Eddie Cheever

Eddie Cheever is a veteran of Formula 1 and CART, but even at the age of 42, and taking part in the third major open wheel series of his career, he's chalking up some impressive 'firsts'.

Eddie Cheever

The American won the first ever race of the new formula Indy Racing League in 1997, and in doing so, took the first IRL wins for the G-Force chassis and Oldsmobile Aurora engine. A much harder task, some might say, was achieving the first win for the Nissan Infiniti engine, which at the IRL's start seemed like an overweight, unreliable lost cause - and by the beginning of 2000, only two teams could be persuaded to take on the engine. However, Team Cheever took on the development of the new version of the Infiniti, and finally took the first win for an engine other than an Aurora. The win, at Pike's Peak three weeks ago, takes Cheever within spitting distance of his first major championship title in a top-line career lasting 22 years. Matt Willis spoke to the IRL series leader.



"The difference between the front five and the back five is about two miles per hour, and we're about one mile an hour off where we need to be. It's the first time we went to the track, so we have a lot of work to do."



"That's exactly what it is. We had two choices. We could have made an engine that was very good in qualifying but difficult to get the best out of, or have an engine with a wider torque curve, to cover a wider band of conditions. We chose the wider band, that's why the engine is always better in the races, all the time, but is also much better on a short oval than a long oval, where you need a wider spread of revs."



"Yes, exactly."



"No, I think people would be foolish to change it now, because the new 35A is coming up. This engine will be retired after Texas this year, and after that we'll be working on the new 35A It will have a lower centre of gravity, and other features that will make it a definite improvement. If not in more horsepower, then in things that will help the car handle."



"There's a long way to go yet. I think we can do it, though. You might even say it's ours to lose. The circuits that are coming up in the championship aren't the best ones for us, but I think we have a competitive package. It's going to come down to pit stops, and fuel strategy, and whatever. The tracks that are coming up are like Daytona, in that the draft is very important, and it's important just to keep calm and not do silly things.

"Texas is the kind of circuit where as long as you can hold the draft, you're going to be alright, you'll be in that pack of leading cars. I think the last 20-25 laps at Kentucky on a full tank of fuel will be very difficult because even though it's a mile-and-a-half oval, the banking is less severe."



"I think that's the inherent nature of that circuit. Every now and again on an oval there's something you can try, and sometimes you can get away with it, like going in a certain area. I think going high into three at Kentucky isn't going to be the most healthy way to spend your afternoon."



"Yes, and also the team is working very well, and I'm very happy with my driving. We've lost around three races - Orlando, which we lost because of the traffic, Phoenix because I got hit... Our lowest point during the season so far was the Indianapolis 500. And it was all through pit work. We had the fastest car out there, but every time I'd come in, I'd go out again four places down. We have picked up after Indy, and did a very good job at Texas."



"No! I'm too old to get nervous. The only thing that makes me nervous now is a gorgeous 20-year-old with a short skirt on."

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Cheever takes Infiniti's first win

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