2004 IndyCar Preview: Red Bull Team Cheever Cheever's Two-Car Enterprise Shows Promise INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Feb. 20, 2004 -- Eddie Cheever Jr. surveyed the scene and recounted his drivers' first day of testing from the back of the Red Bull ...
2004 IndyCar Preview: Red Bull Team Cheever
Cheever's Two-Car Enterprise Shows Promise
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Feb. 20, 2004 -- Eddie Cheever Jr. surveyed the scene and recounted his drivers' first day of testing from the back of the Red Bull Cheever Racing hauler at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Jan. 28.
Their potential is obvious.
"We have two interesting drivers at different points in the careers," said Cheever, the 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner who is both boss and mentor to Alex Barron and Ed Carpenter. "Alex is obviously at the peak. Ed is very enthusiastic and stands on the gas with both feet. If he takes the time to integrate himself into the team and work with Alex, he will make a lot of progress."
Both have steadily progressed in open-wheel racing, and are seeking to take further steps in the IRL IndyCar Series.
Barron, the co-Rookie of the Year in 2002 at the Indianapolis 500, competed in 10 races for three different teams en route to a 17th-place finish in the point standings last year. He won the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan, driving as a substitute for the injured Felipe Giaffone with Mo Nunn Racing, and totaled five top-10 and two top-five finishes.
Barron also substituted for the injured Gil de Ferran with Marlboro Team Penske in the Japan Indy 300 (17th), sat in for the injured Arie Luyendyk with Mo Nunn Racing in the Indianapolis 500 (sixth), and replaced Buddy Rice with Red Bull Cheever Racing for the final three events (seventh, 10th and 20th).
Substitute is a label he gladly removed from his fire suit.
"I'm really happy to have a full-time ride with Red Bull Cheever Racing," said Barron, 32, who made his IRL IndyCar debut in 2001 with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and finished fifth in the 2002 point standings in a full season with Blair Racing.
"I can't say enough for all the hard work they've put in last year and during the off-season. They've shown me how dedicated they are to producing a winning team and I'm excited to be a part of that."
Barron was consistent in the No. 51 Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone in eight Open Test sessions the past month at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway as the team worked on race and qualifying set-ups. He attributes the results to Cheever and his crew.
"I think more than anything it's stability, knowing that the chemistry that you build on will be there throughout the year," Barron said. "It's tough when you go from team to team, working with a set of guys and different team owners and everything that you build on you lose. And then you have to start all over when you go to the next team. I think when you start the year strong and you have that going for you, you can build on it and just make it better and better every week."
Carpenter, who finished third in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series on the strength of one victory and seven other top-five finishes, has high goals for 2004. He also competed in the final three IndyCar Series events for PDM Racing last year, finishing 13th, 13th and 21st.
"I'm happy with the two years of experience I got out of the Infiniti Pro (Series)," said Carpenter, who turns 23 on March 3. "I learned a lot and it's giving me a good baseline to come to the IndyCar Series with Team Cheever. We have a lot of goals. One of my top goals is winning the Rookie of the Year award and just putting ourselves in position to win races and ultimately be in the championship hunt come at the end of the season."
In September, Carpenter became the first IRL driver to compete in a Menards Infiniti Pro Series event and an IndyCar Series event on the same weekend. There's no hesitation when asked if he's ready for the major leagues.
"(Red Bull Cheever Racing) is the most organized team I've been with yet in my career," he said. "So it's been a lot easier to learn, being in a structured environment, working with the engineering group that they have put in place here, and Alex. I have a lot to learn being a rookie. So just learning general knowledge about the cars and changes we need to make when the car is doing certain things are the areas I've been learning the most and need to continue to learn.''
Through the testing sessions and their time just talking racing, Barron has pegged Carpenter as a quick study.
"We work together as teammates very well on and off the track, and I think that he's learned a great deal as of now," Barron said. "He's going about it the right way. Being teammates and working with Eddie, he has a lot of experience, a lot of input and with the three of us together. I think it's going to be strong."
CAPSULE LOOK AT RED BULL CHEEVER RACING
Sponsor: Red Bull
Owner: Eddie Cheever Jr.
Drivers: Alex Barron (No. 51), Ed Carpenter (No. 52)
Team manager: Max Jones
Crew chiefs: Craig McCain (No. 51), Robin Boling (No. 52)
Engineers: Len Paskus (No. 51), Stefan Dwornik (No. 52)
OWNER VIEWPOINT Eddie Cheever: "This is an exciting transition for us. We're coming into this season with commitment and experience from what we gathered last year. It's an opportunity to prove what we really are capable of. GM ended on a really strong note last year. I'm looking forward to continuing our relationship with GM and our third consecutive year partnering with Red Bull. Not only are we expanding to a two-car team, we're doing it with two of the best American open-wheel drivers out there."
Ed Carpenter: "I'm happy to be given the opportunity to work with Eddie Cheever for a team that he has worked so hard to build. I have a close relationship with him since he has been a mentor throughout my entire career. Being teammates with an experienced driver like Alex Barron will be a great advantage for me."
Alex Barron on the Indianapolis 500: "The experience that I had there, now I think that it's sufficient enough that if we do our homework and if we get a good car for the race there on Sunday, I think that we've got a good shot at trying to go for the win."
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on Feb. 29, 2004, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.