Fort Worth, TX. -- In front of a crowd of over 60,000 at Texas Motor Speedway, Leading Rookie Robby Unser brought home the second podium finish in as many races to Team Cheever. The finish is Unser's highest since his earlier 5th place finish at...
Fort Worth, TX. -- In front of a crowd of over 60,000 at Texas Motor Speedway, Leading Rookie Robby Unser brought home the second podium finish in as many races to Team Cheever. The finish is Unser's highest since his earlier 5th place finish at the Indianapolis 500 and it almost assures him of the 1998 Rookie of the Year award. Driver/Owner, Eddie Cheever, having qualified 9th, fell out early to engine problems, and finished 25th.
"We've worked hard for this all year long," said an elated Unser. "Today, we put it all together."
When the green flag dropped at today's Lone Star 500k, the barometer read 104 degrees in the pits with the track temperature climbing to an unreasonable 144 degrees. Within several laps, both drivers radioed that they were fighting "push", most likely brought on by the relentless Texan heat. After a brief and strident fight, Cheever's #51 Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips Dallara engine gave out, 30 laps in to the race.
"The problem appears to be in the top of the engine as we didn't lose any oil. We probably lost a cylinder," explained Cheever. "We came here off a strong 3rd place finish in Atlanta. We thought we had a real chance today. It's very disappointing."
It was now Unser's race. With Crew Chief, Dane Harte, Team Owner, Eddie Cheever and the #52 Children's Beverage Group team couching from the pits, driver and crew went about the task of finding the right combination to fight the heat, find the balance and assure a strong finish. With teams falling out to tire or engine problems lap after lap, Unser kept his nose clean while the team stayed focus on a solid pit strategy.
With just 60 laps left, Unser ducked his #52 Children's Beverage Group GForce into the pits to take on the last four tires and fuel. With the field narrowed to 5 teams on the lead lap, Team Cheever gambled that they would have enough fuel to take them to the checkered flag, while the others would still need one more stop. The strategy paid off until Davey Hamilton's tire blew and the pack regrouped under yellow. With 8 laps left, Unser was unable to catch Leader John Paul Jr. and had to settle for a second placed finish.
"We fought a push all day, but found the right combination by the end," said Unser of the 208-lap race. "I have to hand it to this crew. I just can't say enough about these guys, Eddie, Dick, Clyde and the whole Team Cheever organization. They deserve this. They have strong desire to win and they've proven it here today."
With the Texas results, Indy 500 winner, Eddie Cheever holds fast at 9th in the Drivers Championship, just 2 points shy of 8th placed, Marco Greco. Unser moves up to a solid 15th place with 162 points, lengthening his lead for the Rookie Of The Year award over Brian Tyler, by 50 points.
The final race of the Pep Boys IRL season is just 3 weeks away. The Las Vegas 500 race event will take place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, October 9-11th. The race will air live on Sunday, October 11th at 4pm EDT on TNN. Qualifying will air live on Speedvision, Saturday, October 10th at 3pm EDT.