Daytona 24: Cheever Racing Friday report

Cheever Racing Lexus Crawfords Ready To Go For Saturday's Start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Friday, Jan. 27, 2006) The Cheever Racing Lexus Crawford team completed final preparations today for Saturday's first-ever attempt to...

Cheever Racing Lexus Crawfords Ready To Go For Saturday's Start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Friday, Jan. 27, 2006) The Cheever Racing Lexus Crawford team completed final preparations today for Saturday's first-ever attempt to conquer the traditional Rolex 24 at Daytona season-opening Grand American Rolex Series Presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve sports car race.

Christian Fittipaldi, Patrick Carpentier and team owner Eddie Cheever, Jr., put the #39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Special Reserve Lexus Crawford through its final pre-race practice this afternoon, turning a fast lap of 1 minute, 46.604 seconds (an average of 120.221 mph) around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course that was eighth-best on the timesheet. They'll start from the 13th spot on Saturday's 67-car starting grid after Fittipaldi's qualifying lap Thursday of 1:45.189 (121.838 mph). Fittipaldi co-drove to victory here in 2004 while this will be Carpentier's first-ever 24-hour race, and Cheever, the 1998 Indy 500 champion, drove his only previous Daytona 24-hour in 1988.

Meanwhile, the #51 Cheever Racing NetVu Video Lexus Crawford that will start Saturday's twice-around-the-clock marathon from the 17th position after Stefan Johansson's fast qualifying lap of 1:46.074 (120.821 mph) on Thursday, experienced clutch problems that kept it off the track for the duration of final practice this afternoon. Nonetheless, Johansson and co-drivers Tommy Erdos, Warren Hughes and Mike Newton learned enough during limited practice time Thursday that they could run competitively in the race. A broken alternator belt kept the #51 car in the garage for all but four laps during yesterday's opening practice sessions. It closed the day Thursday with the 10th-fastest lap during the nighttime practice session.

Race time Saturday is noon EST. SPEED-TV will televise the first six hours live, as well as three nighttime hours of the race from 8-11 p.m. EST Saturday. Its live coverage concludes with the final four hours of the race from 8 a.m. to noon EST Sunday.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI

"Do we have the quickest car out there? No. Do we have a solid car? Absolutely. The more we run, the better we get, so after 24 hours of racing this weekend, that would mean we'll be great shape. If only it was that easy. So far, so good in our preparations this weekend. The Crown Royal car has been pretty bulletproof -- knock on wood. So we just need to stick with our plan, hope everything goes well, and we're there at the end. If that all happens, I really believe we could finish in the top three. Basically, we'll just run as hard as we can within a certain margin of safety and see where that puts us when it's all over. I'm really happy to see all the great work done by the Cheever Racing crew."

PATRICK CARPENTIER

"This will be a first for me, but I'm really looking forward to it. I've never raced a car with a roof over my head. I've also never done a 24-hour race. But I'm surrounded by some really, really good people. It should be a lot of fun. I really like it. If we get through the race relatively cleanly, I think we could end up with a really good finish. I've had a few hours in the car in practice this weekend, and it's really fun to drive. Really comfortable. It's a little unusual sitting on the right side. The traffic probably was the hardest thing to deal with. But I'm used to it and I'm ready to go and do my part. I love new experiences."

STEFAN JOHANSSON

"It's time to go racing. Let's hope we've had all the dramas we are going to have. We haven't had nearly as much time to prepare the car as we would have liked because of various little things that cost us a lot of time. It's not an ideal situation, to say the least. But when we've been able to run for any sustained period of time, I think we showed we have a solid race car. If we can just stay out of the pits and out on the racetrack, we should be in good shape. We lack the track time in practice, but if we can just keep on going, we'll be able to show what we're capable of doing."

EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.

"I'm really happy with how our cars are handling. The engineers and all the drivers are comfortable with where we are for our first 24-hour race. I'm very disappointed with the many silly little problems with the 51 car. Most of them have been unforced errors, but hopefully we learn from them and that will make us better in the end. It's a big, tall order that we've undertaken here, trying to field a strong, two-car effort in a big race like this. It's a learning process we're trying our best to get through, and, in general, I think we're doing a good job. There will be almost 70 cars out there trying to get along out there, but we will approach it like every Indy 500 we've every competed in ... we'll just stick to our plan while all those other cars out there are just a hindrance."

-cheever racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Stefan Johansson , Eddie Cheever , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Warren Hughes , Mike Newton