Race: Cheever beats Hornish Jr in thriller

Eddie Cheever won a battle of two of the Indy Racing League's fiercest warriors to defeat Sam Hornish Jr by just 0.197s in Sunday's Ameristar Casino Indy 200 at Kansas Speedway

Race: Cheever beats Hornish Jr in thriller

Cheever led the race seven times for 104 laps and passed Hornish for the lead in the third turn of the 198th lap. Two laps later, Cheever drove to the chequered flag in front of a packed sell-out crowd of over 75,000 fans at the new 1.5-mile facility. It was Cheever's fifth career IRL win and only the second ever for the Infiniti Indy engine.

"We worked very hard with Infiniti for the last three years and it's been fun and a struggle," Cheever said. "I had an advantage today and it wasn't superior driving skill, it was the Infiniti engine in my car. My engine ran impeccably and everything was perfect. It was one of those days you want to have happen more often, but they don't."

It was the third consecutive race that Hornish has finished second, but he continues to lead the IRL point standings by 60 over Buddy Lazier. The 21-year-old Hornish and the 43-year-old Cheever battled throughout the race, giving the crowd plenty of high-speed excitement.

"As far as Sam Hornish Jr goes, I'll race him anywhere, any time," Cheever said. "He gave me a lot of room. That's the way I think the IRL should be run. Sam and I went back and forth. Sam is very talented and he is fair."

Donnie Beechler was third in a car owned by A.J. Foyt followed by rookie Felipe Giaffone and defending IRL champion Buddy Lazier. There were 20 lead changes among eight drivers. It was the most lead changes of the season in an IRL race.

"You had to be a lot quicker than the guy in front to get around him," Beechler said. "If you were a little bit quicker, that would get you beside him, but you would lose him in the turns. You had to be 2-3 miles an hour faster than the other driver to get in front of him."

Hornish tried to pass Cheever heading to the finish, but fell short:: "When I was coming up behind Eddie, there was some water leaking out from the bottom of my car and spraying up on my car and I didn't want to be behind him if the engine blew," Hornish said. "In hindsight, I think I did the right thing. We'll take another second-place finish and build on that point's lead.

"It was fun racing with Eddie all day long. There was a lot of side-by-side racing. He gave me room and I gave him room and so did Donnie Beechler. It's fun to go out there race against guys like that who you know are not going to put you into the wall. It was clean racing."

Hornish overcame a mistake in the pits when he stalled the car on his final pit stop, but was able to rally back to take the lead when he passed Cheever in the third turn on lap 191 of the 200-lap race. But Cheever was determined that he was not going to finish second and passed Hornish with a little over two laps remaining.

"I wanted to win this race because I knew I had the best equipment," Cheever said. "Not winning would have been unacceptable. When Sam got out in front, I was worried, but I knew he would be a sitting duck after a few laps.

"Sam is fierce at the start, in the middle, on the 190th lap and the last lap. Sam plays by the rules. He understands if you have a run on him, he'll give you a hard time, but he will hold his line. When he came up on me with nine laps to go, it would have been very easy for me to shut the door on him and start weaving. But he had the line and I treated him fairly. It is the funnest race I've had in a long time."

Although Scott Sharp started on the pole, it was Eliseo Salazar who led the first lap when he passed Sharp coming out of the fourth turn. Salazar was in front when the first caution flag waved on lap 16 when Billy Roe's engine let go.

Cheever took the lead for the first time when he passed Salazar on lap 33. Hornish took the lead for the first time when he passed Cheever for the lead in the first turn on the 47th lap.

Later in the race, Beechler took the lead on the 94th lap before the Cheever-Hornish battle continued with Cheever back in front by lap 97.

The only major incident of the race came on the 138th lap when Scott Sharp was in second-place, trying to take Cheever, but spun around and slammed into the wall in the fourth turn. It was a hard crash, but Sharp was not injured.

"I'm fine," Sharp said. "The IRL has done a great job with these cars to be able to sustain a high-force crash, but I got out so it's fine. Something broke on the right rear of the car and just snapped around."

Cheever, Hornish and Beechler continued a three-car battle in the last 50 laps of the race with the former Formula 1 driver taking the win.

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