Fountain, CO - After being in contention for an Indy Racing win at every event this season, ...
Fountain, CO - After being in contention for an Indy Racing win at every event this season, #51 Excite@Home driver Eddie Cheever Jr. delivered an inspired performance at Sunday's Radisson Indy 200 to capture the first victory for the #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Team, the first win for the Infiniti Indy engine, and Cheever's first win of the 2000 season.
Cheever's victory at the 1-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway oval - his fourth career Indy Racing win - propels the 1998 Indianapolis 500 Champion and his #51 Excite@Home team into first place in the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship with 176 points, ahead of Buddy Lazier with 168 points.
"It was a very hard race today. There were lots of little battles going on, and passing in Turn 2 was very, very difficult," noted Cheever. "The #51 Excite@Home car was great in traffic, the Infiniti engine ran impeccably and the Firestone tires were just perfect. It all came down to handling and consistency. I need to thank Excite@Home for giving us all they have to win, and Infiniti for helping us all this way."
Cheever started tenth and took over the lead at lap 134 of the 200-lap event, the sixth round of the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series. The former Colorado resident and undisputed fan favorite - who has won a race every season since entering Indy Racing competition in 1996-97 - made a scheduled green flag pit stop on lap 144 and systematically stalked his competitors, passing Stephan Gregoire for the lead on lap 171.
Cheever would never relinquish control of the race, leading the final 29 laps for a total of 39 laps led. Although the event ended under caution as a result of a late race accident involving Donnie Beechler and Al Unser Jr. on lap 198, Cheever had already developed a 12.891 second lead over eventual second place finisher Airton Dare.
"The #51 Excite@Home car was so good, I really had an uneventful race," admitted Cheever. "For the last 50 laps I was having to play games with myself to stay focused. I was treating it like a test run, just checking the gauges and hoping it wouldn't rain."
"Today, I really think I had an advantage and it was the powerplant that I had behind me," continued Cheever. "Everyone has worked very, very hard, and I think it's great that we got the first Indy Racing win for Nissan and Infiniti. In particular, I want to thank Frank Honsowetz (Manager, Nissan Motorsports) and Ed Pink (Owner, Ed Pink Racing Engines) for their efforts. It's great to be leading the championship, but it's even more important for us to have won the first race with the Infiniti Indy engine."
Cheever, who has finished in the top ten in five of six Indy Racing events this season, has also led four of the six rounds of 2000 competition. His win at Sunday's Radisson Indy 200 is his best result since finishing third at the season opener in Orlando, and his first win since claiming victory at Orlando in 1999.
Asked to comment on the fact that the winner of the Radisson Indy 200 has proceeded to win the Indy Racing championship since the inaugural Pikes Peak race in 1997, Cheever replied: "That's one tradition I don't want to break."