IRL: Indy 500 - Team Cheever ready for Opening Day

Team Cheever Readies To Defend Indy 500 Titles Reigning winner, Eddie Cheever, and newly enlisted rookie, Wim Eyckmans, ready to defend team titles at the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500 Indianapolis, Indiana (May 14, 1999) - When the green...

Team Cheever Readies To Defend Indy 500 Titles Reigning winner, Eddie Cheever, and newly enlisted rookie, Wim Eyckmans, ready to defend team titles at the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis, Indiana (May 14, 1999) - When the green flag drops this Saturday morning at the Opening Day ceremonies for the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500, Team Cheever will be ready.

Ready to battle for the single right to roll their car onto the historic victory lane of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ready to take home a rightful share of the record purse of over $8.7 million dollars.

They will be heavily armed with two superbly prepped Goodyear-shod Dallara Indy race cars. One fueled by an Infiniti Indy engine, the other an Oldsmobile Aurora V8.

"Our chances for victory are vastly superior to what they were this time last year," spoke Eddie Cheever, Jr., 1998 Indy 500 winner, Team Cheever owner and driver of the #51 Team Cheever/Children's Beverage Group/Dallara/Goodyear/Infiniti. "We have a much stronger relationship with our supporting manufacturers, and, in my opinion, that can make a big difference in performance. The Infiniti engine is proving to be stronger than we had suspected and Goodyear's hard work off season has already paid off for us."

They will have two aggressive and inspired drivers ready at the helm. One, the reigning Indy 500 winner and team owner, the other, a rookie from Belgium who chose his first real Indy car race to be the largest event in the world.

"Dick, Owen, Dane and the guys have really got things working well. For the first time in my career, I have total confidence in my car and what I'll be able to do with it on the track," added the proud team owner. "We have picked the positive things we accomplished in 1998, focused on those, and developed our race strategy from there. It seems to be working."

They will be one incredibly strong team, headed by the two-time Indy 500 winning Chief Mechanic, Owen Snyder III, and the 1998 Rookie of the Year winning Crew Mechanic, Dane Harte. Together the two have overseen every aspect of the preparation of both Team Cheever cars. Come race day, however, they will don opposing headsets, going to war not only against the thirty-one other competitors, but also against one another.

"Our strategy for both the #51 and the #52 teams is simple," said Cheever speaking of the two-car effort. "To be in the leading pack by the last pit stop. Then it is down to whomever is the best."

Dick Caron, the veteran Team Manager with over 25 years of experience, along with partner, Clyde Perlee, have helped Cheever build the team from the ground floor up.

This season, in order to capitalize on the way their talents seem to complement one another, Caron put Snyder in charge of issues of performance and race set-ups and Harte in charge of issues of reliability in and out of the race shop. The combination has already brought success to Team Cheever as they took the victory at the season-opening Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway and were making a strong run in Phoenix before getting into an accident with just a quarter of the race left to go.

Cheever will have his hands full the next two weeks as he attempts to both reclaim his title and to try to be the first driver to win back-to-back Indy 500 victories since Al Unser in 1970 and 1971.

"This event has been the focus of my life the past 10 years. If you are a racing driver, then there is no other place in the world to be in the month of May," said Cheever. "The Indy 500 is uniquely American. There is no other race like it in the world. There are 82 years of stories and people who have tried to win this one race. There haven't been that many that can say they did it. I definitely want to see my name on that trophy more than once."

Wim Eyckmans, who will make his Indianapolis debut driving the #52 EGP/Beaulieu of America/Dallara/Oldsmobile/Goodyear, comes from open wheel circuits in Europe where he raced in F3000, Opel-GM-Lotus and Kart series. In April, Wim passed all four phases of the Rookie Orientation in a swift two and one half hours, showing that he'd be a contender in May.

"I will never forget the day before the Rookie Orientation when I had the chance to receive advice from three Indy 500 winners: Eddie Cheever, Jr., Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford," said an elated Wim Eyckmans. "It was simply unbelievable!"

Eyckmans will have large shoes to fill as he steps behind the wheel of the #52 race car. In 1997, Jeff Ward took the helm of the #52 machine and brought home the Indy 500 Rookie of The Year race honors; in 1998, Robby Unser continued the tradition and claimed the overall Rookie of the Year honors for the series.

"We are focused on helping Wim take the Rookie of the Year," said Cheever. "He has shown he is a strong driver and my guys know this track. The combination should be extremely competitive."

"I want very much to carry the torch for the team as well as myself," spoke the 27-year old rookie, Eyckmans. "Before the race, it will take concentration and making the most of this experienced and successful team; during the race, it will take consistency, staying in the lead lap, and, yes, a bit of good luck."

Primary sponsorship of the #51 Team Cheever Dallara/Goodyear/Infiniti comes from The Children's Beverage Group. The Children's Beverage Group (TCBG) is the designer of the RIP-IT SIP-IT(tm) straw-in-the-pouch drinking system that began distribution nationwide in 1997. For more information, call TCBG's corporate headquarters at 847-562-4040 or visit their website at Associate sponsors of Team Cheever include GO-RACHELS.COM, Goodyear, Menards, STP, TruGreen*Chemlawn, Bosch, Pennzoil and Invincible Sportswear.

Primary sponsorship of Wim Eyckmans and his #52 Dallara/Goodyear/Oldsmobile comes from EGP and Beaulieu of America. EGP, based near Brussels-Belgium, was founded in 1997. After several years of research and development, the firm has introduced an extensive line of fully environmental cleaning products for use in the industrial, business and domestic arenas. The company currently employs a staff of 28 and is growing quickly. Turnover for 1998 was $15 million dollars. EGP's goals are to double their turnover in 1999, to expand strongly on the US market and to bring a safer and more responsible use to the maintenance tasks in today's world at large. Beaulieu of America is the largest privately held, and overall, the third largest carpet and rug manufacturer in the world. The most fully integrated company in the floor covering industry, Beaulieu controls production from raw materials to finished products. This vertical integration allows Beaulieu to control product quality standards and ensures a continuous supply of material to marketplace demands. With approximately 12,000 employees worldwide, Beaulieu of America reported annual sales revenues of $1.5 billion in 1998.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Jeff Ward , Wim Eyckmans , Johnny Rutherford , Al Unser