Indianapolis, IN - Fresh from his landmark victory at the most recent round of True Value International Race of Champions competition at Michigan Speedway in June, Eddie Cheever Jr. heads to the Indianapolis IROC season finale seeking the ...
Indianapolis, IN - Fresh from his landmark victory at the most recent round of True Value International Race of Champions competition at Michigan Speedway in June, Eddie Cheever Jr. heads to the Indianapolis IROC season finale seeking the first IROC championship for an open-wheel driver since Al Unser Jr. won the title in 1988.
Cheever's thrilling victory at Michigan, the first IROC win for an open-wheel driver since Unser Jr. won at Daytona in 1997, propelled him to fifth place in the series standings with 38 points. The 1998 Indianapolis 500 Champion trails IROC points leader Dale Earnhardt Sr. by only 19 points.
In order to claim the 2000 IROC title, Cheever must win the Indianapolis season finale and collect five bonus points for leading the most laps, while Earnhardt would have to finish eighth or lower. Mark Martin, currently second overall, would have to finish second or worse, and earn no more than two bonus points.
Cheever, who earned the first Indy Racing victory for the #51 Excite@Home team and the Infiniti Indy engine at Pikes Peak in June, is also in contention for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series title. He is currently second overall in the Indy Racing standings with two events remaining.
Cheever (on the art of IROC racing): "It's very hard to figure out the drafting in an IROC car. It's a science, and I don't know how Earnhardt, Martin and the more experienced NASCAR drivers do it. It's all about how you pick up the air, and you've got to understand it almost before it happens. I have studied a lot of tapes of the IROC races. When you're in the car it's very frustrating when you're drafting and you think you're doing well and all of a sudden four cars go by you. There's got to be a reason that that happens. In the first race you don't understand, but in the second race you start to pick up on it. When you're being passed in an IROC race, you have to find some way to slow down this freight train that's coming by you. There are ways to do that. They're very aggressive and very rude, but there are ways to do that. You've got to find some way to get them to slow down. If you don't, you can't jump back on the train, and your race is over." (On competing in the IROC series): "It's a great honor to race in the IROC series. I am racing on the NASCAR drivers' turf and I understand that. But never, ever have they ganged up on me in any shape or form, any more than they do on themselves. You watch Earnhardt Jr. going at it with Earnhardt Sr. - if my son did that, I'd jump out and kick his ass. Here's a kid banging into dad, and dad is shaking his fist, and it just keeps on going. That's the way they race. That's fine, and people like it. It's a lot of fun."
(On the IROC season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "I'm looking forward to Indianapolis. I really enjoyed myself last year at Indy [Cheever finished third at the 1999 season finale]. I had a great race. I remember being in the lead, and I made a mistake going into Turn 1 and Mark Martin was behind me. I swear he must have hit me twenty-five times in Turn 2. I kept thinking: "I'm going as fast as I can - I can't go any faster." He kept hitting me, and I started to get the hang of it."
(On mastering the draft to claim the Michigan win): "In Talladega I got to the front and everything was going okay until I starting seeing these hand signals. One means "Stay in line", one means "Don't do that again", and one means "Let's pass the guy ahead". I was in Talladega and thought "You're in front, just tell someone to get in line", so I started gesturing but nobody got behind me. All of a sudden I saw other hand signals. I knew they weren't "Keep Eddie in front" hand signals, and I got shuffled way to the back. Going to Michigan, I wanted to see if I could learn something from that, and it went very well. I knew with five laps to go, I had a good chance. With two laps to go, I had a very good chance, and with one lap to go, it was looking good."
(On the difference between Indy Racing and IROC competition): "I'm really claustrophobic and in an IROC car everything is closed in. There's no air, and there's a lot of dust inside the car. It's hard for me to drive those cars because I'm not used to being covered in something, but I do like the fact that a little bit of contact is allowed. It gives you a greater margin of error."