McGehee has proof of childhood Indy dreams
Updated: Tuesday May 22, 2001 8:16 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- For as long as he can remember, Robby McGehee wanted to drive a car in the Indianapolis 500. And he's got the documentation to prove it.
Exactly 20 years ago, in a second-grade composition dated May 19, 1981, the 7-year-old McGehee wrote, "When I grow up I will be an Indianapolis racer. I will go two hundred miles an hour. I'll have a black car and I want to be number fifteen."
Except for the No. 10 on his black Cahill Racing Dallara-Oldsmobile, McGehee's bold prediction has come true. Not only that, he finished fifth and was the Indy 500 rookie of the year in 1999, and last week he qualified for his third start at Indy.
"I honestly don't remember writing it," he said Saturday from his home in St. Louis, where he took a couple days away from Indy. "But I can say that ever since I can remember ... I would always wake up Sunday morning and go watch the race [on television].
"A lot of young boys want to be race drivers, firemen, whatever," he said. "When we wrote that paper, `When I Grow Up,' that's what I wanted to do."
The long-lost composition, in which McGehee also said his favorite drivers were A.J. Foyt and Johnny Rutherford, was uncovered by McGehee's mother while she was cleaning the basement of their home, he said.
Already safely in the lineup with a qualification speed last week of 222.607 mph, McGehee went home for the weekend to relax. He planned to be back in Indianapolis on Monday, three days before the final practice for the May 27 race.
"This is a really hard race to win," he said. "There are a lot of great drivers who haven't won it. This year, I probably have as good a chance as ever. But you need to be on top of everything and then lucky on top of that."
And, as he also wrote in his second-grade composition, "I hope I will win the race."
Wattles out of Indy chase
Stan Wattles, who crashed twice last week, will not make an attempt to get in the Indy 500 during the final qualifications.
"The car just didn't feel right," he said Saturday.
"It was extremely unstable, even with a lot of downforce and new tires. The front end felt strange through the corners and down the straightaway, and that's something that doesn't need to be explored the day before Bubble Day [final qualifications]," said Wattles, who was not injured in either crash.
Wattles, whose best finish in three previous starts at Indy was 17th in 1999, hit the wall coming out of the first turn during practice on May 11.
Two days later, on the first lap of a qualification attempt, he came low in turn 1, spun 180 degrees and hit the wall again. Later that day in practice, teammate and former winner Buddy Lazier spun Wattles' backup car into the wall.
"This was the most difficult decision that I've had to make in my racing career," said Wattles, who began racing sports cars in 1986. "After all, this is the Indy 500."
The No. 94 Dallara chassis will be taken to an outside company to see if the reason for the problem can be found. Once the results are known, Wattles likely will test the car again before the Hemelgarn Racing team makes a decision about the rest of the IRL season.
Racing for charity
Tony Stewart will donate $100 to charity for every lap he completes May 27 in the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600. And his two race teams -- Joe Gibbs Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing -- and sponsor, The Home Depot, will each match Stewart's total.
With a possible 600 laps in the two races, that could be worth $240,000 for the Victory Junction Gang Camp, which will be a year-around facility in Randleman, N.C., for children with chronic and life-threatening diseases.
The camp is being built by Kyle and Pattie Petty in honor of their late son, Adam. Groundbreaking is set for later this year, with construction to be completed in the summer of 2004.
Driver hospitalized after crashINDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Driver Tyce Carlson was taken to Methodist Hospital with back pain after crashing during practice Saturday for the Indianapolis 500.
He was awake, alert and in stable condition, the Speedway said.
Carlson, who already has qualified for the May 27 race, spun coming out of the fourth turn and hit the inside wall with the nose of his car and bounced back onto the track. The car then hit the wall near the pit entrance.
He was put on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to the Speedway infield hospital and then transferred to Methodist for observation.
Sarah Fisher, 20, the youngest driver in the Indianapolis 500, will be featured Wednesday in a segment of "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw." An NBC crew filmed the segment this week at the Speedway. ... The green flag starting Saturday's practice was waved by Ronnie Mund, the limousine driver for radio host Howard Stern. ... Pit assignments for the race will be made at the end of qualifications on Sunday. ... Six drivers who already have qualified for Indy were in Saturday's CART race in Japan: Helio Castroneves, Jimmy Vasser, Gil de Ferran, Nicholas Minassian, Michael Andretti and Bruno Junqueira. Castroneves finished second to former Indy winner Kenny Brack.