McGehee finishes 13th after a zany day in Pennsylvania. NAZARETH, Pa., April 21 - With intermittent rain and sleet and seven caution flags for 116 of the 225 laps of the Firestone Indy 225, it was impossible for a driver to keep any sort of ...
McGehee finishes 13th after a zany day in Pennsylvania.
NAZARETH, Pa., April 21 - With intermittent rain and sleet and seven caution flags for 116 of the 225 laps of the Firestone Indy 225, it was impossible for a driver to keep any sort of momentum going Sunday afternoon at Nazareth Speedway. Still, Robby McGehee and the Cahill Racing team kept their heads about them through it all and recorded their best finish so far this year when the Scottrade.com/Dollar Rent-a-Car/Clarion Hotel Dallara Chevy #10 took the checkered in 13th spot after starting 20th.
McGehee got off to a fabulous start, vaulting from 20th to 17th by the end of lap one. After a couple of yellows he was in 14th before the first raindrops began to sprinkle on pit road around lap 34.
When Felipe Giaffone, Laurent Redon, Buddy Lazier and Sam Hornish entered turn three four-wide on lap 38, something had to give. That something turned out to be the left front tire of Hornish's car, which touched Lazier's right rear and put Lazier into the outside retaining wall between turns three and four.
Team owner Larry Cahill radioed to McGehee that the team was going to mimic the leaders at that point on whether to pit under that yellow or not, and when the leaders pitted Cahill brought McGehee in too.
McGehee's first stop for four fresh Firestones and fuel came on lap 41 and took only 15.941 seconds despite a little problem releasing the vent on that stop. McGehee was 14th going into the pits on that stop and 14th a little later when the green came back out, so everything still worked out fine.
The engine bogged down a little on the restarts several times throughout the day, including this time, but once McGehee got up to speed again everything smoothed out. The crew also reported that the car's Firestone Firehawks were wearing beautifully after they examined them after that first pit stop.
Ten laps later it began to rain again. The green came back out on lap 54 for an instant before the yellow waved again when Rick Treadway hit the wall in turn four. At that point McGehee was up to 13th.
On the restart he was busy trying to catch Airton Dare while holding off Jaques Lazier. "I'm quicker than Dare off the turns, but I can't do anything with it," McGehee said at that time. After the race he explained that he took turn three like a road-course turn all day, and he was very strong on the exit of that turn. "I could gain on people coming out of turn three and nobody could pass me there, but I couldn't do anything with it because the turn is so narrow," he said.
McGehee ducked another bullet on lap 91 when Sarah Fisher and Billy Boat made contact in turn one and Jon Herb hit the outside wall in turn four very hard. There was debris everywhere but McGehee made it through unscathed.
The team made its second pit stop on lap 94 under that yellow, along with most of the rest of the field. In the flurry of activity on pit road McGehee overshot his pit area just enough that the fuel hose wouldn't reach, so the team had to put four new Firestones on the car, lower it, push it back a little bit and then begin the fueling process.
Before that happened the strategy was going to be to just fuel the car until the tires were changed, but when the problem occurred Cahill reacted quickly, changed the strategy and directed the team to fill the fuel tank completely. The stop ended up taking almost a minute but McGehee really didn't lose too many spots, as he was 16th afterwards. Richie Hearn and McGehee were both a full lap down at that point, with Hearn right behind McGehee on the track.
Without much to lose and much to gain, Cahill brought McGehee back in for one more pit stop on lap 127 for four fresh Firestone Firehawks and enough fuel to go the rest of the way, providing there were more caution-flag laps. It was a great strategy although the stop didn't go smoothly, as the car stalled leaving the pits and the crew had to push it back into its pit area to restart it. Still, the team felt confident that they wouldn't have to make another stop, while some of its rivals would.
McGehee was in 15th spot on lap 135. Hearn was ahead of him and on the same lap, but he was one of the drivers who would have to make another stop.
Several more yellows for accidents, some rain and some pit stops by some of his rivals followed, and by lap 156 McGehee was in the position he'd eventually finish, 13th.
McGehee had a stirring battle with Al Unser Jr. at the very end, but Unser held him off by a whisker at the line. Unser, McGehee and Hearn were all one lap down at the end.
"We had a great-handling race car today," McGehee said after the race. "We had some fumbles in the pits, some of which was partly my fault. It was a crazy race, but our car was just awesome."
McGehee also praised his Chevy engine and the company that prepares it, Comptech. "Our engine was fine today," he said. "We tested how long you can run a Comptech engine. This one is still running after 650 miles, so that's saying something. It held together."
Another positive point is that heading into the biggest race of the year, the Indy 500 on May 26, the Cahill Dallara doesn't need to be repaired after a big crash after leaving Nazareth, unlike the cars of many other teams.
Scott Sharp won the race by .4969 of a second over Felipe Giaffone, with Gil de Ferran third.