IRL: Cheever makes late pass for victory at season opener

CHEEVER MAKES LATE PASS TO WIN SEASON OPENER AT ORLANDO Bliss Victorious in Rain-Delayed USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet 50 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 24, 1999 - Eddie Cheever Jr. took his Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear...

CHEEVER MAKES LATE PASS TO WIN SEASON OPENER AT ORLANDO Bliss Victorious in Rain-Delayed USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet 50

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 24, 1999 - Eddie Cheever Jr. took his Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear from the middle of the pack to victory Sunday in TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, taking the lead for good with just eight laps remaining.

Cheever, who started 13th in the 28-car field, beat second-place finisher Scott Goodyear, driver of the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, to the line by 5.148 seconds.

"I was flat out the whole way," said Cheever, owner and driver for Team Cheever. "We had a problem in qualifications, but the car was impeccable today. I thought I had finished second. I had a problem with my radio and didn't know where I was (in the race order)."

Cheever, from Orlando, Fla., earned $126,900 of the $1.1-million purse for his victory on the 1-mile tri-oval. His average speed was 118.538 mph.

Jeff Ward finished third, 8.5 seconds behind Goodyear, in the ISM Racing Thermo Tech G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. PPG Pole winner Scott Sharp was fourth in the Kelley Racing Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Raul Boesel finished fifth in the TransWorld Diversified Services G Force/Aurora/Firestone. The finish was Boesel's and TransWorld Racing-McCormack Motorsports' best in Pep Boys Indy Racing League competition.

Boesel appeared to be headed for his first career Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory after his team gambled and didn't pit with the rest of the race leaders between laps 174 and 181 of the 200-lap race. Boesel inherited the lead when the rest of the field pitted, hoping he could stretch his fuel mileage long enough to win.

But Boesel was forced to dive into the pits on Lap 193, handing the lead to Cheever for good.

"I was worried about fuel, but I thought I was safe," Boesel said. "I tried to keep the car going, but it began to sputter. It's a little disappointing."

Sharp was twisted by fate late in the race. He took the lead on Lap 177 when leader Goodyear made his last pit stop. Sharp relinquished the lead to Boesel by making his last stop, under the green flag, on Lap 181. Sharp re-entered the track, and the last of seven caution periods was triggered when rookie John Hollansworth brushed the wall in Turn 3. Sharp was unable to reshuffle through the field fast enough to catch the leaders.

But Sharp owned the first half of the race. He led all but two laps from the start until Lap 103. He ended up leading three times for 103 laps, more than any other driver.

"All the way up until halfway, I felt like I was cruising," Sharp said. "The car was so awesome. Then we fought handling, and the yellow killed us. The crushing blow was when the yellow came out after we pitted."

Sharp led all but two laps from the green flag until Lap 103, when Goodyear passed him exiting Turn 3 to take the lead. The lead changed six times in the next 70 laps, when on Lap 181 Boesel took the lead as leader Sharp made a pit stop.

Defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League series champion Kenny Brack, driving the Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear for four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, went out of the race due to a crash with Gualter Salles on Lap 108. Salles suffered engine problems and slowed in front of Brack. Brack made contact with the rear of Salles' TECO Energy Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, and the two cars slid into the Turn 3 wall. Both drivers were uninjured.

Mike Bliss won the USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet 50. The race was postponed by rain after five laps Saturday. Pep Boys Indy Racing League veteran Dave Steele was second, and Russ Gamester was third.

The next event on the 1999 Pep Boys Indy Racing League schedule is the MCI World Com 200 March 28 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Raul Boesel , Kenny Brack , Dave Steele , Mike Bliss , Russ Gamester , A.J. Foyt