Saturday, June 6, 2009

Where Are They Now: Robby McGehee

(Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
By: Tony Donohue

Ten years ago, Robby McGehee came to the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie.

The St. Louis native and graduate of Ole Miss University was 25-years-old when he made his first laps at the famed 2.5 mile oval.

Robby got his start at the Skip Barber racing school when he was 15-years-old and 10 years later, he found himself running for Rookie of the Year honors for the 83rd Indianapolis 500.

Robby credits his mother for getting into racing. "When I was young, I had a sports car, she had a sports car, and we saw each other on the street. Of course the only thing to do is drag race, right?" Robby said.

Robby came to Indy in May of 1999 running for Conti Racing in a Dallara powered by Oldsmobile. The black No. 55 Energizer-sponsored car didn't go unnoticed at the Speedway. Robby qualified 27th for the 500 at 220.139, five MPH slower then pole-sitter, Arie Luyendyk.

Robby overcame a pit road incident that put chief mechanic Steve Fried into a coma for a few months. Robby used that determination to pilot his 55 car to a fifth place finish and he received Rookie of the Year Honors. Robby accepted the award on Fried's behalf.

"It was bittersweet because my chief mechanic was badly injured, but he was OK after a few weeks so I could enjoy it." Robby said of the 1999 500. Robby went on to record four top 10s in seven starts in his rookie season, finishing 16th in the final standings.

Those four top 10s caught the eyes of many Indy Racing League owners, including Indy 500 champion car owner, Rick Treadway. Robby ran his second season for Treadwayin the Meijer No. 5 car. "I had the best success in that car, the car in 2000 was always awesome."

Awesome it was, posting four top 10s in nine races, and a career best second place finish in the Casino Magic 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway.

"Treadway was the power team at the time, we tested for Firestone, had the best motors, and the best tires. I had a great relationship with the team and was always a confident drivers." Robby recalled on the 2000 season.

His success in 2000 led to a test with Panther Racing. The test was cancelled twice due to rain, and Mother Nature gave the ride to Sam Hornish, Jr., who went on to twinchampionships with Panther.

Robby ran 2001 in the No. 10 Cahill Racing car. Sponsored by Olypus, Robby ran a half black, half white car at Indy, resulting in an 11th place finish after starting 14th. He finished off the year with four top 10 finishes, finishing 16th in points.

Robby went on to run for Beck Motorsports, posting one top 10 in 2002, and failed to qualify for the Indy 500. He returned in 2003, where he ran the Indy 500 for Panther racing. He qualified on Bump Day in the 31st position and finished 25th in the Panther No. 44.

He returned to the speedway in 2004 and ran for PDM Racing. He squeaked in as the last qualifier on Bump Day and started 33rd. He piloted the No. 18 Burger King car to a 22nd finishing spot. Robby ran the Texas race for RedBull Cheever Racing that season.

Robby has now hung up the racing gloves and is a newly crowned father to triplets. Robby's wife, Norma, gave birth to Harry, Robby, Jr., and Cammie. They were born on April 27th.

Robby spends his free time flying airplanes, golfing, and playing with his five dogs. He is the vice president at Huntleigh McGehee. He still resides in the St. Louis area.


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