Daytona 24: Cheever Racing final report

Podium Bid by Cheever Racing's ...

Podium Bid by Cheever Racing's #39 Prototype Foiled Two Hours From End of Daytona 24-Hour; #51 Team Car Soldiers Home 22nd

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sunday, Jan. 29, 2006) With a podium finish in its sights and just two hours remaining in the team's first-ever Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car endurance race, the #39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Special Reserve Lexus Crawford of Christian Fittipaldi, Patrick Carpentier and team owner Eddie Cheever, Jr., fell victim to a terminal mechanical failure after a solid 22-hour run during which it was a fixture in the top-five from the three-hour mark onward.

After starting from the 13th position on the 66-car starting grid, the Crown Royal Special Reserve Lexus moved right to the front of the pack in the early going and enjoyed a dominating stretch of 68 laps in the lead from the eight-hour mark to midway through the 11th hour. It led 74 laps in all, and pitted only for scheduled fuel-and-tire stops and other planned service during its entire 22-hour run. The #39 car placed 17th on the final result sheet.

Meanwhile, the #51 Cheever Racing NetVu Video Lexus Crawford of Stefan Johansson, Tommy Erdos, Warren Hughes and Mike Newton battled to a 22nd-place finish despite major problems that sent it behind the wall for extended repairs on three separate occasions, beginning with the opening laps of the race.

Johansson was behind the wheel at the start in the #51 Cheever Racing machine, but as he concluded his first tour of the 3.560-mile Daytona International Speedway road course, smoke poured out of the rear. The culprit was an oil line that had come undone, prompting the team to spend the next 17 laps in the garage securing it, and sending Johansson to the back of the 66-car field.

Later, during the sixth hour of the race and with Hughes behind the wheel running in 36th position, overheating problems sent car and driver to the garage again, this time to replace the radiator. That job cost another 31 laps and sent the team back to 47th place.

Early in the 15th hour, while running in 29th, the #51 car and driver Newton had to go to the garage a third time to replace suspension pieces. Another 28 laps were lost to the leaders as Newton resumed in 35th position.

That proved to be the end of the major incidents for the #51 team, which was forced to drive the latter half of the race without the aid of power steering after the system failed shortly after midnight.

>From there, Johansson, Erdos, Hughes and Newton methodically soldiered toward the front of the field, ultimately coming home in 22nd place.

Next up for the Grand American Rolex Series is the March 5 event at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI

"All in all, I'll have to say I'm happy. With the way the whole team performed all weekend, to our strategy, to our engineers and our three-driver lineup, it all went like clockwork until our unfortunate outcome. It was almost too good to be true. We never had to come in and fix anything. We didn't touch anybody, really, out on the track. It was a big disappointment to see it end like that. We even started looking forward to being on the podium. Even without the podium, a top-five finish would have been a great, great result. We definitely have some good things to build on, and more than a month to get ready for the next one."

PATRICK CARPENTIER

"It was a very good experience all the way around for me in my first sports car race. I really didn't know what to expect at all. I thought I was going to sleep between stints and life was going to be great. But I actually didn't get to sleep at all. Too bad we broke down because things were looking really, really good for so long. It was definitely a fun and worthwhile experience, and I hope I get to do it again - a lot. We got a lot of attention for a first-year team at its first race of the year. People definitely noticed us - on and off the track. That's what it's really about, isn't it?"

STEFAN JOHANSSON

"It was like a moral victory to just take the checkered flag after the weekend we had. It was a struggle from the very first lap of the race. But we were still battling at the end, and that's a real credit to all the people involved. They never quit. That's what 24-hour racing is supposed to be like. Sometimes you get through flawlessly, and you cherish those times because it seems like everybody gets only one or two of those in a lifetime. Other times it's like you keep hitting a brick wall. I'll still have to say it was fun at times. When you fall as far behind like we did, all you're left with is to enjoy the moment, and I think all of us definitely had enough moments to take with us from here. The guys all stuck with the program and we brought her home in one piece."

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.

"It didn't end like we had hoped it would, but we leave our first Daytona 24-hour race feeling really good about the future of our Grand Am program. We came here with no expectations, really, as it was our first time racing these prototypes. But we approached this monumental task with the same focus and discipline that our IRL team has always depended on to get through the month of May at Indy. It was a disappointing way to end it for the 39 team, but one of our goals was to get through the race without any unscheduled stops and without any penalties. On that account, it was a great success for a first-time effort. Hats off to the drivers, and everyone on the team. As for the NetVu Video team, it was a case study in perseverance. Whatever could go wrong seemed to go wrong. But they were there at the finish and almost pulled out a top-20 finish despite it all. We are very appreciative of the support given us by Crown Royal and Lexus that enables us to compete in the Grand American Rolex Series. It's a delight to be here. We're looking forward to the next race. And, like we do with our IndyCar team, our countdown to next year's Daytona 24-hour is already underway."

-cheever racing

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