Cheever Wins Wild Indy Racing Debut In Kansas KANSAS CITY, Kan., Sunday, July 8, 2001 - Eddie Cheever Jr. passed Sam Hornish Jr. with less than three laps to go and hung on to win the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 on July 8 before a capacity crowd...
Cheever Wins Wild Indy Racing Debut In Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan., Sunday, July 8, 2001 - Eddie Cheever Jr. passed Sam Hornish Jr. with less than three laps to go and hung on to win the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 on July 8 before a capacity crowd at Kansas Speedway.
Cheever passed Indy Racing Northern Light Series points leader Hornish with a low move in Turn 4 on Lap 198 of the 200-lap race. He then held off Hornish over the final two laps, winning by .1976 of a second in the #51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Cheever's average speed was 148.914 mph before a crowd of more than 75,000.
"It wasn't just the last few laps," Cheever said of the intense competition during the race. "Sam was running me hard the whole time. He gave me a lot of room. I gave him a lot of room. That's the way the racing in the IRL is supposed to be.
"I think I'll get two beers, walk down to his motorhome, and we'll have a laugh about it." The victory was the first of the season for Cheever, who has five career Indy Racing League victories. It also was the second victory for an Infiniti engine in Indy Racing League history. Cheever earned Infiniti's first win in June 2000 at Pikes Peak.
"I had a secret weapon behind me today," Cheever said. "It was the Infiniti. We've got it where we want it to be after two years."
Hornish finished second for the third consecutive race in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone to expand his Northern Light Cup points lead to 309-249 over defending series champion Buddy Lazier, who finished fifth today. Donnie Beechler finished third in the No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, just .9779 of a second behind winner Cheever.
"It's fun racing with guys like Eddie and Donnie," Hornish said. You "know they're not going to do something to put you in the wall."
There were 20 lead changes during the event, which featured constant wheel-to-wheel racing and packs of three and four cars running within inches on the new 1.5-mile oval.
1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Cheever took the lead on Lap 146 when Robby McGehee entered the pits. His lead over Hornish grew to 1.6 seconds on Lap 177, but Hornish and Beechler slowly started to reel in Cheever.
On Lap 191, Hornish drove low under Cheever in Turn 3 to take the lead. But Cheever never fell more than four-tenths of a second behind Hornish before making his decisive pass for the lead and victory on Lap 198.
"I noticed some water leaking out of (Cheever's) car, and I didn't want to be behind him if the engine let go," Hornish said of his decision to pass Cheever on Lap 191. "In hindsight, I think I did the right thing. We'll take second."
MBNA Pole winner Scott Sharp spun and crashed in Turn 4 on Lap 137 while running second and chasing leader Cheever. He was unhurt. Jeret Schroeder also crashed during the race, which was slowed by six caution periods for 44 laps. He was unhurt.
The next Indy Racing Northern Light Series event is the Harrah's Indy 200 on July 21 at Nashville Superspeedway.