Eddie Cheever Jr. today declared his intentions for the 2007 IRL IndyCar season - and like many owners he has placed a stake in the series' supporting division, the Indy Pro Series. After fielding two cars last year for Chris Festa and Nick ...
Eddie Cheever Jr. today declared his intentions for the 2007 IRL IndyCar season - and like many owners he has placed a stake in the series' supporting division, the Indy Pro Series. After fielding two cars last year for Chris Festa and Nick Bussell, Cheever signed Richard Antinucci to his lone entry. Besides the fact Antinucci has shown a lot in Europe in the F3 Euroseries, he is also Cheever's nephew and perhaps that played a role in the announcement. Last season Antinucci scored a pair of victories en route to finishing 5th in the championship.
"We had an interesting experience last year with the (Indy Pro Series)," Cheever commented. "It was our first year. We were interested in the fact that you get to work with so many young drivers. It was a very positive experience for us. We didn't do as well as we would like to, but we ended on a very strong note at the end of the season." The team's best finish over the course of the season was 2nd at Homestead.
Cheever spoke highly about his new hiring. "When the opportunity came up to have Richard in the team, obviously it was something that we sat back and thought long and hard about, because there's always more responsibility I think inside of a family, when you bring a family member into a business," he noted.
"But he has all the credentials to do very well. If you look at all the people that have succeeded in Indy cars over the past 10 years, there's a large majority of them coming from a European single-seater background. Look at somebody like (Juan Pablo) Montoya, comes from Europe, does well in Indy cars, goes to Formula One, comes back and does NASCAR. I think it's a very good training ground for anybody that wants to be successful in racing."
Antinucci related his success in Europe to his prospective hopes for this season, as he looks to give the team its first victory. Mainly, he wants to become acclimated to the Dallara Pro Series cars. "I want to learn as much as I can, as I have no oval experience," Antinucci addressed. "I want to be able to learn that. But the first thing we need to do is really work thoroughly, I have to get the grips of the car. The team and I have -- the team being the staff, the engineering, everyone involved in this project, to gel well, to go from there."
Naturally this announcement drew some members of the media to speculate on Cheever's ambitions for an IndyCar Series effort at some point during the year. After running two cars on a regular basis, Cheever downsized to one last year for himself (with the exception of Indianapolis) before pulling out midseason due to a lack of sponsorship. It appears likely the only time that Cheever will put an IndyCar on the grid will be Indianapolis, perhaps in an alliance with Vision Racing. That team bought their Daytona Prototype from Cheever for this year's Rolex 24.
"If we were to participate in an IndyCar (Series) program, I think our main focus would be the Indianapolis 500," Cheever said. "A lot of it depends on how Richard does. If he takes to it as well as we think he will, I could see him making a run at trying to qualify for the Indy 500. It's very possible that we will have an alliance with an IndyCar team which will really help us get there. I'm not embarrassed to say, I'm actually proud to say, that there's a strong possibility that we might do something with Vision Racing."
Cheever added that if he was to run a car for Indianapolis, he most likely would not be driving and would place Antinucci in the seat. Chief among those who would like to hear that announcement would be Andretti Green Racing teammates Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti, who had separate incidents with Cheever at Watkins Glen last year. Cheever has already won an Indy 500 and one driver who hasn't, Michael Andretti, also announced earlier in the week he would saddle up again for one more shot come this Memorial Day weekend.