OLDSMOBILE REIGNS IN MAGIC KINGDOM Cheever Wins IRL Season-Opener at Walt Disney World Speedway, Extends IRL Aurora V8's Winning Streak to 20 Straight Races Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; January 24, 1999 - For the third straight year, Oldsmobile ...
OLDSMOBILE REIGNS IN MAGIC KINGDOM
Cheever Wins IRL Season-Opener at Walt Disney World Speedway, Extends IRL Aurora V8's Winning Streak to 20 Straight Races
Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; January 24, 1999 - For the third straight year, Oldsmobile kicked off the new racing season with a victory in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, the first round of the 11-race Pep Boys Indy Racing League series.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Eddie Cheever, Jr. notched his second Indy 200 victory, his third career IRL victory, and Oldsmobile's 20th consecutive IRL victory by a 5.148-second margin over Scott Goodyear. Jeff Ward was third in the 200-lap race on the tricky one-mile tri-oval.
Cheever, 41, a resident of nearby Orlando, led a total of 40 laps in his Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips Oldsmobile Dallara. He started 13th and took the lead for good on Lap 193 when race leader Raul Boesel pitted for fuel - but Cheever was unaware that he had taken the point because of a problem with his radio.
"I thought Scott Sharp was ahead of me," said a surprised Cheever. "I thought I finished second!
"I lost radio communication with 60 laps to go, and it got confusing," he reported. "I was going on the premise that if there were cars ahead of me, that was bad. I tried to keep as many as I could behind me.
"Today I had the best team and the best car," declared Cheever, who scored Oldsmobile's first Indy car victory at the rain-shortened Indy 200 in 1997. "It doesn't happen often, but today my car was impeccable. The engine performed perfectly. At one point when the direction of the wind shifted and the sound of the exhaust changed, I panicked for a moment, but the Oldsmobile engine ran very well. There were very few engine problems today and very few gearbox problems."
Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 engines powered the top 12 finishers; the highest placing Nissan driver finished 3 laps behind the winner. Twenty-five of the 28 starters (89% of the field) used Oldsmobile engines. Five Oldsmobile drivers combined to lead all 200 laps today. Twenty-one cars were running at the finish - 20 of them powered by IRL Aurora V8 engines. There was only one reported Oldsmobile engine failure in three days of practice, qualifying, and racing.
Cheever scored the sixth IRL win for Oldsmobile engine builder Brayton Engineering of Coldwater, Mich. "We didn't have many engines at this race, but we got the win," said general manager Jim Wright. "Eddie went into an engine development program with us over the winter, and I'd say the results have been very good."
Scott Goodyear was runner-up for the fourth time in his IRL career with Panther Racing's Pennzoil Oldsmobile G-Force. Goodyear led 36 laps before surrendering the lead to Cheever on Lap 142. "We struggled in the second-to-last segment, and that's when Eddie got by us," Goodyear recalled. "We made the car really good in the last segment - it was hooked up and I could keep my foot on the gas. We just ran out of laps."
Traffic was heavy on the Disney tri-oval throughout the 200-mile contest. "There were cars three or four abreast, especially down the back straight," Goodyear noted. "Everybody's going for the same piece of pavement."
Jeff Ward drove ISM Racing's Thermo Tech Oldsmobile G-Force to a podium finish for the fifth time in his IRL career. "I think my luck's changed this year because we shouldn't have finished this race and we did," Ward laughed. "I got my front wings knocked off, I hit Greg Ray, and I think I hit everybody on the track. We wanted to win this first race, but we didn't want to come out with a banged-up race car and no points. It felt like survival all day long."
Scott Sharp won the Indy 200 pole with Kelley Racing's Delphi Automotive Systems Oldsmobile Dallara and set the Walt Disney World Speedway track record for new-formula IRL cars at 171.371 mph in qualifying. Sharp led more than half the race - 103 laps - before falling back with handling problems.
The next Pep Boys Indy Racing League event will be at Phoenix International Raceway on March 28.
TRANSWORLD DIVERSIFIED SERVICES INDY 200 RESULTS
Top Five Finishers: Driver Entrant Engine Laps 1. Eddie Cheever, Jr. Team Cheever Oldsmobile 200 2. Scott Goodyear Panther Racing Oldsmobile 200 3. Jeff Ward ISM Racing Oldsmobile 200 4. Scott Sharp Kelley Racing Oldsmobile 200 5. Raul Boesel McCormack Mtrspts. Oldsmobile 199
Pole: Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 171.371 mph Fastest Lap: Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 166.21 mph