Fort Worth, TX - ...
Fort Worth, TX - #51 Excite@Home driver Eddie Cheever Jr. looked like a safe bet to claim his first victory of the 2000 Indy Racing season at the Casino Magic 500 on Sunday before a fuel miscalculation forced him to relinquish the race lead and dropped him out of contention for the win.
Cheever, who captured a thrilling IROC victory at Michigan Speedway on Saturday, started fifth and ran strongly in the lead pack for the entire 208-lap event. Excellent pit work by the #51 Excite@Home crew also enabled Cheever to gain valuable track position early in the race, as the #51 Infiniti-powered Dallara entered the pits in eighth place and exited in sixth on lap 64.
Cheever, the 1998 Indianapolis 500 Champion, took over the lead from Al Unser Jr. on lap 112 but was forced to pit for fuel on lap 118. "We ran out of fuel and stalled the car, which put us a lap down," recounted Cheever. "The #51 Excite@Home car was good and I was able to work my way to the front. We were running with the leaders all day and should have been in contention for the win."
Cheever led a total of six laps, and posted the fastest lap of the race - 213.065 mph - on lap 61. Although the prolonged pit stop dropped Cheever to thirteenth place, one lap down, he continued to run with the race leaders for the remainder of the event. The popular Indy Racing veteran finished the Casino Magic 500 in ninth place to record his fourth top-ten result in five races.
"It was going to be a slugging-fest between me, Little Al and Buddy (Lazier), but because of the fuel miscalculation, it didn't work out that way," summarized Cheever, who has finished every race of the 2000 season. "I got a lap down, and that was that."
Cheever and the #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Team are currently ranked third in the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series standings with 126 points, behind Scott Goodyear with 142 and Buddy Lazier with 164.