IRL: Orlando Infiniti Disney Race Preview

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Sept. 19, 2000) - The New Year brings renewed hopes to the Infiniti Indy team members as they look forward to capturing their first victory in the Indy Racing League. Infiniti has supplied the racing version of the...

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Sept. 19, 2000) - The New Year brings renewed hopes to the Infiniti Indy team members as they look forward to capturing their first victory in the Indy Racing League. Infiniti has supplied the racing version of the Infiniti Q45 performance luxury sedan's V8 engine to Indy racing teams since 1997. Updated engine regulations, an ever-strengthening partnership with Indy 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr., and the forthcoming introduction of an all-new powerplant, all give hope to the Infiniti Indy team that 2000 will bring the program to its next level. The Indy Racing League season opener at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida on Jan. 29 will mark the official debut of the updated 3.5-liter engine formula, reduced from the 4-liter configuration used since the start of the 1997 season. The Infiniti Indy engine supplied to Team Cheever for the Delphi Indy 200 is essentially last year's 4-liter engine that has been converted to the smaller capacity by reducing the stroke. The benefit of this converted engine is that a majority of the performance and reliability gains achieved in 1999 are built into the current 3.5-liter engine. Ed Pink, a member of the Infiniti Indy design team and engine builder for Team Cheever, explains the differences between the 3.5- and 4-liter engines: "The biggest difference is about 60 horsepower less," said Pink. "The challenge is keeping the 3.5-liter engine together at the increased rev-limit, which is 700 rpms more than the end of last year. This is done by testing and finding those weak links as quickly as we can." In preparation for the fifth annual Indy car race at Walt Disney World Speedway, Infiniti and Team Cheever have had an intense development schedule over the past few months, testing a total of ten days on the one-mile Disney oval. As a two-time winner of the event, Eddie Cheever Jr. was able to provide invaluable input at these tests. "We worked out a lot of the gremlins at our initial track tests of the converted 3.5-liter engine," said Frank Honsowetz, manager, Infiniti Motorsports. "The input given to us at these tests by Eddie Cheever and his team has greatly shortened the learning curve of this engine. As they say in racing though, the real test will be on Saturday when we take the green flag." If last season's results are any indication of how Infiniti and Team Cheever will perform in the Disney race then the pair should be running up front. In 1999, Cheever led races at Indianapolis, Texas and Las Vegas with Infiniti power and Infiniti finished in the top-five four times. "There were many races that we led and many that we could have won," said Eddie Cheever Jr., about the 1999 season with Infiniti. "I have always said one of the main reasons that I chose the Nissan/Infiniti engine package is that they have been successful in everything they have done in motor racing. I see no reason why they will not be successful in the Indy Racing League as well." It won't be easy though. The entry list for the Delphi Indy 200 has 25 cars and only one of those cars-the No. 51 Team Cheever entry-will be powered by Infiniti. "We feel the engine we have developed to this point is very strong and sets a good base standard heading into the 2000 season," said Honsowetz. "It is just with Infiniti Indy being the single Indian against the rest of them, we have to run harder and work harder to be successful. One thing we are not lacking is determination. Everyone connected with this program is extremely committed and wants to win races." Part of the 2000 plan "to win races" includes the upcoming introduction of an all-new Infiniti Indy engine, designated the "35A." This engine has been under development since 1998 and is expected to be used in competition by the Indianapolis 500. The design of this engine is an international project that includes input from the United States design team and Nissan's motorsports group in Japan. Most notably, the Infiniti Indy 35A engine is derived from the 5.0-liter engine Nissan entered in the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Infiniti Indy 35A will weigh significantly less, be more compact and have a lower center of gravity. "The features that are successful and work best in our current engine have been applied to the 35A," said Honsowetz. "The parts of the current engine that make it difficult are some of the things we have eliminated. While I think we are on par with the competition in terms of producing horsepower, this new package will perform better in the race car in terms of weight and the placement of that weight. We have faith that this all-new design will lead us to winning races." On-track activities for the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway start on Jan. 27 with practice and continue with qualifying on Jan. 28, which will be televised at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The race starts at Noon on Jan. 29 and will be broadcast live on ABC, with the pre-race show "Indy Racing 2Day" on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. The Indy Racing Radio Network broadcast of the race will also be available live at Noon on the Internet at www.indyracingleague.com (all times Eastern). # # #

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever