• August 7, 2020

PERMIAN BASIN PROFILE: Odessa's McGaha ready to return to NHRA competition - Odessa American: Sports

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PERMIAN BASIN PROFILE: Odessa's McGaha ready to return to NHRA competition

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Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2020 7:55 pm

For Chris McGaha, the opportunity to finally get back on the track and compete competitively in the National Hot Rod Association has made him excited but nervous at the same time.

Like most other athletes across the country, McGaha has been sidelined from competition due to the ongoing pandemic.

While he’s eager to get back to normal as best as possible, he also knows that it’s been awhile since he’s been in a competitive race.

“Well, I know I’m a little nervous,” McGaha said. “I guess because it’s been so long. This is the longest break that I’ve had from racing. Normally, you do a winter deal but this has been the longest break that I’ve had since I started professional racing. It’s going to be interesting.”

The longtime Odessa resident, who graduated from Permian in 1997, has made a name for himself in NHRA, building a ninth-place ranking in the Pro Stock.

The last NHRA race took place in Februarybat the Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Then COVID-19 began to spread and the season was put on hold.

But McGaha and his team, sponsored by Harlow Sammons, will return to action July 11-12 at the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

For McGaha, it’s been business as usual as they’ve been working on motors and will stop in Tulsa, Okla., for a test session on their way up to Indianapolis.

“They’re having a test session in Indy, but we’re going to stop in Tulsa since we have a second car that my son (Mason) is going to drive,” McGaha said. “He’s getting his feet wet. It’s something that we’ve been working on at our local track. We’re trying to get him acclimated with the track and we don’t want him to have to deal with all the pressure.”

That test session will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

McGaha has also had practice sessions at Penwell Knights Raceway.

“I know the owner out there and we arranged it to where we can go out there on a week day and spend most of the day out there with no distractions in a private test sessions,” McGaha said. “I did one last week and the week before.”

Racing has been a big part in the McGaha family. His father, Lester McGaha, also raced before quitting in 2000.

“It’s always been a family deal,” Chris said. “My family went racing and I grew up at the race track. I assumed everyone had a race car and now my kids have done the same thing.”

It should then come as no surprise that McGaha’s favorite role model is his dad.

“I’ve been hanging out around the shop for as long as I can remember,” McGaha said. “My family’s business started in Odessa. I spent a lot of summers in the shop (growing up). I didn’t spend my summers at camps. I’ve grown up around him and seen how he does things.”

While McGaha is glad to among the top 10, he’s also starting to eye bigger things like a championship.

“When I started, my main objective was to win a race,” McGaha said. “I won a race in 2015. Chasing a championship was never on my radar. But now that I’ve won a couple of races, I’m not going to say I’m focused on winning a championship but it has come up on my radar. That needs to be a goal to set.”

As he continues his career, his love of racing has only continued to grow.

“I love working on cars. I always have. As I get older, I start to appreciate that I can still drive these cars and I’m watching my kid drive and can see that he has the potential to be good. I appreciate driving more than I thought I did.”

Odessa, TX

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