after starting 22nd Sunday in the Gateway Indy 250 Indy Racing League event at Gateway International Raceway.
The St. Louis-based driver posted laps as fast as the drivers which ran in positions five through 10 during the 200-lap race, which was broadcast live on ESPN. His car developed a gearbox problem near the end, but McGehee persevered to take the checkered and post his second-best finish of the season.
McGehee was in the ABC Moving & Storage/Atlas Van Lines/Sam Schmidt Motorsports G-Force Chevy #55 fielded by Treadway and Associates Racing. He was very complimentary about the service the team gave him during his pitstops Sunday. All four of his stops were fast and made under yellow-flag conditions.
"It was great to be back with the Treadway team," McGehee said. "Our pitstops were fantastic. Not only were they fast, but the crew was able to make a tire-pressure adjustment which really worked.
"During the first stint we had a major push," he elaborated. "I worked with the sway bars and the weight jacker as much as I could. Then we pitted and changed the tire pressures, and the car was much better after that. I think we could have had a top-10 finish if we wouldn't have developed a gearbox problem. Gearboxes take a lot of abuse here, and late in the race I couldn't shift from fourth to fifth; I had to really play with it to force it to change. That's how [Airton] Dare got past us."
When teammate Anthony Lazzaro crashed in the final practice session Sunday morning and repairs couldn't be made to his car, some members of his crew switched over to help McGehee's effort. One of those was Skip Faul, who called the race for McGehee.
Since the team qualified so far back, Faul brought McGehee in for about nine gallons of fuel during the first yellow flag on lap 15, hoping to establish a pit sequence which would pay off as the day progressed. That yellow was for Tony Renna, who had stopped at the entrance to pit lane with a drivetrain failure.
McGehee's dash into the pits for fuel only just took 5.73 seconds, but on the restart he reported that the car was pushing in turns one and two. He adjusted the sway bars and weight jacker from the cockpit but he still had his hands full, and the leaders had put him a lap down by lap 30.
By lap 50 McGehee said the car was fine between turns three and four and "not too bad" in turns one and two. Many competitors made green-flag pitstops around lap 56 but thanks to Faul's call to pit very early the first time, McGehee was able to make his second pitstop under a yellow on lap 64. That caution was for Scott Sharp, whose car had developed a gearbox problem and had rolled to a stop between turns three and four.
The Treadway team really excelled on that stop, giving McGehee a full load of fuel and four fresh Firestone Firehawks in only 11.361 seconds.
On the restart on lap 69 McGehee was in 14th with two other drivers on his lap: Jeff Ward and Eddie Cheever Jr. McGehee passed Ward on lap 71 but that trio ran close together for several laps.
Near the halfway point McGehee reported that his car was perfect. "I don't want any changes on the next stop," he said, so he only got four fresh tires and fuel when he pitted again under yellow on lap 101, only pausing 11.871 seconds in the pits that time. That yellow was caused by an altercation between Victor Meira and Laurent Redon in turn two. After Team Menard replaced Meira's car's nose he returned to the fray in 11th spot, sandwiched between Cheever in tenth and McGehee in 12th. Those three were all on the same lap from the mid-point of the race until almost the end. Meira ended up ninth and Cheever was tenth.
By lap 130 Dare was in the fray too, but McGehee reported the gearbox problem for the first time on lap 144. McGehee pitted under yellow on lap 147, getting four tires and fuel in only 13.682 seconds, and at that point he was in 11th place, with Meira in tenth and Dare in 12th. (That yellow was due to Greg Ray's accident in turn two.)
Throughout the day McGehee reported that his car had an understeer when it was full of fuel, but as it burned off the car's handling got better. When it got so better that he was loose, he was able to work with the weight jacker to remedy that condition.
Near the end Cheever and Meira were able to edge ahead and McGehee spent the remainder of the race battling Dare and Ward, doing the best he could despite the gearbox problem.
"Overall I'd say it was an OK day at the office," McGehee said moments after climbing out of the car after the checkered dropped. "I'm pretty happy with the finish. I wish I could run more races with these guys," he added wistfully.
"I do feel really bad about one thing though," he added. "On the grid the crew discovered a crack in the rear wing, and we had to replace it right before the race. That's the spot that Butch Welsch's company's decals were on, and there wasn't any time to get more stickers for that spot for his company, Welsch Heating & Cooling. I feel really bad about that because he orchestrated a lot of our sponsorship which made this race happen for me."
In addition to ABC Moving & Storage, which is an Atlas Van Lines agent, and Welsch Heating & Cooling, McGehee was sponsored here by Hardesty Homes, McBride & Son Homes and Compton Roofing.
Two more IRL races remain on the 2002 schedule: Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway on Sept. 8 and Texas Motor Speedway on Sept. 15. McGehee's appearances in those events are up in the air unless marketing partners can be found for those races.
The polesitter, Gil de Ferran, won Sunday's race over Helio Castroneves and Alex Barron.