From his time as a mechanic on Mario Andretti's Indy 500-winning entry in 1969 to leading drivers and teams to numerous championships in the decades that followed, Jim McGee's name is etched throughout the history of open-wheel racing.
One of his protégés has gone on to pen multiple entries of his own in the history books, and with a need for someone to look after Ryan Briscoe's No. 8 NTT Data Chevy Indy car on race weekends, Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull asked if McGee would be interested in bringing his years of management and race strategy to bear starting at last weekend's Indy 500.
With McGee overseeing the young Aussie's race, the two made the most out of a trouble-filled day, and with the new association worked as well as planned, McGee is back in the Ganassi camp for the Dual in Detroit doubleheader.
"Being with Jim here at Belle Isle is a great refresher on how well he unselfishly mentors," Hull told RACER. "There are a lot of us who are clear extensions of how he moved us to a fresh race craft perspective. His big picture view made a large difference for Ryan's race at Indy after the lap 1 incident. He exudes the confidence to get the most with the consideration of all alternatives.
"His overview approach on the set-up day, today here at Belle Isle was one of working backwards from the race to the first practice lap. Successful racing is a balance between the engineering resource and management that utilizes all of the manpower avenue – with Jim the whole room participates."
Hull has the peerless Ricky Davis running the No. 8 effort and veteran engineer Eric Cowdin in charge of engineering Briscoe, but the need to add overall management support for the No. 8 and to handle race strategy has been a role Hull's sought to fill.
"We have been trying really, really hard to find permanently somebody to manage the Briscoe side of the team on race weekends because our system seems to work well and we have a manager on duty as well as a chief engineer," Hull added. "And we've got a lot of experience on the stand because Ricky Davis doesn't go over the wall, but he has to also look after the car. At certain times, pivotal times, it is important to have just management there to help out."
Joining the Ganassi team has been a comfortable transition so far, according to McGee.
"The team is a championship-winning organization, and they've welcomed me in and made everything quite comfortable," said McGee. "I tested Ryan [Briscoe] years ago and really rated him highly, so being able to work with him, work with Mike [Hull], Ricky Davis, Eric Cowdin, and all the guys – it's a strong group that already has the talent in place."
McGee will, for now limit his participation to race weekends, and after helping Briscoe turn around an Indy 500 that went awry on the opening lap, Hull was sold on having his mentor return for Detroit and beyond.
"I worked for Jim for a couple of years, we've been really good friends for a long, long time, and for me, it was a huge difference maker for me. He was a real mentor for me. He made a difference for me in my life. He helped set direction. So it's almost like full-circle in a way by having him here.
"So we got him for Indy to help those guys with the No. 8 car, we've got him here now, and he's a big confidence builder. What I like about him is he sees what's positive and he knows how to be positive and take it even one step above that and I really like that. And he's really unflappable and I like that part too. I think we can have a lot of success with Ryan and the No. 8 can and Jim is one of the guys who knows how to bring everyone together to make it happen."
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