Hampton, GA - ...
Hampton, GA - #51 Excite@Home driver Eddie Cheever Jr. had charged from fourteenth to first by lap 75 of Saturday's 208-lap Midas 500 Classic at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but an engine failure ultimately thwarted Cheever's attempt to claim his second victory of the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series season and retain his position as the Indy Racing points leader.
The 1998 Indianapolis 500 Champion, who won the most recent round of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series at Pikes Peak in June, was running third and appeared poised to capture the first back-to-back victory of the season before experiencing engine problems on lap 97.
"We were running very well and looking to have another good finish, but the car just lost power coming down the front straightaway," explained #51 Excite@Home team manager Dick Caron. "But we led one lap tonight, and we've led five of seven races this year. We feel pretty good about that."
Cheever's early exit from the Atlanta event was the first of the season for the ultra-consistent #51 Excite@Home team. "This was our first DNF of the year," noted Cheever, who had finished no lower than eleventh prior to his twenty-first place finish at Atlanta. "It's always disappointing when you have a mechanical failure, but the engine that broke tonight is the same engine that put us up front. You have to take the good with the bad. That kind of stuff happens."
With two events remaining in the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship, Cheever ranks second overall with 185 points, only twenty-three points behind series leader Buddy Lazier with 208 points.
"Will the #51 Excite@Home team give up? No, we won't," asserted Cheever. "Am I disappointed? Sure I am. This really hurts our championship push a lot. It's going to be a slug-fest with Buddy [Lazier] right down to the end of the season, but with the support of Excite@Home and Infiniti, we have the assets to make a serious run for the Indy Racing title."