IRL: Eddie Cheever Interview

Thu Feb 17 18:28:14 PST 2000 RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: How does the IROC fit into your pantheon of racing? Are the ovals trickier in the stock type car? Eddie Cheever: No. Daytona, although it's very fast, it's quite easy to drive by ...

Thu Feb 17 18:28:14 PST 2000

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: How does the IROC fit into your pantheon of racing? Are the ovals trickier in the stock type car?

Eddie Cheever: No. Daytona, although it's very fast, it's quite easy to drive by yourself on that circuit in an IROC car. It gets more difficult, obviously, when you're racing with all the other drivers. It isn't more difficult than driving an Indy car. The margins for error are a lot wider in an IROC car than in an open-wheel car, but it sure is a lot of fun.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: Of all the types of racing you've done, Formula One, Indy car and IROC, among others, which is your favorite?

Eddie Cheever: There have been moments that I have enjoyed in every series I've raced in. There have been some go-kart races that I've driven in that have been some of the best races I've ever been in. Driving a Formula One car around the streets of Monaco, although different, is just as exciting as driving an Indy car into Turn one at Indy at 250 miles per hour. And racing against the good ol' boys in IROC at Daytona, although infinitely different, is just as much fun as the two I just mentioned.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: Looking forward, do you like the idea of additional races before the 500?

Eddie Cheever: Yes, absolutely. I really like the IRL schedule up to the 500. It gives us an opportunity to start the season off at Disney, which is a great race to start the season, Phoenix has a lot of history to it, and Las Vegas, even though it is a new venue, is very similar to the Speedway, so it's a good lead-in. Our schedule needs to be improved on from Indy forward.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: Would you like more races, are they too close together?

Eddie Cheever: We need more races. I would like to see our schedule get up to 13 or 14 races.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: How busy has your week been in Daytona?

Eddie Cheever: I've had a busy week, but it wasn't so much because of Daytona. I tested at the beginning of the week in Daytona one afternoon, then I had to fly to Phoenix for a private test, I tested there for two days, then I was in Chicago for two days at the Chicago Auto Show for Infiniti, then I flew back to Orlando, where I live, and I went down to test the day before yesterday at Daytona, but I couldn't because it was raining, and yesterday I went down again to pick my number for the race, and I believe I'm starting in fourth place in a yellow car, which will be very interesting because first is Earnhardt Sr., second is Tony Stewart, third is Earnhardt Jr., I'm fourth and I think Greg Ray is behind me.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: Is there any such thing as an off-season for Indy car racers?

Eddie Cheever: Yeah. There's about a month right after the end of the season for us. It's off-season without testing, but there's a lot of work done at home at the factory getting ready for next year, studying all the data, getting contracts ready, doing a lot of planning for the next season. If I've had any injuries during the season, that's where I've gone to get bones re-aligned or screws put in, it's a really important part of the season.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: You're alone at the moment with the Infiniti. How did the test go?

Eddie Cheever: From an engine point of view, in Phoenix, the test went very well. It was really only our second test with the new Riley & Scott. And it didn't go as well as we would have liked it to go. We changed both chassis and tire this winter, and we still haven't figured out who wants what. So we'll be making a lot of changes to the chassis by the time we go back to the test in the west at Las Vegas and Phoenix on the 22nd of this month. But the Infiniti is running very well, and I am anxiously waiting for the 35A, because the engine we have now has more fixes in it than Foyt's legs.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: Speaking of tire changes, with the loss of Goodyear, do you expect Firestone to harden the compounds for everyone?

Eddie Cheever: That's a very interesting question. From the first race we've had in Orlando, I'd have to say no. The first tire we tested was definitely a harder compound than we ended up racing with. I believe Firestone is still wise to take an aggressive stance on their choice of compounds, because once Goodyear realizes what a silly decision they made to pull out of open-wheel racing, they will be back, and if not Goodyear, there will be other competition in the foreseeable future.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: Given the state of mind in Indiana and what happened with the Dodge Stealth that was supposed to be the Indy pace car, do you think a Japanese or German brand of tire would be welcomed?

Eddie Cheever: I think Indianapolis Motor Speedway is quickly becoming, with the event of the three major races they have there, America's international showcase for racing technology. I do not speak for the Speedway, nor do I profess to know how they come to their decisions, but I wouldn't be shocked at all if I were to see a German manufacturer or a Japanese manufacturer. Firestone is, by the way, a Japanese manufacturer.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: Who are your sponsors for the year 2000 and what do they do?

