POSTRACE NOTES: TRANSWORLD DIVERSIFIED SERVICES INDY 200 AT WALT DISNEY WORLD SPEEDWAY JAN. 24, LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. THE WINNER: .Eddie Cheever Jr.: Cheever won the first event of the 1999 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season by 5.148 ...
POSTRACE NOTES: TRANSWORLD DIVERSIFIED SERVICES INDY 200 AT WALT DISNEY WORLD SPEEDWAY JAN. 24, LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA.
THE WINNER: .Eddie Cheever Jr.: Cheever won the first event of the 1999 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season by 5.148 seconds over runner-up Scott Goodyear, but the victory in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway wasn't as easy as it appeared. Cheever lost radio communication with his crew with about 60 laps remaining in the 200-lap event. He had no idea of his track position and thought he finished second when he crossed the finish line for the last time with the checkered flag waving overhead. "I went on the premise that if there are cars in front of me, that's bad," Cheever said. "I tried to put as many behind me as I could. I had no idea who was in the lead. I didn't know (Raul) Boesel was. I thought (Scott) Sharp was leading." Cheever took the lead for good in his Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips-Chi ldren's Beverage Group Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear when he passed Boesel on Lap 193. Boesel made a pit stop in the TransWorld Racing-McCormack Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Firestone later than most drivers just past the halfway mark, and his team decided to gamble and try to run 81 laps on the 1-mile oval without stopping. The gamble failed. Boesel's car began to sputter around Lap 190, and he was forced to pit for a quick splash of fuel on Lap 193. That handed the lead and the victory to Cheever, who averaged 118.538 mph. 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Cheever earned $126,900 for the victory at his hometown track and also became the first driver to win the same Indy Racing League event twice. Cheever also won this race in 1997. Cheever's victory came from the 13th starting spot. Cheever's last victory - the 1998 Indianapolis 500 - also came from a starting spot in the teens. He started 17th at Indy en route to victory. "If I'm not mistaken, qualifying pays $10,000," Cheever said. "Winning pays about $150,000. We work a lot on race setups, and I never do get to do much qualifying work."
THE CONTENDERS: .Raul Boesel: Boesel and the TransWorld Racing-McCormack Motorsports team tried to parlay a big gamble into their first Indy Racing League victory but fell just short. Boesel took the lead during a caution period on Lap 111 when every car on the track entered the pits except for his TransWorld Racing-McCormack Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Firestone. Boesel pitted on Lap 119, the final lap of the caution. He regained the lead on Lap 181 when PPG Pole winner Scott Sharp entered the pits for his final stop. The final caution period of the day started one lap later when rookie John Hollansworth Jr. brushed the wall in Turn 3. The race teams lined on pit road and the sellout crowd waited for Boesel to dive into the pits for a quick splash of fuel. But the TransWorld-McCormack team elected to stay on the track and try to stretch its fuel mileage to the finish for a rousing victory in front of its primary sponsor, TransWorld Diversified Services, also the title sponsor of the race. A dream script was in the making. But it became a nightmare around Lap 190 when Boesel's car began to sputter. He was forced to enter the pits on Lap 193, surrendering the lead to eventual winner Eddie Cheever Jr., and take a quick splash of fuel. Boesel went a lap down but still managed to finish fifth, his career best in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. "I was worried about fuel, but I thought I was safe," Boesel said. "I tried to keep the car going, but it began to sputter. We thought we'd take the checkered flag, but we have to be happy with fifth place." Said team co-owner Dennis McCormack: "I thought today would be the Cinderella story, but it just didn't come together in the end. When we had that last yellow, I let out a sigh of relief. I thought it would get us to the end. "Our telemetry said we had two or three gallons left in the tank. That would have gotten us to the end, but we've all heard that story before." .Scott Sharp: Judging by the first 100 laps, there was no secret why Sharp won the PPG Pole for this event with a track-record speed of 171.371 mph. Sharp's Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear was flying during the first half of the race, as he cruised a lead of more than three seconds during the first 50 laps. Sharp led 100 of the first 102 laps before surrendering the lead to Scott Goodyear on Lap 103. Sharp regained the lead from Goodyear on Lap 178 and entered the pits for a final stop on Lap 180. He was in position to contend for the lead and the victory when a cruel stroke of fate struck as he exited the pits. The final caution period of the day started on Lap 181 when rookie John Hollansworth brushed the Turn 3 wall. Sharp went a lap down due to the caution. He fought to return to the lead lap on Lap 192 but ran out of time and laps in his quest toward the front, ending up a solid third. "All of the sudden, something happened in the handling of the car, and it went away in a large way," Sharp said of losing the lead to Goodyear on Lap 102. "But the crushing blow was when the yellow came out after we pitted. We got some good points, a whole race car, and we're looking forward to the season." .Scott Goodyear: Goodyear scored a strong second-place finish in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear despite suffering the lingering effects of pneumonia. It was fourth runner-up finish of Goodyear's Indy Racing League career, as he still continues his quest for his first league victory. Goodyear had hoped to catch a break late in the race and pit under yellow. But his car was running out of fuel on Lap 177, and he was forced to make his final stop. That coveted caution period came four laps later. Too late. "For me, it wasn't a very lucky day," Goodyear said. "We had to keep waiting for a yellow. I was in communication with our pits. They were strategizing for our next pit stop, but that green-flag pit stop really hurt us. Still, Goodyear led three times for 36 laps and was a major factor throughout the race. "We're pleased with our finish, but I would have preferred to win, so it's a little disappointing," Goodyear said. "We're going to concentrate on the mistakes and try to improve. I'll take second-place points."
