Started: 10th Finished: 2nd Laps led: 26 Fort Worth, TX - In an appropriately exciting finish to the Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, ...
Laps led: 26
Fort Worth, TX - In an appropriately exciting finish to the Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, #51 Excite@Home driver Eddie Cheever Jr. drove an inspired race, battling eventual winner Scott Goodyear to the checkered flag en route to a hard-fought second place at the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series finale.
Cheever, who entered the final round of the Indy Racing championship in third place in the standings behind eventual series champion Buddy Lazier and Excite 500 winner Scott Goodyear, started tenth and took the lead on lap 122 of the 208-lap Excite 500. Cheever relinquished the lead to Goodyear on lap 136, but an excellent pit stop by the #51 Excite@Home crew enabled Cheever to pass Goodyear in the pits on lap 157.
The 1998 Indianapolis 500 Champion regained the lead of the race on lap 195 and led until lap 207, when Goodyear slipped past him. Cheever fought back in an effort to claim his second victory for the #51 Excite@Home team and the Infiniti Indy engine, but could not catch the talented Canadian, whose margin of victory was a mere 0.140 of a second.
Cheever finished in the top eleven in eight of nine Indy Racing events this season and earned five top five finishes. He also led six of the nine rounds of 2000 competition. Cheever and his #51 Excite@Home team earned forty points for their second place result at the Excite 500 and cemented third place overall in the 2000 Indy Racing championship with 257 points.
Eddie Cheever Jr. (on the Excite 500 and the run for the championship): "It was a fun race. Right now I'm very angry that I didn't win it, though. I'm trying to sound very placid and happy but I'm not. But the #51 Excite@Home car was excellent today and the Infiniti engine performed very well. Our goal this year was to finish well in the championship and win a race, and we accomplished that."
On his battle with Scott Goodyear: "The most anxious I have been all year was when we were under yellow and I was waiting for the (final) restart. If you're the guy in front, opening a hole for everybody, it's like being a duck in a bowl with people shooting at you. My car was getting very wide at the end, but I didn't have enough for Goodyear, and he managed to get around me. Those last few laps racing with Scott, there couldn't have been three inches between us. You can only do that with drivers that you trust. I thought the racing today was phenomenal."
On drafting during the Excite 500: "The way our rules are now, every Indy Racing event that we have on a 1.5 mile oval is like watching the open-wheel version of the Daytona 500. In the beginning of the race today the drafting was very chaotic because no one had a rhythm. I couldn't get in the draft until about 20 laps into the race."
On Buddy Lazier, the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series Champion: "I have to congratulate Buddy and his team on a great year. We have been butting heads with Buddy right from the start of the season. He's a hell of a racer, and he deserves to be the champion." On the rain that fell immediately following the race: "It hasn't rained here in three months. Couldn't it have rained ten minutes ago and not now?"
Primary Sponsorship of the #51 Indy Car comes from Excite@Home. The company is based in Redwood City, California, at the heart of Silicon Valley. Associate Sponsors of Team Cheever include Infiniti, Firestone, Indy Promotional Products, Menards, Bosch, and Pennzoil.