Eddie Cheever: Right now, as we stand, we have both a commercial and a technical relationship with Infiniti and we are in the process or the throes of a pretty prolonged negotiation with a title sponsor for the 2000 and 2001 season. If the scheduling permits, we would like to make that announcement probably before Phoenix.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: What ever happened to Rachel's Potato Chips. Those were great!

Eddie Cheever: Rachel's was a great story. A very small Midwestern company with a very ambitious plan of expanding their business and they got on board with us for the Indianapolis 500, we went on to win the 500, they achieved a lot of their goals and we kind of outgrew each other. Their resources were not adequate enough at the point of growth they were at to fund all the things we needed for development. They trebled their sales in the period of time they were with us, but we had to go somewhere else. They achieved their goals, but it didn't warrant continuing the relationship.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: How much has winning the Indy 500 changed your life.

Eddie Cheever: A lot. The Indy 500 is probably the only race in the world that has international appeal that is due mostly from the fact that it has such a long history. The mere word Indianapolis is tied in with Speed and all things American. So for an American Racing Driver who has spent most of his career racing all over the world racing in Formula One, it meant a lot. In my case, I'm no longer introduced as racing driver, but it's Indianapolis 500 winner, which I must admit I never tire of hearing. I am due for another bottle of milk

RIS/CA Ken Baser: Do you consider F1 the ultimate in racing and would you be aiming for that now if you were just breaking in?

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: For many years, you've been considered the expert on Americans in F-1. Will the F-1 race in Indy raise American interest in that series enough to make a difference for American drivers?

Eddie Cheever: Your guess is as good as mine.

Eddie Cheever: I was thrust as a youngster into wanting to be a Formula One Racing driver because my family happened to live in Europe. The Indy 500 was important to me only because I was an American. There are not as many feeder systems in America where the racing is as competitive as it is in Europe to grow Formula One stars. The true breeding ground for Formula One drivers is in England.

Eddie Cheever: So when they start having enough racing drivers that are Americans that compete against other racing drivers and go to England and France, you will create more interest and more possible Formula One drivers, as you've seen by a lot of the drivers taken from CART, there is no guarantee Eddie Cheever: that you'll be successful in Formula One. Both Zanardi and Michael who were very successful in the United States had a hard tim when they tried to race in Fromula One. They are two very different forms of racing. And Formula One remains the absolute pinnacle of all road racing.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: So do you have some unfinished business there?

Eddie Cheever: No. I would no more race Formula One than I would get married to my ex-wife again. My passion remains, has been for the last 10 years, oval racing in the states. My goal in life now is to win my ssecond Indy, to be successful racing you have to focus on one thing and one thing only.

RIS/CA Ken Baser: What difference has the new engine formula made to the IRL and does the flat crank have any advantage?

Eddie Cheever: The new formula has actually made our racing more difficult. Going from a 4-liter to a 3.5-l;iter has taken away a lot of torque, a lot of drivers have to rely on the throttle to get back up to speed again, as I learned in Orlando when I was trying to pass a lapped car with three laps to go, it's going to make passing a lot more difficult and more risky. I've got to decide quickly if I pass on the outside to keep my foot in it and even if he moves up I can't take my foot off the throttle. As for the 180 degree crank, the firing order of the cylinders is different and I haven't tested it yet, the 35a will have the 180 degree crank and it is noticeably lighter than the 90 Eddie Cheever: degree I have now, and the public likes it a lot more because it has a higher tone.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander asks: After you complete your open-wheel career, would you like to go Winston cup racing?

Eddie Cheever: How about during?

RIS/CA Ken Baser: Do you think its harder getting sponsorship in the IRL vs. CART or NASCAR.

Eddie Cheever: Undeniably than it is in Winston cup right now. Winston Cup has had the same message for 50 years. It has had 10s and 100's of millions of dollars of advertising in that time, developing drivers and teams and circuits. I do not know nor am I really interested in the level of difficulty in raising money for the other open wheel series, but I can say that with the advent of our ABC TV coverage this year, a lot of corporations are taking a lot more serious interest in what we're doing. A prime example of that is our new series sponsor, Northern Light.

RIS/CA-Mike Hollander - Our thanks to Eddie Cheever for joining us this evening. This concludes the conference transcript.

courtesy of Racing Information Systems

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar , IROC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Mike Holland