IRL: Cheever to give Goodyear an equal shot of winning at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2001 -- Car owner-driver Eddie Cheever Jr. won't flash any "EZY" signs from his race car at new teammate Scott Goodyear late in this year's Indianapolis 500. That was the sign that owner Lou Moore...

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2001 -- Car owner-driver Eddie Cheever Jr. won't flash any "EZY" signs from his race car at new teammate Scott Goodyear late in this year's Indianapolis 500. That was the sign that owner Lou Moore displayed to rookie Bill Holland, who was leading the Indianapolis 500 in 1947. Holland backed off, allowing teammate Mauri Rose to pass and score his second Indy victory. It took Holland two more years before he finally saw the checkered flag waved at him at Indy. Cheever, like Rose, has a victory, in 1998. Goodyear has two second-place finishes. "The first thing I told Scott when I asked him if he was going to drive for us was that he would have exactly the same shot that I have at the Indianapolis 500," Cheever said. "And that means from the first day of May all the way through the end." Cheever, 43, officially announced on Feb. 12 that Goodyear, 41, would join Team Cheever as the development driver for the new Infiniti 35A engine and as a teammate in the Indianapolis 500. Both came to Indy and qualified for the first time in 1990. And Cheever admits their relationship wasn't the greatest then. "He knows me, and I know him," Cheever said. "I wouldn't say Scott and I were mortal enemies, but if Scott got within 30 feet of me seven or eight years ago, I would be very wary, and he would be very wary." But that unfriendliness toward each other developed into great respect as they battled wheel-to-wheel in the Indy Racing League. Now they are friends. At a press conference before the Indy Racing Northern Light Series season finale in October 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway, Cheever revealed that he asked Goodyear to join his team for the 2001 season. "I have confidence I'll run very strong at Indy," said Goodyear, who feels the engine development work will prepare him for his first Indy victory. Cheever emphasized more than once that his team will give Goodyear every chance to win at Indianapolis. "We are both equal," Cheever said. In fact, Cheever noted that when he is in the car he acts solely as a driver. Team manager Dick Caron makes the strategy decisions in the race. Cheever said he actually ranks third in the team hierarchy, also behind chief mechanic Owen Snyder III. "That's a promise I made to Scott," Cheever said about providing an identical opportunity at Indy. "I felt it was very important that he know that, because if I was in his shoes, I would not be racing for a team that would not allow me a shot at the 500. Obviously, I'd rather win it myself. If I can't win it, I'd love nothing more than to be a part of Scott's first Indianapolis 500 win." Goodyear, a native of Toronto who has lived the last seven years in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, notes that his main goal in his racing life has been to win the Indianapolis 500. He said he's always understood there are some events that supersede all others in their immensity, and Indy ranks highest in the sport of auto racing. "As a child growing up in Canada, we used to watch 'Hockey Night' all the time, because it was just a Canadian institution," he said. "And now ... I've come to realize that Indianapolis is more important to a racing car driver than I did as a child growing up with just a dream of going and watching the race one day or even having a shot at trying to go there and qualifying." And a victory would provide the ultimate fulfillment for Goodyear. "It would be just great satisfaction, you know, and I would cherish the moment," he said. "And I'm sure I would want to go back and continue doing it. It's something that's in my blood, something I get up and live for every day." Goodyear, of course, was a part of the closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history. The nose of his car was even with Al Unser Jr.'s rear tire when they crossed the line side by side in 1992. The difference between first and second was an infinitesimal 43-thousands of a second. Ironically, the mechanic on Unser's car was Snyder, now Cheever's chief mechanic. Later that year, Goodyear received a picture of that finish for the ages. What did he do with it? "As a joke in my office at the time up in Toronto, I hung it upside down, because my blue-and-silver car led Al Jr.'s blue-and-white car across the finish line. A lot of people used to laugh at that, but it was a lot of fun." Cheever had his big chance at Indianapolis in 1998 and made the most of it. He got the lead and drove his heart out over the last 23 laps to hold off 1996 champion Buddy Lazier. Still, Cheever said fate decides everything, and he knows that even if he tried, as the car owner, to tell Goodyear to slow down, it wouldn't happen. "He didn't do it at Texas (where Goodyear won by .140 of second over Cheever) in the last race (of 2000), and I already was negotiating with him," Cheever said with a laugh. "He'd probably do that same thing all over again."

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Scott Goodyear