IRL: Richmond: Robby McGehee race report

McGehee finishes ninth Saturday night in the SunTrust Indy 250 at Richmond. RICHMOND, Va., June 29 - In only his second race with the Beck Motorsports/Parsons Motorsport Marketing team and his first visit to Richmond International Raceway ever,...

McGehee finishes ninth Saturday night in the SunTrust Indy 250 at Richmond.

RICHMOND, Va., June 29 - In only his second race with the Beck Motorsports/Parsons Motorsport Marketing team and his first visit to Richmond International Raceway ever, Robby McGehee finished ninth in the SunTrust Indy Challenge Indy Racing League event Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

There were fireworks on the track and in the pits. The close competition and the short track kept McGehee busy all night. And in the pits, the Beck Motorsports pit crew became instant firefighters when there was a pit fire in the next pit stall.

But at the end of the night everyone affiliated with the Norwalk Furniture Dallara Chevy #54 was thrilled with the top-10 finish.

"This is a great finish for us," McGehee said while sitting on the pit wall a few minutes after climbing out of his car after the checkered. "To get a top-10 in only our second race together, we have to be happy. I know we were a few laps down, but just staying out there and staying out of trouble was a big feat. Even after we went down a couple laps, it didn't make it any easier. We may have finished a few laps down, but at least we finished."

McGehee had his hands full all night, but he was encouraged by the fact that the car was at its best at the end of the race. In the last few laps he was running laps as fast or faster than the podium finishers, Sam Hornish Jr. Gil de Ferran and Felipe Giaffone.

Restarts were the most hairy, but once McGehee's Firestone Firehawk tires heated up, things got better.

"On restarts I'd go right towards the wall," McGehee said. "The rubber on the track was horrible. But then when the tires heated up, the car would get better. On that last set of tires we were running fast. If we would have had more track time here, we would have done even better.

"This was my first time here, but Greg [Beck] was here last year and he had good data for the set-up. We were never comfortable in turn two, but there at the end the car felt pretty good everyplace else. But when you get a couple laps down it's tough to get them back here," McGehee added.

McGehee passed Alex Barron twice in the late stages of the race and nailed down ninth just 10 laps from the finish. Barron didn't give him much of a struggle, since he was dealing with an engine misfire at the time.

McGehee said one of his most frightening moments came on the last restart, on the leader's lap 196. There was a false start on that one, and McGehee said he was the reason why.

"I got sideways in turn four big-time then," McGehee said. "I just barely saved it. I think I gave people all sorts of different angles of the Norwalk Furniture decal on our sidepods tonight."

McGehee said he was too close for comfort to Laurent Redon's crash with Eddie Cheever Jr. on lap 182.

"Redon was airborne; that was a bad one," McGehee said at the time.

After starting 16th, McGehee struggled with a loose car in the early stages of the race, especially in turn two. Since the only car behind him on lap 12 was George Mack's, Beck brought McGehee in for a quick fuel stop under the first yellow to pad the team's fuel window.

Subsequent stops went well on laps 112 and 153, and the only changes that were made to the car all night were simple ones of tire pressure.

But that doesn't mean that the crew had an easy night. In addition to their regular duties, the crew members became instant firefighters when there was a fire in Buddy Lazier's pit next to them on lap 95. The heat and flames from the wall of fire scattered most of the people in McGehee's pits, but luckily no one was hurt.

In conclusion, McGehee said "It was a grueling race, but our Menard Chevy engine was awesome and the team worked really hard. It was a tough race, but we persevered and got a top 10. We want to get a top 10 by passing people, but staying out of trouble was the most important thing to do here tonight. The car is in one piece, and hopefully we'll go on to Kansas City next weekend and build on this top 10.

"From my perspective, there was no lack of excitement here tonight," he added with a smile.

-rm/lim-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Gil de Ferran , Alex Barron , Laurent Redon , George Mack , Sam Hornis