Atlanta, GA (April 27, 2001) - ...
Atlanta, GA (April 27, 2001) - #51 Excite@Home driver Eddie Cheever Jr. qualified third for Saturday's zMax 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the highest starting position for the new Infiniti Indy 35A engine and the best qualifying effort of Cheever's Indy Racing League career. Cheever, whose previous best IRL start was fourth at the 1996 Indianapolis 500, posted a fast lap of 25.0260 seconds (215.776mph) in his Excite@Home Infiniti entry. Cheever's time was less than three-tenths of a second behind polesitter Greg Ray's lap of 24.7406 seconds (218.265mph), and less than one-tenth of a second behind second place qualifier Jeff Ward (24.9834 seconds).
Cheever captured the first Indy Racing victory for Infiniti Motorsports last season at Pikes Peak in June. The new Infiniti Indy 35A engine debuted at the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series season opener at Phoenix in March. Cheever earned the powerplant's first top-ten result three weeks ago at the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Eddie Cheever Jr. (on the new Infiniti 35A): "We've been working really hard with the new Infiniti 35A to get it up there. There's no touching Menards around here in qualifying - they've got something that nobody else has - but we're very happy with the Infiniti engine. Scott Goodyear (#52 Cheever Indy Racing driver for the 2001 Indianapolis 500 and test driver for the Infiniti Indy engine program) came down to Atlanta with us two weeks ago to do some testing for durability and we put over 600 miles on the 35A. We did a lot of preparation for this race and Scott was instrumental in helping us develop our qualifying set-up. Thanks to him, we've made a lot of progress. We haven't qualified this well for a long time."
On his career best Indy Racing League start: "It's nice to start up front, but I couldn't really care less where I start. I'm interested in where I finish. There's a lot more money in that."
On Friday practice: "We put in what we learned from our testing here two weeks ago and we went a little bit quicker. The Infiniti 35A is better -- this is probably our fourth big change in the engine -- and so far, so good. We have a whole schedule of engine development planned. Before we got to the point where we are now, we had to go through three other changes, and so far -- touch wood -- everything has worked. We are trying to do in two months what would normally take eight months to a year. We're finally able to play our best cards for Indy here at Atlanta, not only in terms of engine performance but also in terms of aerodynamics. All of the research and development that we have been doing in the wind tunnel is finally paying off. We're taking advantage of the fact that this race is so fast to get ready for the Indianapolis 500."
-Cheever Indy Racing