IRL: Atlanta Team Cheever Race Report

Atlanta, GA. -- In front of an estimated crowd of over 61,000, Indianapolis 500 winner, Eddie Cheever and teammate Robby Unser, finished 3rd and 16thth in a wild Atlanta 500 Classic race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The third place finish is the ...

Atlanta, GA. -- In front of an estimated crowd of over 61,000, Indianapolis 500 winner, Eddie Cheever and teammate Robby Unser, finished 3rd and 16thth in a wild Atlanta 500 Classic race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The third place finish is the first podium for Cheever since his win at the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year.

"That was hard work! I ran this car as hard as I could and it held," said a delighted Cheever. "It's great to see this team back on the podium. I'm hoping that this third place finish means our luck is changing!"

In what turned out to be one of the toughest races of the season, Cheever started his #51 Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips Dallara from the 6th row after qualifying 11th. From the start, Cheever radioed that his car was strong and showed evidence as he quickly moved his way up the pack. Fighting the odds of attrition, Cheever wove his way through the group until only 11 cars remained in the fight. Feeling his way through a final caution that left debris littered all over the track, Cheever complained of a significant vibration under his seat and pulled into the pits for a final stop.

"At first, I thought it might be the gearbox, but in the end, it was a bad tire" explained Cheever. "If we hadn't come in, I think we would have had a shot at the front row."

Determined to secure a podium position, nonetheless, and with fewer than 25 laps to go, Cheever signaled to Tony Stewart suggesting they work the draft together. Stewart nodded his affirmation. In partnership, Cheever and Stewart proceeded to push their way to the front, switching back and forth between 4th and 5th positions. Then, as leader Jeff Ward began to drop back with handling problems, Cheever moved into third. He held on for the checkered flag with Scott Goodyear nearly catching him at the rear.

"I'll race with Tony anywhere he wants," said Cheever of his impromptu run with Stewart. "It takes alot of horsepower to win races...especially on these 1.5-mile ovals. We've been working closely with Brayton to find more power and tonight, we had good motors and great tires. We seem to be on to something."

In the next pit over, the night was not turning out as well for teammate Robby Unser and his #52 The Children's Beverage Group GForce team. Having qualified 13th in his first effort on the 1.54-mile paved oval, Unser complained of a fuel pick up problem, soon after the green flag dropped. Just 47 laps into the 208-lap race, Unser pitted. In an effort to fix the problem with the vent hose, fuel escaped catching the engine on fire.

Quickly pulling the car back to the garage, both driver and crew thrashed to replace the fuel cell and get back in the race. With just 20 laps lost, Unser drove back onto the track and began his up hill battle to save his Leading Rookie status. Then, on Lap 169, Marco Greco and Billy Boat connected in front of Unser's #52 GForce. Slowing to avoid the mess, Steve Knapp tapped Unser from behind and pushed him into the fray.

"Dane and the guys gave me a great car this weekend and then worked their guts out to keep us in this race. We were back in and running up the board, when this happened," said Unser of the night. "In the end, you can't judge every race day by a first place finish. As far as I'm concerned, my guys are winners tonight."

With the Atlanta results, Cheever moves up two notches to 8th place in the Drivers Points, just 12 points shy of 7th place, Buddy Lazier. Unser lengthens his lead over runner up rookie, Brian Tyler, by 27 points and is tied 16th overall in the overall points drive with veteran Robbie Buhl.

Team Cheever were racing for more than points in Atlanta. In a lap-a-thon pledge drive with CURE CHILDHOOD CANCER, each lap Cheever's #51 Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips Dallara completed was raising funds for the Georgia kids. During the pre-race ceremonies, Unser's #52 GForce team joined in the cause with the announcement of an additional $2,000 dollar donation from The Children's Beverage Group. The estimated final tally for the Atlanta charity is over $5,000.

"Team Cheever and TCBG wanted to reach out to the children of Georgia and do something special for the kids to let them know we care," said TCBG president, Jon Darmstadter. "We hope we've helped in some small way."

Round 10 of the 11-race Pep Boys IRL series, the Longhorn 500K, takes shape September 18th- 20th at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will air live on Sunday, September 20th at 3pm EDT on ABC-TV. Qualifying will air live on Speedvision, Saturday, September 19th.

Primary sponsorship of Team Cheever comes from Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips and The Children's Beverage Group. Rachel's, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is both the manufacturer and distributor of the 9 unique flavors of Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips. The company is publicly traded under the symbol "RLDS" and can be contacted toll free at 800-730-3700 or at their website www.rachelspotatochips.com. The Children's Beverage Group (TCBG) is the designer of the RIP-IT SIP-IT(tm) straw-in-the-pouch drinking system that began distribution nationwide in 1997. For more information, call TCBG's corporate headquarters at 847-562-4040 or visit their website at www. stockprofiles.com/tcbg. Secondary sponsors of Team Cheever include Goodyear, Menards, Sony Disc Manufacturing, All Sports Telemetry (AST), Bosch, True Grit Apparel and Pennzoil.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Billy Boat , Scott Goodyear , Brian Tyler , Robby Unser