Mcgehee In Familiar Situation
January 5, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
For the second straight year, Cahill owner Larry Cahill will most likely be funding the bulk of his one-car team out of his own pocket. That means minimal testing, research and development.
McGehee isn’t letting the situation affect his outlook, which remains cautiously optimistic as he heads into his fourth year of Indy Racing League competition.
“Realistically can we win? We don’t have as good a chance as someone who tests a lot,” McGehee said. “Then again, you never know what luck can do for you. As long as we have a car that can run in the Top 5, 6 or 7, anything can happen and we could win. You obviously have pit strategy coming into it, and Larry Cahill actually did a very good job of calling pit strategy and got us some good finishes last year.
“Doing well in racing is all about preparation, which includes testing. If you don’t test, you’re definitely at a disadvantage. That doesn’t rule out a victory or a good run, but it reduces your chances.”
Cahill and McGehee had piecemeal sponsorship last season from several small companies and the St. Louis Cardinals-Atlas Van Lines at the Gateway Indy 250 in Madison, Ill., but a major sponsor never picked up the team that finished in the Top 5 in the points in 2000 with Donnie Beecher.
The team set out to change all that in the offseason. Sept. 11 thwarted those plans.
“The deal was to find a lot more funding so we would be able to test and stuff,” McGehee explained. “Cahill Racing’s always been a smaller team that’s not as well funded, so we haven’t been able to test quite as much as the other teams and stuff, but fortunately with the formula of the IRL we can still go out there and run competitive at most of the races.”
All is not bleak on the sponsorship front, though. McGehee expects the Cardinals-Atlas deal will return when the IRL heads to Gateway in August and he said Qwest communications is looking to be a part of the team at the Indianapolis 500 in May.
That’s not enough to keep up with big spenders such as Roger Penske and Tom Kelley, but a lack of funding didn’t keep McGehee out of the spotlight last season, either.
The 28-year-old Missouri native finished in the Top 10 four times and led 13 laps of competition at Kentucky Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway. He finished 16th in points – 43 points out of the Top 10 - but would have finished much higher if he didn’t miss two races because of injuries suffered at Texas Motor Speedway in June.
A month ago, McGehee shed himself of the brace he wore on his left leg since surgery just after the Oct. 6 season finale. After some holiday relaxation in Key West, Fla., McGehee has resumed his workout schedule and is getting himself back in racing shape.
“My leg’s not fully healed,” he said. “It’s working really well. I still am a little careful with it, but I do work out. I do leg presses, squats. I work out three times a week and ride a bike pretty much every day of the week.
“I’m just very careful in what I do because I obviously don’t want to break it again. I was 100 percent as far as driving is concerned by the end of the year. You really don’t use your left foot that much.”
The night race at Richmond International Raceway was one of the events McGehee missed while on the sidelines last season. That, plus the addition of California Speedway, Nazareth Speedway and Michigan International Speedway means McGehee will be facing four new tracks next season while his competitors adjust to just three.
“I’ve been to Richmond, I did a promotion there before the Texas crash,” McGehee said. “It’s actually really small. It’s different enough in the sense that I wish I had been there last year. One-mile ovals, I’ve been to a lot of them and there’s not much difference. But that one’s going be just a whole different deal.”
“I’m really probably looking forward most to Nazareth. The smaller tracks really equalize the budget deal, because it’s a lot more toward the driver. Nazareth I think is like three road-course corners, and that’s my history in racing other than the IRL. That being said, there’s a lot of good drivers in the IRL now, so it’s not going to make it easy.
“On a team where we don’t have the biggest motor budget, where we don’t have the biggest budget for research and development on aerodynamics, I prefer a shorter track where I can drive my way around the other guys instead of just sit there and hang on.”
McGehee has two more months of hanging on to the offseason before the first race at Homestead on March 2.