Cheever Needs Mountain Magic
June 14, 2001 | 3:33 P.M. EST
"It was a very exciting race, but this is not IROC,” Cheever said. “I like the guy in the No. 2 car (Greg Ray), and I like the guy in the No. 8 car (winner Scott Sharp), but they can't drive like that. You can't be ducking and weaving and pushing people around. I got shoved below the white line and way up into the gray.
“It's irresponsible lunacy."
The “lunacy” eventually led to Ray and Cheever dropping out of the race four laps from the end after Ray made contact with Robby McGehee, sending both cars into the path of Cheever’s No. 51.
Cheever’s frustration is understandable. He led 64 of the race’s 200 laps and turned in the fastest lap of the race at 218.697 mph. At one point, Cheever had a six-second lead over Ray, but finished the race in 12th place.
This weekend at Pikes Peak, Cheever would like a repeat of Texas, minus the unhappy ending. It could happen, too. Cheever won the Radisson Indy 200 last year and has never finished out of the Top 11 at the track.
“Pikes Peak is the nicest short oval that we race on, and we’ve run pretty well there,” Cheever said. “It’s a very flat, smooth, tough 1-mile bullring. The rarified air in the mountains is also tough on both the drivers and the equipment.”
The Fountain, Colo., track is also hard on tires. Cheever expects that to play a big part in who comes away with the victory Sunday afternoon.
“Tires will be critical to success at Pikes Peak,” Cheever explained. “The long corners really take a toll on the tires. If you can get the right setup, though, it’s possible to be flat all the way around.”
When Cheever cruised to victory last season at Pikes Peak, he broke a winless drought of 33 races. The win also put him into first place in the points standings and put the Infiniti engine into victory lane for the first time in IRNLS competition.
This year, Cheever enters the race riding another winless streak. Cheever hasn’t taken the checkers in eight races, dating back to his Pikes Peak win. Worse still, Cheever is languishing in 16th place in the points standings with just one top-10 finish in five starts this season.
He doesn’t dwell on his misfortune, though. In fact, Cheever heads to Colorado with a smile on his face.
“I always love coming to Pikes Peak,” Cheever said. “I lived for many years in Aspen, and my children and I still enjoy vacationing in Colorado every year.”
Vacation will have to wait this year; Cheever needs to get down to the business of winning again.
The Radisson Indy 200 is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (ET) Sunday. It will be televised live on ABC.