IRL: Indy 500: Papis, Cheever Pole Day report

Max Papis and Eddie Cheever Qualify for Indy Cheever Racing Duo Qualifies 18th and 19th for Indianapolis 500 Indianapolis, Ind. (May 20, 2006) -- Qualifying within two-hundreths of a second from each other, the Cheever Racing duo of Max Papis...

Max Papis and Eddie Cheever Qualify for Indy
Cheever Racing Duo Qualifies 18th and 19th for Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis, Ind. (May 20, 2006) -- Qualifying within two-hundreths of a second from each other, the Cheever Racing duo of Max Papis and Eddie Cheever Jr. qualified 18th and 19th, respectively, for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. Thirty-two of the 33 available starting positions were filled today in the run for the Worldpoints Visa Card Pole on Coca-cola Throwback Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I am glad we have both cars in the field. It took a tremendous amount of effort by the entire team to get here," said owner and driver Eddie Cheever Jr.

Cheever was the first of the two Cheever Racing cars to qualify on Pole Day, which was rescheduled for today after a washout last weekend. The tenth car on track, Cheever drove four laps at 220.916, 222.305, 222.508 and 222.389 for a four-lap average speed of 222.028 mph in the No. 51 Cheever Racing Honda/Dallara.

"My qualifying was a little more difficult than usual," Cheever said. "I got sideways in turn three and by the time I collected my wits enough I was kind of off base and that dragged all the way through that first timed lap.

"I heard Rick Mears say the other day that these are the four most physical laps you can do in racing and I would agree with him. I would add to that if you go away for three years, then come back, and get sideways in your warm-up lap, that makes it even better," continued Cheever, who last drove at Indy in 2002. "That was the most severe, quick and abrupt talking to I had to give myself in 30 years of racing, to decide if I was going to hold the throttle down in turn one after getting sideways in turn three. As it turned out the car was good."

This will be Cheever's 14th Indy 500. His journey began in 1990, when he finished eighth and was named the race's rookie of the year. He finished fourth in 1992, won in '98, and finished fifth in 2000 and 2002. He also holds the record for the fastest race lap with an average speed of 236.103 mph set in 1996.

Papis took to the track to qualify for his second Indianapolis 500 immediately after Cheever as the 11th car on track for Pole Day. With laps at 221.988, 221.975, 222.121 and 222.148 in the No. 52 Cheever Racing Honda/Dallara, Papis qualified with a four-lap average speed of 222.058 mph.

"I am very proud to be here to represent SportClips and Cheever Racing," Papis said. "It is fantastic. We worked really hard to put this deal together. Of course since I have been out of these kind of cars for a while, and not used to running at 220-plus miles per hour, it was definitely a question mark. But Eddie had faith in me and in my ability. I just wanted to show him, and everyone, that I belong here."

"I never doubted for a second that the car was not ready or that we were not prepared," Papis continued. "We had everything perfect. We never focused on a qualifying run. I was relying on the experience of Eddie to actually get the car trimmed out. We were not as aggressive on the rear wing setting as he was because we wanted to run with a known quantity. It looked like it paid off."

It will be the second Indy 500 for Papis, who has competed in Formula One, CART and several sports-car series during a 24-year career. In 2002, Papis also drove for Eddie Cheever Jr. at Indianapolis, finishing 23rd after starting 18th in the No. 53 Cheever Racing entry.

Max Papis Quotes:

First I must say that I am ecstatic about being in Indianapolis. This is one of those legendary places for a racecar driver. I am fortunate that the opportunity presented itself for me to be able to compete here. I'm honored to be able to represent my country in this event.

We qualified better than I expected, considering we've only run just over 60 laps and no more. The team is fantastic. That is what makes the difference. My baseline for setting the car up came from Eddie. And the guys he brought together with me are experienced. All of that put together allowed me to have the confidence to be able to feel comfortable with the car and the circuit.

For sure, Indy is not an easy place to run at speed. Qualifying at Indianapolis is the longest three minutes of your life. You have to dig down pretty deep. Again, my team and the Dallara / Honda package gave me the confidence.

I'm pleased that Eddie gave me another opportunity to have a crack at Indy. It is only because of he and my sponsor, Sport Clips that I have this ride. Today, Eddie's faith in me paid off. Maybe a bit too much. I was just that little bit faster than him.

This afternoon we put in more practice laps. We focused on gear ratios and downforce in an effort to come up with a good race set-up.

I have butterfly's being here. Indy is one of the most prestigious sporting events there is. Along with the Le Mans and Daytona 24 hour races. I'm fortunate to be able to compete in all three this year.

Monday I'll be in New York City with the rest of the drivers who qualify for the 500. I'm looking forward to representing my country, the 500 and my sponsor, Sport Clips while we are there.

The 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 starts at 1 p.m. (EDT) on May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ABC will broadcast the race live beginning at noon (EDT).

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Max Papis , Rick Mears