Drivers Tackle Texas-Michigan Double
June 8, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Cheever, Mark Dismore and Greg Ray plan a rare racing doubleheader on Saturday, running in an International Race of Champions race at Michigan Speedway during the day before flying back to Texas for the IRL race that night.
"I really like IROC. It's just racing and reminds me of go-carts ... get in and just drive," said Cheever, 42, who drove in his first race at 13 and became the Italian and European go-cart champion. "It's my personal fun that I have."
After the third leg of the IROC all-star series in Brooklyn, Mich., the trio will have less than seven hours to fly back to Fort Worth, take a short nap and drive in the more important IRL race.
"It will be an action-packed 24 hours, but after the month of May at Indy, it shouldn't be a problem," Cheever said.
With three top-10 finishes in the four IRL races so far, Cheever is fifth in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series point standings with 104, 10 more than Dismore. Ray, the defending IRL series champion, is 17th with 55 points.
"Even if I win in Michigan, I'm not even thinking about that until Sunday morning ... regardless of how I finish," Cheever said. "My job at hand is to win IRL races and win the championship."
Cheever has won just one of his 22 IRL races since winning the 1998 Indianapolis 500 and has gone 13 straight races without a victory.
All three drivers were at Texas Motor Speedway for IRL qualifying Thursday night and planned to remain there until a final practice session late Friday afternoon. They will then fly together to Michigan, where they were earlier in the week for testing.
"IROC is very prestigious to be a part of, and we all feel honored to do it, but IRL is a primary focus," Ray said. "Certainly having a race later in the day, it is premium not to be put in an incident or situation where I might get hurt."
Ray, who has concentrated on being physically fit for the double duty, has never driven in two races in the same day. He said Saturday will determine if he ever does it again.
"It's a rush-rush situation. If I fare well, I can see doing it again," he said. "Saturday, I going to tell you it was great or that it was awful. Right now, it is pretty exciting."
For Ray, nothing is more important than the race at the 1.5-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway, only minutes from his hometown of Plano. He has finished second twice at the track, and clinched the IRL points championship there last October with a third-place finish in the season-ending Mall.com 500.
He was the pole winner for the Indianapolis 500, but after two crashes finished last. He crashed at Phoenix after a rookie spun in his path and finished 19th. Gearbox failures at Orlando and Las Vegas resulted in finishes of 17th and ninth, respectively.
"The new gearboxes are really fragile. They require a certain setup and make you think about shifting," Ray said. "It is a learning curve for me as a driver."
Dismore has started in the front two rows three times this season, but has only one top-10 finish to show for it. His only IRL victory was in the season-ending race at Texas last season, a win that was overshadowed by local boy Ray's IRL points championship.
"Winning here last fall was a high point in my career," Dismore said. "I'm really excited about coming back to Texas."
Getting back to Texas is something he and his buddies will do more than once this week.