Orlando, Florida - Three days ago, Orlando resident, Eddie Cheever, Jr. arrived at Walt Disney World Speedway having completed only 298 miles of testing with his new chassis-tire-engine race package. Today, Eddie Cheever, Jr. came within two...
Orlando, Florida - Three days ago, Orlando resident, Eddie Cheever, Jr. arrived at Walt Disney World Speedway having completed only 298 miles of testing with his new chassis-tire-engine race package. Today, Eddie Cheever, Jr. came within two laps of winning his third Indy 200 title and what would have been the first trip down Victory Lane for both Infiniti and Riley & Scott. On lap 198, after a fierce 50-lap, three way battle, Cheever caught in slower traffic, was passed for the lead by Robby Buhl and Buddy Lazier dropping him to a third place finish.
"Julius Caesar once said, "to trust is good. To not trust is better". I should have followed that advice today and not trusted the slower car to give way," said a disgusted Cheever. "I had my hands on Infiniti's first win today and I failed them. I wanted so badly to give them this win."
"Nissan has a wonderful racing heritage and I want to be the one who carries that torch for them. This is more than a huge disappointment for me," continued the veteran Indy Racing star who made his move to Infiniti just before the Indy 500 last year. "The engine was very strong today and it kept getting stronger and stronger. Believe me, I did everything I could today to break it. I pushed it to its limit and it just kept giving."
Cheever started the race in sixth place. A strong engine, great tires and incredibly quick pit stops, helped Cheever move consistently through the grid so that, by Lap 150, with 50 laps to go, Cheever sat second behind Buddy Lazier at a restart. With the green, Cheever began to slowly reel his #91 nemesis in, with Robby Buhl running inches from his tail. With nine laps to go, Cheever took over Lazier and the lead. As Chief Mechanic, Owen Snyder counted down the remaining laps over the radio, it seemed as if there would be a fairy tale finish for the two-time Indy 200 winners.
"I've had Buhl behind me before and I don't like it," explained Cheever referring to the 1997 race in New Hampshire where Buhl had passed Cheever for the win. "I wanted to put a car between us. With two laps to go, I went down to get around the blue car. He moved down. I tried to go on the outside. His car drifted up pushing me into the marbles. I had so many marbles on my tires I couldn't get my grip back."
With Cheever's loss of momentum, Buhl, then Lazier, snuck by, dropping Cheever to third. There would not be enough time for Cheever to catch the two before the checkered flag dropped.
"We deserved to win today. The crews and the crew chiefs are the ones to thank today. This was a very tough day to race and this is a very tough track to race on," said the team owner/driver. "We had a lot of push all day. Everywhere. Owen, Dane and the guys just kept making the car better and better. Our performance today is because of their hard work and smarts."
"This race today is a great example of the severe competition in this league. There is a lot of blocking going on now. You need to get a lot of momentum to pass people," added Cheever. "The 3.5-liter engine is going to make it a game of momentum. It's going to get even more exciting. Just watch."
Round Two of the Northern Light Indy Racing League Series will take place at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, March 19th and will be televised love on ABC-TV at 4pm EST.