THE REST OF THE STORY:
.Ward brings it home again: Eddie Cheever Jr. may be the master of Walt Disney World Speedway with his two career victories on the tricky 1-mile oval, but Jeff Ward isn't far behind. Ward finished third in the Thermo Tech-Ceasefire-ISM Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, his second consecutive top-three finish in this race. He was second behind Tony Stewart in 1997. While Ward was thrilled with the strong start to his season, he considered himself lucky to have landed in the top three at this race. He was one of four drivers on the lead lap at the finish. "My luck has changed this year," Ward said. "We shouldn't have finished this race, and we did. I got the wings clipped off, I hit Greg Ray. I think I hit just about everybody out there. There were bunches of four or five cars everywhere." "You always come into a race to win. But to start the season, you just want to get out of here without banging up the car and getting no points. We've got to be happy."
.Getting the most from the least: Steve Knapp and Davey Hamilton both made the most of their respective teams' small budgets by finishing seventh and eighth. 1998 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Knapp drove a smooth race in the Earl's Performance Products G Force/Aurora/Goodyear fielded by PDM Racing. His seventh-place finish was his best since finishing third in his Pep Boys Indy Racing League debut last May at Indy. "We were really far out when we showed up," Knapp said. "But we put in a lot of hard work, and it paid off. The PDM guys have really worked hard. Their hearts are in the right place." 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League runner-up Hamilton and Galles Racing weren't even planning to compete in this race three weeks ago. But they put together a last-minute program and finished a solid eighth in a G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. "With two weeks notice, I think we did a pretty good job, and I am extremely proud of my team and Davey," team owner Rick Galles said. "To not test and go as fast as we did with no mistakes shows what my guys and my driver are made of."
.Tough debut for Brack: Defending league champion Kenny Brack didn't enjoy the kind of start that he wanted, finishing 22nd in the A.J. Foyt Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear after colliding with Gualter Salles on Lap 108. Brack was running right behind Salles when Salles' engine malfunctioned. Brack also had traffic beside him and had no option but to hit the rear of Salles' car. Both he and Salles hit the Turn 3 wall, but neither was injured. But Brack can take comfort knowing that he didn't exactly start his championship-winning season last year with a flourish at this track. Brack finished 13th at this event in 1998.
.Stewart, Curry back: 1996-97 Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart and his former team manager with Team Menard, Larry Curry, teamed up to field a car for former CART driver Gualter Salles at this event. Salles finished 23rd in the team's Dallara/Aurora/Firestone after an accident which also collected defending league champion Kenny Brack. Stewart is competing full time in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series this year, but he wanted to stay involved in the series that launched his motorsports career into orbit. "This has been a dream come true," Stewart said. "Larry and I have been talking about this since the middle of last summer." Stewart said he plans to drive in the Indianapolis 500 this year, probably with his new team as a teammate to Salles.
.Important switch: The Brant Racing team made a significant switch on its Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear driven by Andy Michner on Jan. 23, and it had nothing to do with any mechanical part of the car. The team switched from car number 31 to number 3 after Team Menard agreed to surrender that number. Menard driver Greg Ray will use number 2 this season. The number switch allowed Brant's distinctive black, silver and red car to have a striking resemblance to the #3 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet driven by seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt. The change wasn't coincidental, either. Brant Racing has a long business relationship with Richard Childress, owner of Earnhardt's car. "He is going to get involved, but he's going to do it slowly," Michner said of Childress' plans with the team and the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. "He'll take a little more active role now that we have the number 3. The number looks cool."
THE FACTS AND FIGURES:
.Twenty of the 28 starters were running at the finish, a league record. The previous record was 19, set at the Radisson 200 in August 1998 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
.Scott Sharp won the PPG Pole for the second time in his career. He also won the pole in June 1997 at Pikes Peak International Raceway when he drove for A.J. Foyt Racing. This was the first Pep Boys Indy Racing League pole for Kelley Racing.
.Eddie Cheever Jr. became the second driver in Indy Racing League history to win at least one event in three consecutive seasons. Cheever won this event in 1997 and the Indianapolis 500 in 1998. Arie Luyendyk won events in the 1996, 1996-97 and 1998 seasons.
.Billy Boat's amazing streak of PPG Poles ended at five, as he qualified 14th. Boat had won the PPG Pole in the last five Pep Boys Indy Racing League events in which he competed. He claimed the last four of last season and the pole at the New England 200 in June. Boat missed the VisionAire 500 and the Pep Boys 400K last July due to injuries suffered in the New England 200.
THE NEXT EVENT: March 28, MCI WorldCom 200, Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix