Indianapolis, IN - ...
Indianapolis, IN - #51 Excite@Home driver and 1998 Indianapolis 500 Champion Eddie Cheever Jr. received the prestigious Pat O'Connor Award from the Hoosier Auto Racing Fans (HARF) at the HARF awards banquet in Indianapolis on January 21.
The unanimous choice of the HARF Board of Directors, Cheever was felt to exemplify the character of the late Pat O'Connor, the popular Hoosier sprint car and USAC Champion who was killed in the 1958 running of the Indianapolis 500. The Pat O'Connor award is presented only in years in which HARF officers wish to honor a driver exhibiting on-track excellence, devotion, consideration, and a constant effort to promote auto racing.
"For over a decade now I have been one of the many racing drivers making a yearly pilgrimage to the greatest racing circuit in the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," noted Cheever. "I have come to realize that the greatest honor for all the drivers who compete in the Indianapolis 500 is not the driving, but rather the amazing relationship that they are allowed to develop with hundreds of thousands of racing fans."
Continued Cheever: "After all these years of racing -- and it has been quite a few -- I still consider myself the luckiest man alive. I have always been totally and hopelessly in love with racing. At the start of every Indianapolis 500, when all the ceremonies are over and it is time to get strapped in my race car and I look down the front straight and see the hundreds of thousands of fans that share the same passion, I realize that I made the right choice with my life."
Past winners of the Pat O'Connor award include Sheldon Kinser (1975), Jeff Gordon (1992), and Dave Darland (1998). HARF officers cited Cheever's racing performances, as well as his treatment of fans, the media, and other competitors in bestowing the 2000 award.
"I never met Pat O'Connor, but I know that he shared the same passion for racing that I do," remarked Cheever. "This award from HARF is greatly appreciated and unexpected, and I hope -- even though some things in this crazy world have to change -- that the bond between American racing drivers and fans is not one of them."
HARF was founded forty-nine years ago by a group of committed racing fans including the late Gene Powlen, the late Bob Laycock Sr., and Ted Hollingsworth Jr., and boasts a current membership of 1200 fans.
Primary Sponsorship of the #51 Indy Car comes from Excite@Home. The company is based in Redwood City, California, at the heart of Silicon Valley. Associate Sponsors of Team Cheever include Infiniti, Firestone, Menards, Bosch, and Pennzoil.