Cheever Wins Under Caution In Colorado

FOUNTAIN, Colo. -- Eddie Cheever Jr. earned his fourth career Indy Racing Northern Light Series victory and the first for an Infiniti engine, taking the lead on lap 172 and crossing the finish line on a caution flag Sunday in the Radisson 200.

Cheever also took over the season points lead from Buddy Lazier, who blew an engine on the first lap.

Cheever, 42, was fastest in practice Friday, qualified 10th and ran among the leaders all day Sunday.

The victory by the Infiniti engine ended a string of 34 consecutive wins by Oldsmobile Aurora engines on the circuit.

Cheever led rookie Airton Dare by 13 seconds with two laps to go when Donnie Beechler and Al Unser Jr. crashed in Turn 1.

Beechler, running fourth, was trying to overtake Scott Sharp, in third. With Sharp on the inside, Unser in the middle and Beechler up high, Beechler made contact with Unser, sending both into the wall.

Dare wound up second, 20.9 seconds behind Cheever, and Sharp was third, 21.9 seconds back.

"Once we got the car working properly, it was very good," Cheever said. "I got so tired of answering, 'When will Infiniti win a race?' The next question is going to be, 'When will Infiniti win the championship?'"

Robbie Buhl, who qualified with the second-fastest time, overtook pole-sitter Greg Ray in the second turn of the opening lap and led the first 60 laps, eventually extending his lead to six seconds.

The first of five caution flags came out on lap 7 when Billy Boat and Sarah Fisher both spun, with Fisher hitting the outside wall but Boat able to continue.

Sharp, moving ahead of Ray into second place, couldn't catch Buhl on the restart.

Handling problems caused Mark Dismore to drop from fourth to 14th, while Cheever moved up to fourth and Beechler climbed to fifth.

Buhl suddenly slowed on lap 61, smoke billowing and oil spewing from his Infiniti engine, the only other Infiniti in the field.

Sharp moved into the lead, with Cheever second and Beechler third.

Ray's season-long slump continued. The defending IRL season champion, who fell back to seventh despite setting a track record in qualifying 4.5 mph faster than anyone else, damaged his right front wing then he collided with Davey Hamilton in the pits on lap 65. Then Ray hit the outside wall after unsuccessfully trying to pass Dismore on lap 96.

It was Ray's third crash and fourth DNF in six races this season.

Sharp led for 62 laps before serious handling problems allowed Cheever and then Beechler to pass him on lap 134.

A succession of pit stops by the leaders jumbled the leaderboard for several laps, and Stephan Gregoire moved into the lead for 17 laps. Gregoire, however, hadn't pitted since lap 103.

Cheever passed Gregoire on lap 172, and Gregoire eventually pitted 15 laps later.

Lazier was the first driver out. Lazier blew an engine on the backstretch of the first lap and coasted in.

"We were passing cars and something in the motor broke," Lazier said. "It's very disappointing and very destructive to our championship hopes."

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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