IRL: Cheever Phoenix preview


EDDIE CHEEVER JR. - #51 EXCITE@HOME INDY RACE CAR Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 Phoenix International Raceway - March 16-18, 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series - Round 1 of 13

<pre> Indy Racing Starts: 42

Indy Racing Victories: 4: 2000 Pikes Peak, 1999 Orlando, 1998 Indianapolis 500, 1997 Orlando.

2000 Season Ranking: 3rd

Indy Racing Top 5 Finishes: 13

Indy Racing Top 10 Finishes: 23

Indy Racing Winnings: $4,441,653 </pre> 2000 Phoenix Recap: Cheever qualified eighth and moved into the race lead on lap 33. He led 13 laps before pitting for fuel and returning to the track in 17th position. Cheever was running in fourth place when he was hit from behind by rookie Jeret Schroeder on lap 161. Although a masterful save kept the #51 Excite@Home Infiniti off the wall, Cheever was forced to pit for a replacement left rear tire and went on to finish tenth. <pre> Cheever at Phoenix: 1997: ST/7th FN/12th Laps led: 0 1998: ST/20th FN/10th Laps led: 6 1999: ST/18th FN/17th Laps led: 22 2000: ST/8th FN/10th Laps led: 13

</pre> NEW SEASON, NEW NAME: TEAM CHEEVER BECOMES CHEEVER INDY RACING One of the Indy Racing League's premier teams, Indianapolis-based Team Cheever, will now be known as Cheever Indy Racing, team owner/driver Eddie Cheever Jr. announced Wednesday.

"We changed the name of our team to highlight our strong commitment to the Indy Racing League," explained Cheever, who enters this weekend's season-opening event at Phoenix International Raceway as one of the favorites for the 2001 Northern Light Series title.

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (on Phoenix International Raceway): "Phoenix is a great, great track and I really enjoy racing there. It is one hot, fast, hard, short oval: a real bullring. All three corners demand a unique compromise in your set-up. At Phoenix, you have to decide just how loose you want to run the car in turns three and four in order to make it through turns one and two. The long radius corners at Phoenix force you to really lean on your right rear, and making the tires last through each stint is extremely difficult. It will be another tight, tight race for both the teams and the equipment. I've sniffed around a victory at Phoenix quite a few times and I would love to finally get that win. We're due for a good result there."

On the racing at Phoenix: "The fans sitting in the grandstands are not going to see a procession of cars - it's going to be mayhem from the very first lap. The cars are running such high speeds and it's so competitive that it's very difficult to break away from the group. It's probably one of the most difficult events we run, because at the beginning of the season you don't know who has what. We've all been testing and reading the reports of who's quick, who's slow, who's consistent, and who's not, but when the green flag drops in Phoenix the real tale will be told."

On Cheever Indy Racing's preparation for the 2001 season: "Phoenix is the first race after a long winter break and everybody has been sharpening their tools. Over the winter, we changed all of our data management systems and the whole way that we analyze data from the car. We've taken advantage of the off-season to improve our ability to understand what the numbers mean. We've thrown away the old engine and are about to welcome the new one. We're more efficient, and hopefully our pit stops will be quicker and our race strategy has improved."

On the new Infiniti Indy 35A engine: "This is the year that we finally have the 35A. We started our on-track testing very, very late, but we did quite a few months of dyno testing before that. Our success this year really depends on how the engine progresses. If the engine is what we are hoping for, I don't believe it is too lofty a goal to win a lot of races, be in that leading pack for the last 20 laps at Indy, and hopefully win the championship."

On the crop of Indy Racing rookies: "I think it's good that we have a lot of new talent in the series, but you have to be very wary of rookies. I had a lot of bad luck at the beginning of last season with rookies. I had a rookie steal a win from me in Orlando, and I had a rookie run into the back of me at Phoenix when we were about to go into the lead. Short ovals are very, very tricky places. Things happen in a great hurry. I hope the rookies - and all the drivers - will take a lot of care in making sure we give each other room. Unlike NASCAR, where they can bump into each other, if you so much as glance someone in an Indy car, you'll send them spinning into the wall. A lot of rookies don't really understand that until they hit the wall. It's unfortunate, but it's the fastest way to learn that you don't want to be hitting a wall."

On the 2001 Indy Racing schedule: "I think the expanded schedule is good. I think the good teams will come out ahead in the middle of the season when it gets very tight. Management of human resources and hard assets will be essential. I think after Indy, we're really going to see who is well-organized and who is isn't."

On his history at Phoenix: "Phoenix has always been a place of new beginnings for me. It was the first oval race I competed in (in 1990) and I did very well. It was the first race that I almost won when I finished second to Bobby Rahal in 1992. I finished third in the last Formula One USGP that I raced in at Phoenix, so I think it's a good place for us to start off with the new Infiniti Indy 35A."

On racing with the USAC Midget and Silver Bullet series: "I'm very glad that we're having our Indy Racing season opener alongside the most important event of the year for the Midget and Silver Bullet racers. The whole oval, open-wheel family of America will be in one place. The drivers who are racing at Indy will be there, and the drivers who will be racing at Indy will be there. I will be spending a lot of my time studying the drivers in midgets and Silver Bullet to see who the new talent is going to be."


Qualifying:  ESPN2 (tape delay), 4:30 p.m. EST, March 17
Pre-race:  Indy Racing 2Day, ESPN2 (live), 11:30 a.m. EST, March 18
Race:  ABC (live), 4:00 p.m. EST, March 18


Qualifying:  Indy Racing Radio Network (IRRN) 4:30 p.m. EST, March 17
Pre-race:  IMS Radio Network (live), 3:30 p.m. EST, March 18
Race:  IMS Radio Network (live), 4:00 p.m. EST, March 18
Area affiliate:  KMVP-AM 860, Phoenix


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeret Schroeder , Bobby Rahal