IRL: McGehee gets into groove at Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2000 -- If the Indy Racing Northern Light Series was conducted solely on 1.5-mile race tracks, young Robby McGehee would be bidding for the Northern Light Cup in the Excite 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor...

FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2000 -- If the Indy Racing Northern Light Series was conducted solely on 1.5-mile race tracks, young Robby McGehee would be bidding for the Northern Light Cup in the Excite 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. McGehee, the second-year driver from the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Mo., is the leading driver after four races on the tracks of that distance. He has had finishes of sixth at Las Vegas, an incredibly close second in June at Texas, fourth at Atlanta and 14th at Kentucky. Adding his finishes together brings a total of 26 points and an average finish of 6.5. Scott Goodyear is closest to him with 30 points on finishes of 12th, fifth, 11th and second. He's still trying to overtake leader Buddy Lazier for the Northern Light Cup championship and the accompanying $1 million payoff. Lazier is third best with 32 points with finishes of 22nd, seventh, second and first. "I really love Texas and Atlanta and like that type of track," McGehee said. "It really brings out the racer in me and other drivers." And who could forget McGehee's duel with Scott Sharp in the season's first race at Texas back on June 11? He and Sharp battled side by side, even exchanging the lead on the backstretch, before Sharp took the checkered flag .059 of a second in front of McGehee. That was the climax to a thrilling race that saw packs of cars racing two- and three-abreast at 210 mph. "Oh, that was awesome," he said. "It would have finished better for me in only one way, and that would have been me finishing first and Sharp finishing second. "It was such a great race to be able to go three cars wide, four-deep. It was like a 210-mph parade lap. Really, the great thing was all the drivers paid each other respect. There were no big accidents that could happen in a situation like that. It basically was a lot of just holding your breath. "I think you'll see a race like that only because this track provides it. Ask any of the drivers and they'd rather not have one like that, because it' s one that turns your hair gray." McGehee's blond locks got a few gray hairs Friday when his Broadband Investment Group G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone car hit the outside wall in Turn 4 during late afternoon practice. Safety crews spent a number of minutes carefully extracting him from the car, but he was checked out and released from the infield medical center with nothing more than bumps and bruises. He practiced and qualified Saturday but still had some aches in his neck and shoulder. "I felt fine when I was in the car, but getting out I feel a little sore," he said. A physical therapist with Kelley Racing worked on his shoulder to prepare him for the race. McGehee joined the Indy Racing League in 1999 and finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500, earning the Bank One Rookie of the Year Award. He placed second in the season award for rookies and then was hired to drive for Treadway Racing. Treadway fielded now retired Arie Luyendyk through the first four seasons, winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1997. Entering the 2000 season, the team had won at least one race each year. Sunday's race is McGehee's last chance to keep the win streak intact. "I think I can be competitive," he said. "I'm not going to try to do anything heroic, because I can tell you after hitting like that I don't want to do it again. "We've certainly have put up some good statistics other than wins. We've led six races (for 30 laps). I think the team definitely deserves a win. We' ve been working real hard, and we've had some problems that probably attribute to why we don't have a win. That's part of racing. "It would be nice to go out and win this race, but after hitting the wall yesterday I'm just glad I'm going to be in this race." Treadway Racing has merged with Hubbard Racing for next season, and the combined team recently signed Davey Hamilton for 2001. McGehee said that thus far nothing has been done for next season, but he wants to get something settled within the next three to four weeks. McGehee thinks he has gained the experience to be a consistent front-runner in the future. "I think so," he said. "We've really gone out and showed that we can do it. "If you start from the beginning of the season, Disney was a race where we kind of got to know each other, finished not too bad, not too great. Phoenix, I got a little bit excited because that was the first time I'd ever had a car that was capable of dominating the track like that. I got out in the gray stuff, cut my tires and crashed. "Vegas, we should have been right there, but made a bad pit call. At Indy, we were running second at halfway and broke a spark plug. At Texas, we got a good finish. Pikes Peak and Kentucky, we definitely were not strong there. Atlanta, we were strong." He said that if the team could have eliminated the mechanical gremlins and had better luck, they would be challenging for first in the Northern Light standings instead of holding down 10th. "Yeah, I think next year we'll be contending for the championship, and I hope the teams see that," McGehee said.

On the air: The Excite 500 will be televised on a same-day delayed basis on ABC at 4 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday on ESPN2. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute pre-race show at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, followed by the live race broadcast at 2 p.m. The area IRRN affiliate is WBAP-AM 820, Arlington, Texas. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracing.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com.

Tickets: Tickets for the Excite 500 are available by calling Texas Motor Speedway at (817) 215-8500, through Ticketmaster outlets or at Ticketmaster Online at www.ticketmaster.com . Ticket information is available at www.texasmotorspeedway.com .

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Scott Goodyear