IRL: Chicagoland: Cheever Racing race report

Cheever fifth, Rice ninth in closest Indy-car race ever. Joliet, Ill. - Eddie Cheever Jr. finished fifth Sunday in the closest Indy-car race in history, just 0.1584 seconds behind the winner of the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. Red...

Cheever fifth, Rice ninth in closest Indy-car race ever.

Joliet, Ill. - Eddie Cheever Jr. finished fifth Sunday in the closest Indy-car race in history, just 0.1584 seconds behind the winner of the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Red Bull Cheever Racing teammate Buddy Rice finished ninth after leading 22 laps of the 200-lap race and posting the fastest lap of the race - 224.064 mph.

Cheever challenged the leaders, Sam Hornish Jr. and Al Unser Jr., during the closing laps of the race. Hornish eventually won by just 0.0024 seconds, the closest race in the 70-race history of the Indy Racing League.

"I had a really bad start," Cheever said. "The car was loose with cold tires and I wasn't on my game. As the race progressed, I got better. We have worked very hard for the past six months to have pit stops like we had today. The No. 51 Red Bull crew is awesome."

So was Rice, who took the lead from Hornish on the 26th lap and held it until Unser passed him on the 48th lap. It was Rice's fourth consecutive finish in four races since joining Red Bull Cheever Racing.

"We were pretty happy with it," Rice said. "On the third pit stop, we went back a little bit, but we charged back for the last pit stop. I made a mistake there and came in too hot and put the car off the marks. That really messed us up for the final run because it put us so far back."

Cheever matched his best finish this season - fifth at the Indianapolis 500 - but pressed Hornish and Unser late in the race before encountering problems with Helio Castroneves and dropping back to third.

"I want to sit down with (IRL vice president of operations) Brian (Barnhart) and show him the last laps with Helio Castroneves," Cheever said. "I want Brian's opinion on whether or not that is blocking. He totally moved me under the white line. Those aren't the rules of the game. I am not willing to do that."

Cheever twice tried to pass Hornish on the outside as Hornish and Unser raced side-by-side for the lead. As Cheever worked to find another line behind the two, Castroneves forced him low.

"I almost went off the track five or six times," Cheever said. "You make mistakes sometimes, but what Castroneves did lap after lap was intentional, silly and dangerous."

Rice also encountered problems with the cars in front of him as the pack ran two-wide during the final laps. The top 10 cars finished within one second of each other. Rice was 0.8857 seconds behind Hornish.

"I tried to move up to the front, and four of them wouldn't move," Rice said. "They all want to run side-by-side, and you can't pass them. When I would try to pass them, they were blocking. We charged to the front twice, and led a little bit, so Red Bull Cheever Racing gave me a good car today."

Cheever improved his position with each pit stop after falling behind early in the race. "I came into the pits so hot once I thought I was going to knock them all over," Cheever said. "Every time we went back out we were ahead of people. The Infiniti engine ran like clockwork."

Cheever remains 11th in points. Rice, who finished second in July in his first IRL race at Michigan, is now 22nd in overall points and fourth in rookie points despite competing in just four IRL events.

Cheever, Rice and the Red Bull Cheever Racing team will compete Sept. 15 in the IRL finale, the Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live on ABC.

Red Bull Cheever Racing, based in Indianapolis, is the brainchild of 1998 Indy 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr. A leader in American motorsports, the Indy Racing League team is built on Cheever's experience in Formula One, sports cars and open-wheel oval racing. Corporate and technical partnerships with the world's leading energy drink Red Bull, Nissan North America's Infiniti Division, TWR Group, and Lincoln Financial Group greatly enhance the team's resources and technology. For more information, visit www.cheeverindyracing.com.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr.