IRL: McGehee family involved with horsepower of all kinds

FOUNTAIN, Colo., Friday, June 16, 2000 -- Horsepower plays a vital role in the lives of the Smith and Janet McGehee family of St. Louis. Their son Robby is a rising young star in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Just last ...

FOUNTAIN, Colo., Friday, June 16, 2000 -- Horsepower plays a vital role in the lives of the Smith and Janet McGehee family of St. Louis. Their son Robby is a rising young star in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Just last Sunday, Robby McGehee was involved in one of the most exciting finishes ever in the sport when he chased winner Scott Sharp across the finish line by a minuscule .059 of a second in the Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Younger son Michael is an aspiring polo player who already has surpassed the skills of his 56-year-old father. The family maintains a herd of 26 polo horses on a farm outside St. Louis. Father Smith grew up in southern Mississippi and rode a horse to school, thus the interest in horses. Mother Janet was born in Marion, Ind., and attended auto races with her father, accounting for the interest in that sport. As usual, the McGehee family is at Pikes Peak International Raceway this weekend to watch Robby drive his G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone car in the Radisson Indy 200 on Sunday. "I think it's really great," Robby McGehee said about his family's support. "I think they have a good time here. It kind of wouldn't be the same without them. I'm very comfortable with them here and wouldn't want it any other way." Janet has a special bond with Robby's career. She participated with her son when they went through driving school together. Smith has attended every one of his son's races. Michael, at 25 a year younger than Robby, also attends his brother's races when his polo playing doesn't interfere. He won't be at PPIR this weekend. The excitement of last Sunday's battle with Sharp lingered up until Robby climbed into the car Friday to begin preparing for Sunday's race. Smith McGehee thinks his son is capable of producing another such performance and making a move upward in the Northern Light Cup standings from his ninth-place ranking. "I think I have a pretty good feel for this weekend," Smith said. "And I think he does, too. "But I've learned that there are so many real highs and so many real lows. The team has confidence, and that's the important thing. Obviously, Robby is the one who executes the plan. So they feel pretty good about this weekend. "And if he has a pretty good race here, Atlanta and Texas would be two tracks he really likes, and nobody knows about the Kentucky track right now. I think if he does well here, he'll be in the run for it." Robby McGehee won the Bank One Rookie of the Year Award by finishing fifth in the 1999 Indianapolis 500. He added a ninth at Dover, seventh at PPIR and a sixth at Las Vegas to finish 16th in the final standings. This year he had finishes of 10th, 24th, sixth and 21st in the four races before Texas. Smith McGehee, an insurance broker coordinating risk-management programs, thinks his son has the potential to become a star in the Northern Light Series. "I think Robby is - and I'm not saying this because he's my son - a smart young man, indeed," Smith McGehee said. "He's an aggressive driver, but he's not a crasher. And that's the thing I think about more than anything. He likes to go to the front, and he doesn't like to be passed. If he can do that safely and competitively and that makes him a popular driver, I think that would be very neat." Robby knows that he can only improve on his spectacular race at Texas by winning. "I felt like we really showed what we had to offer, Treadway Racing and myself," he said. "Hopefully, we can continuing showing like that. "But that was such a great, exciting race. I've been watching 'RPM 2Night' every night, and they're still talking about it. I'm still excited and ready to get into this week at Pikes Peak." Smith McGehee attended driving school like his wife and son but quickly found that it was fun as long as he was on the track by himself. But when traffic entered into the mix, he decided that racing wasn't for him. That's when he decided to take up the one-horsepower sport of polo. "I got on this horse and tried to hit this ball," he said. "I play some golf, and it was kind of like golf on a horse. The horse actually followed this white ball, which surprised the heck out of me. Like Pavlov's dog, they get used to it and learn to play the game." Smith started with three horses. Soon there were more horses and a son who showed some ability. He said no one should attempt polo if he is concerned about riding the horse. "It's kind of like playing hockey," he said. "Skating is just part of the game. He doesn't think about balancing himself on the skates. You have to learn how to manage the horse and make it move, but you shouldn't worry about staying on the horse. "We're not in it in a big way, we're kind of in the mid-pack. Robby has done all right. He hits the ball quite well, but riding doesn't come natural to him like it does to my younger son." Robby McGehee feels more comfortable with 650 horses behind him than with one beneath him.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Scott Sharp