IRL: McGehee finishes fourth at Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 21 - McGehee Shows His Moxie by Finishing Fourth Despite Broken Leg Although he's still on crutches from a broken left leg suffered June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, McGehee drove Cahill Racing's ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 21 - McGehee Shows His Moxie by Finishing Fourth Despite Broken Leg

Although he's still on crutches from a broken left leg suffered June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, McGehee drove Cahill Racing's black Dallara/Aurora/Firestone #10 to a solid fourth-place finish Saturday night in the Harrah's Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

The St. Louis-based driver, who turned 28 yesterday, is giving the term "playing hurt" new meaning. Despite his injuries, the fourth-place finish was McGehee's best run all season.

"Everything went our way tonight!" said a happy McGehee, who had a smile a mile wide after guiding the Parallaxmusic.com/Quality Inn and Suites of Nashville-sponsored car around the 1.33-mile concrete oval 200 times. "My leg doesn't hurt at all. I felt it when I had to use the clutch, but really, it was fine.

"The Cahill Racing team had great pit stops. We're real happy," he continued while sitting on his car on pit lane before reaching for his crutches to head back to the Cahill Racing transporter.

"We fought a push all night, but the car progressively got better as the race went on," he added. "The car was real consistent and I have to compliment Firestone; our Firestone Firehawk tires were great all night.

"I was trying to be very careful, but I think I'm getting my mojo back after the crash at Texas," he added.

For the second race in a row, McGehee also led. Saturday night he paced the field one time for a total of two laps.

McGehee started 11th and right away he battled with the driver who ended up finishing right in front of him in third place, Jaques Lazier. He also had a push right away, and he moved his weight jacker regularly during the course of the event.

He had dropped to 13th when the first yellow came out on lap 22 for debris on the track, so Cahill Racing owner Larry Cahill brought him in under that yellow for fuel, four fresh Firestone tires and a half turn adjustment on both sides of the front wing on lap 23 to try to alleviate the push. That dropped McGehee back to 17th, but the car was a little better.

A few more adjustments to the weight jacker were made but the leader, Sam Hornish Jr., was able to put McGehee a lap down before 50 laps were in the books. The good news was that was still early enough in the race to not be a problem that couldn't be overcome.

Another yellow for debris flew on lap 54. The leaders pitted but McGehee stayed out, which allowed him to move up to 12th on the scoring pylon. When the green waved again on lap 61, McGehee's lap times were comparable to the cars running at the front of the pack.

McGehee pitted again on lap 86 under a yellow for Jeff Ward's car's blown engine. By that time the sun had dipped below the horizon, the air density was better and after taking a half-turn out of the left front, McGehee found himself back on the lead lap in 13th place.

McGehee was too close for comfort to the race's big crash in turn two on lap 103. Six drivers - Greg Ray, Al Unser Jr., Donnie Beechler, Mark Dismore, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Airton Dare - were involved, although luckily all escaped injury.

"That was scary!" McGehee said over the radio after he dodged the wreck. "I ran all over a lot of debris. There's stuff all over the place out here."

After the race he added that his car's brakes were a little soft at the time too, and he went through that crash "a little faster than I wanted to."

McGehee thought the car's left rear tire had been cut by the debris, and he was also concerned about some possible damage to his left front suspension. Shigeaki Hattori, the driver right behind him, took a look at the tire while they were under caution and radioed in that he thought it was flat too. The pits were still closed, however, and if McGehee would have pitted to change it while the pits were closed he would have had to pit again to change all four tires when the pits were officially open, according to the rules.

"We're going to stay out as long as we can, Robby," was Cahill's directions, to which McGehee replied, "I'll tell you when it's on the rim, Larry."

McGehee rode around under that yellow in eighth place, wondering when the tire would go. Soon he had something else to think about, however, as the car directly in front of his, driven by Robbie Buhl, was spraying liquid all over the track.

When the pits opened McGehee pitted on lap 109. After the pit stop for four fresh Firestones, fuel and a visor cleaning, the crew reported that the tire in question wasn't cut after all. McGehee ran over an air hose on that pit stop but he wasn't penalized for that because it wasn't his air hose, but the one belonging to Jaques Lazier's team pitted alongside him.

By lap 114 McGehee was again in eighth, the last car on the lead lap. Cahill calculated that one more stop would have to be made for fuel with about 15 laps to go.

Another car pitted between then and the restart on lap 120, putting McGehee in seventh place. On the restart he passed Buhl for sixth and started to eye Jaques Lazier in fifth place.

After Sam Hornish Jr. pitted, McGehee found himself in fifth place with 30 laps to go, but he was running just as fast as the leader and eventual winner, Buddy Lazier. The team was going to be 12 gallons shy of the methanol it needed to go the distance, however.

Other top contenders were in the same boat, and when they pitted McGehee took the lead on lap 175. He did his splash-and-go for fuel only on lap 177 and came back onto the track in fourth place with only 21 laps remaining.

McGehee got lapped by Buddy Lazier on lap 187 but he safely took the checkered in fourth place. The fireworks still weren't over on and over the track, however. Something broke on the third-place car of Jaques Lazier after the checkered and he crashed right in front of McGehee even though the race was over and the only remaining scheduled fireworks were those shot off as part of the post-race celebration.

"I just love this track!" McGehee concluded as he accepted congratulations after the race from scores of well-wishers who admired his gutsy drive. "I think concrete track surfaces are nice because they're really smooth. This track takes a lot of driver skill, too. We were pretty racy tonight. It feels great to be back!"

-CR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Shigeaki Hattori , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Jaques Lazier  , Donnie Beechler , Sam Hornish Jr.