IRL: Jeret Schroeder in top ten at Pikes Peak

FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 18 - Only two drivers have finished every Indy Racing Northern Light race so far this year: Eddie Cheever Jr. and Jeret Schroeder. Both did it again Sunday afternoon in the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International ...

FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 18 - Only two drivers have finished every Indy Racing Northern Light race so far this year: Eddie Cheever Jr. and Jeret Schroeder. Both did it again Sunday afternoon in the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, with Cheever winning the 200-lapper and Schroeder finishing a solid seventh after qualifying fifth.

Schroeder, of Vineland, N.J., still leads the RaceSearch.com Rookie of the Year point standings, but Airton Dare moved into second in that category and cut Schroeder's lead to four points, 112 to 108, with a runner-up finish to Cheever Sunday. Scott Sharp, Mark Dismore and Donnie Beechler rounded out the top five, followed by Eliseo Salazar, Schroeder, Stephan Gregoire, Jaques Lazier and Al Unser Jr.

Schroeder is currently tied with Jeff Ward for eleventh in the national championship with three races remaining.

Schroeder's car, a Dallara Aurora which is fielded by Tri Star Motorsports and sponsored by Kroger Food Stores, ran in the top 10 all day. That was a nice "present" for Schroeder's biggest booster, his father, businessman Bill Schroeder, on Father's Day.

When Schroeder qualified fifth on Saturday he felt he had a solid shot at the victory, so he was disappointed with seventh. The Indy Racing Northern Light series is so competitive, however, that everything has to be nearly perfect for that to happen, and as the race developed several situations prevented a higher placing for the popular young star.

"We had a pretty good race car, but we were loose on the exit of turn two and pushing on the exit of turn four today," Schroeder said. "We worked with that right from the start and it gradually got worse. We never touched the weight jacker or made any big changes on pit stops, but we did make lots of adjustments to the stagger with the tires and the swaybars.

"The car died in the pits on the last pit stop, and that cost us some time too," he added. "The weather changed and that changed the track conditions. Some guys were blocking and we had lots of close calls with traffic. There was no one big reason; it was a combination of a lot of things. I'm glad we finished and were in the top 10, but I thought we'd be in the top five for sure today."

It could have been a lot worse. Schroeder had to dive low through the grass on the backstretch on lap 79 to avoid a spinning Shigeaki Hattori. "That was the closest call, but it was just one of many," Schroeder said.

The race featured lots of battles throughout the field and three-abreast racing in the turns. Schroeder battled with Eliseo Salazar early in the race, Cheever around lap 30 and Salazar again a little later before he made his first pit stop on lap 63. He battled with Buzz Calkins and Jeff Ward later in the event before he made his second and final pit stop on lap 151. He passed Calkins repeatedly during the event and finished five places ahead of him, which was very impressive because Calkins actually set the fastest lap of the race at an average speed of 167.131 mph.

Lapped traffic was a concern as the day progressed, and around lap 160 the wind picked up, the clouds grew heavy and there was lightning off turns three and four. It never rained, however.

"I could see the lightning as I went down the backstretch, but the wind wasn't bad and it wasn't really a factor," Schroeder said. "When the weather changed the track conditions changed though, so that was all a part of the day."

The event ended under yellow when Donnie Beechler and Al Unser Jr. crashed in turn one on lap 198. No one was hurt.

The three Indy Racing Northern Light races remaining in 2000 for Schroeder and the Tri Star Motorsports team are Atlanta Motor Speedway July 15; Kentucky Speedway Aug. 27 and Texas Motor Speedway Oct. 15.

Schroeder's very next race is not an Indy car event with Tri Star, however, but an endurance sports car race with TRV Motorsport at the end of the month at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. He'll co-drive with Tom Volk in that race in TRV's Supreme Exhaust System Products/Racer Parts Wholesale Riley & Scott Chevy #95.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Jeret Schroeder , Donnie Beechler , Jaques Lazier