IRL: Goodyear offered second Cheever car

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Oct. 20, 2000 - A Dream Team could be in the making in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series in 2001. It all depends on the decision driver Scott Goodyear, winner of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Oct. 20, 2000 - A Dream Team could be in the making in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series in 2001. It all depends on the decision driver Scott Goodyear, winner of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series season finale, the Excite 500 on Oct. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway, makes in the next couple of weeks. The super team will come to fruition if Goodyear says yes to Eddie Cheever Jr.'s offer to drive a second car, full-time, for Team Cheever in the 13-race 2001 season. That would pair two of the series' most experienced drivers. Look at their credentials. First, the Indianapolis 500: Cheever, 11 races, a win in 1998 and a fourth- and fifth-place finish; Goodyear, 10 races, two runner-up finishes, a seventh- and a ninth-place finish. Now to the Northern Light Series: Cheever, 42 races, four victories, including the Infiniti's first in 35 races and 13 top-five finishes; Goodyear, 38 races, three victories and 17 top-five finishes. In the season finale at Texas, Goodyear passed Cheever on the final lap for the victory as they finished first and second in the race and second and third, respectively, in the Northern Light Cup final standings. Cheever made the offer to Goodyear during the summer, and negotiations have been going on for a number of weeks. Cheever first revealed the offer publicly during a pre-race press conference Oct. 13 at Texas Motor Speedway. "I'm considering it a lot," Goodyear said. First, Goodyear must resolve what he plans to do next year. He'll be 41 and said he wants to compete in the endurance races at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans as part of his schedule. But Indianapolis still has a terrific tug because he has come so close without winning it. Plus his finishes of second and first, respectively, in the final two races of this Northern Light Series season have reinvigorated his motivation to drive another full Indy Racing season. "Of all the things that have come to me since about mid-June, Eddie's probably is the most intriguing," Goodyear said. "I have a lot of respect for Eddie, not only for the way he can drive a race car but the way he has assembled his team and runs his business. Another intriguing factor is I believe the new engine is going to be very strong that Nissan is bringing out next year. Eddie's got quite a testing package going on here starting in a couple of weeks and throughout the winter preparing for the first race in March at Phoenix." There's a personal side to making the move, too. Both Cheever and Goodyear were rookies at Indy in 1990. Dick Caron was the team manager for Goodyear's MacKenzie Financial car that year. Caron now is team manager for Team Cheever. Goodyear and his wife, Leslie, are friends with Caron and his wife, Brenda. "That plays a lot into it," Goodyear said. "I'm delighted with that offer. I was surprised when Eddie brought that forward in the press conference. I know that decision needs to come here in the next couple weeks for everybody's benefit and on everybody's part. So I am sure that (making a decision) will happen." Fielding a second car isn't unprecedented for Team Cheever. The team ran Robby Unser for eight races in 1998, and Unser won the Rookie of the Year title. Cheever also fielded a second car for Wim Eyckmans at the 1999 Indianapolis 500. But Goodyear clearly would be the strongest, and possibly most unlikely, teammate of Cheever considering that Goodyear said he lost his desire to race early this season. In June, Pennzoil Panther Racing announced that Goodyear would not be retained at the end of the season. About two hours before the start of the Excite 500 on Oct. 15, the team introduced 2000 Indy Racing rookie Sam Hornish Jr. as the team's primary driver for next season. "There was probably a 25 percent chance of returning next year," Goodyear said of his future Indy Racing intentions in June. Then came the two breaks in the latter part of the schedule. There were six weeks between Atlanta and the race at the new Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 29, and another six weeks before the Excite 500 at Texas on Oct. 15. During the lulls in the schedule, Goodyear refreshed his thinking. "What it did was allow me to be away from everything and regain my confidence," he said. "I think my confidence was strong at Kentucky. I entered into Texas with my confidence probably where it used to be. I think I needed to do that for myself first." At Kentucky, Goodyear, supplied with a qualifying engine for the first time, captured the MBNA Pole and chased Buddy Lazier across the finish line in second. Then at Texas, Goodyear dueled Lazier, Cheever, Billy Boat and others all the way to the finish, edging his potential 2001 car owner for the victory. "I was just thrilled to actually win the race, No. 1," he said. "It was just a great feeling to be out there running with people you could trust. "But I think the emotion (in the car after he took the checkered flag) was just to come down to the wire and winning the event. I can tell you, when you're not really sure you're going to gut it up at the end or not, it was a great feeling."

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Billy Boat , Scott Goodyear , Wim Eyckmans , Robby Unser
Teams Panther Racing