IRL: Cheever prospects Ward, Rice reach 219 MPH in testing at Fontana

FONTANA, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2001 - Eddie Cheever Jr. is in a pleasant predicament after testing veteran Jeff Ward and rookie Buddy Rice for a seat in his second Cheever Indy Racing car for the 2002 Indy Racing season. Both drivers were...

FONTANA, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2001 - Eddie Cheever Jr. is in a pleasant predicament after testing veteran Jeff Ward and rookie Buddy Rice for a seat in his second Cheever Indy Racing car for the 2002 Indy Racing season.

Both drivers were fast Nov. 28 at California Speedway. In fact, they were almost identically fast.

1997 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year Ward turned 121 laps in the #51 Red Bull-Cheever Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone with a top speed of 219.78 mph. Former Toyota Atlantic champion Rice, who also tested Nov. 27 with Cheever, turned 22 laps at the end of the session Wednesday with a top speed of 219.85.

"It is going to be very difficult to choose a second driver," Cheever said. "Both Jeff and Buddy did a great job this week.

"Buddy did remarkably well under difficult circumstances (Tuesday). Jeff did a great job, as well. It is great to see the improvements he has made since he won the Rookie of the Year at Indy for Team Cheever in 1997."

Cheever was the leader of the trio, recording a top speed of 220.99 mph during 33 laps on the 2-mile oval. Speeds were faster than Tuesday, as the strong "Santa Ana" winds subsided. Cheever led the speed chart Tuesday at 218 mph.

California Speedway will play host to its inaugural Indy Racing event March 24, 2002, a 400-mile race. After two days of testing, Cheever drew comparisons between California and two other tracks on the 2002 Indy Racing schedule.

"The track is amazingly similar to the Michigan Speedway," Cheever said. "It is also a very exciting track because it lends itself to very close, side-by-side racing similar to Texas."

The entire field of Indy Racing drivers will travel to the California Speedway on Feb. 5-6 for the beginning of the annual Test in the West. A media day Feb. 5 at California Speedway will kick off the event, followed by testing Feb. 6 on the 2-mile oval.

For California Speedway ticket information, call the track at (800) 944-7223.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Jeff Ward