IRL: Cheever wins inaugural Kansas race

By David Reininger - Cheever Gives Infiniti Second IRL Victory Kansas City, Kan. (July 8, 2001) - Eddie Cheever earned his fifth career Indy Racing League victory, crossing the finish line less than two-tenths of a second ahead...

By David Reininger -

Cheever Gives Infiniti Second IRL Victory

Kansas City, Kan. (July 8, 2001) - Eddie Cheever earned his fifth career Indy Racing League victory, crossing the finish line less than two-tenths of a second ahead of Sam Hornish in the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 at the brand new Kansas Speedway.

"I had an advantage here, and it wasn't superior driving skill. It was the Infiniti plant in the back of my car," Cheever boasted.

Cheever's win marks the second victory for an Infiniti powered car. The manufacturer's first win came at Pikes Peak International Raceway in June of 2000. "We've been knocking on the door since Atlanta, and today everything worked," said Steve Knight, director of motorsport at the Infiniti Division. "The new Infiniti 35A engine was there when we needed it."

Late in the race Hornish moved ahead of Cheever, but Cheever returned the favor seven laps later. "When he came up on me with nine laps to go, it would have been easy for me to shut the door and start weaving," said Cheever. "But he had been treating me correctly the entire race and I did the same to him. I didn't give him the room, he just took it.

"And then with a few laps to go, I got a very small advantage coming off turn two, and I got a run on him. And he didn't move over and let me by, by a long shot. But he gave me an ample amount of room to get by."

"I just knew, as soon as I went by him, that he was probably going to pass me back," Hornish said. "As long as he had his car handling well enough to stay behind me in the draft, I knew he was probably going to go underneath me. But it was a lot of fun."

Hornish entered the Kansas Speedway event leading Buddy Lazier by 50 points in Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship standings. With his third consecutive second place finish, Hornish extends his lead by ten points, and now leads Lazier 309-249 with five races remaining.

Hornish's goal for the rest of the season is to "keep finishing ahead of people that are close to me in the points, that's the big thing. As long as we do that, we'll keep stretching out that points lead, and that's what we need to do.

"We'll finish second all year long as long as somebody else wins every time, because that just means we'll keep moving up in the points."

Equaling his career best with a third place finish was Donnie Beechler, driver of the A.J. Foyt Racing No. 11. "You had to be a lot quicker than a guy to get around him," said Beechler, who spent much of the afternoon racing against his teammate, Eliseo Salazar.

"If you were just a little bit quicker, that would get you beside him, but then the corner would come up and you'd have to get another run on them. I think you had to be a couple of miles per hour faster than someone to really get a good solid pass on them."

Felipe Giaffone finished fourth after recovering from an unscheduled pit stop to replace part of the front suspension. Giaffone's car was damaged when he ran over a small piece of debris from Sharp's car. "I have to thank the Hollywood Treadway-Hubbard team," said Giaffone who leads the rookie of the year standings 217-110 over Didier Andre.

"If it wasn't for my team, I would have finished in the back. I hit something when Sharp crashed and bent the right front toe-link." While still under yellow, "the crew changed it in pit lane, and we didn't lose a lap That's just amazing."

Although Giaffone was able to run in the top-five all day, he had problems running with the leaders because, "we had just a little bit too much downforce in the car."

Buddy Lazier finished fourth after holding off the hard charging Airton Dare for the final 30 laps. "I did the best I could to protect my line," said Lazier. "If someone wanted to pass me, they would have to do it on the high side. I was taking the shortest distance around the race track."

Dare finished in sixth place .1424 of a second behind Lazier.

Eliseo Salazar was seventh, followed by Shigeaki Hattori and Billy Boat in ninth.

Finishing tenth, the last car on the lead lap, was Robbie McGehee, who returned to competition after breaking his leg last month at Texas Motor Speedway. "They say that stress makes a bone heal better, so I should be all better now," McGehee said. "I need to ice my leg down now though, because I think I wrapped it too tight. It got a little numb there at the end, but I'm really happy that we finished in the top 10. It's great to be back."

The Indy Racing League returns to competition in two weeks time at another brand new track, the Nashville Superspeedway.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Shigeaki Hattori , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Didier André , Billy Boat , Airton Daré , Donnie Beechler , Steve Knight , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornis