Progress Thy Name Is Cheever
December 18, 2001 | 3:00 A.M. EST
The move to a two-car team is just part of a busy off-season for Cheever. In the name of progress, Cheever took his team through four different testing sessions in Indianapolis, Fontana, Phoenix, and Homestead with a handful of different drivers.
After a disappointing eighth place finish in the IRL standings, Cheever said the team needs all the help it can get.
“We ended up doing a lot more winter testing than we actually planned because we got the 35A engine so late, at the start of the season right before the Phoenix race,” Cheever said, “so we didn’t have enough testing done for Phoenix, we didn’t do a very good job at Homestead, and didn’t have a very successful Indy. We took advantage of the down-time when the season ended to start a batch of testing that started at Indy we then went to Fontana then we went to Phoenix.
“We just ended up a two day test at Homestead and we’ve accumulated a lot of information that will be very useful for us in the winter months as we try to figure out how to make these cars go faster and build more reliability to them.”
While Cheever tested Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon, and Jeff Ward, he said he is happy to be in a position to take his time and choose the perfect fit to drive the new No. 52 Red Bull Infiniti.
“The IRL is becoming increasingly competitive and it takes a unique kind of driver to spend that much time in the close vicinity of other racing drivers,” Cheever said. “We’re just trying to find the right kind of driver and we want to hit the ground running next year. We’ve changed a lot, our whole structure as changed as a team so we’re just assessing what’s available.
“With the problems CART is having right now there’s an over abundance of drivers and engineers that are on the market so we’re just trying to take our time and pick the best ones available.”
Cheever said he will test two more drivers, one of whom is a “CART driver that has been quite successful in that series.” Cheever expects to announce his second driver during the first week of January.
No IRL Triple Crown
The Indy Racing League announced its 2002 schedule Tuesday, with final race lengths and times for the 15-race season.
“I am very pleased how the 2002 schedule came together,” said Brian Barnhart, vice president of operations for the IRL. “The tentative schedule was released in June, and we've only made a few minor modifications. This stability really helps the teams and sponsors plan for the future, and it really allows the track operators to promote their events in a consistent fashion.”
Barnhart announced that new races at California Speedway in March and Michigan International Speedway in July will be 400-mile races, not 500-mile races that the CART FedEx Series ran at the 2-mile ovals. The Indianapolis 500 remains the only 500-mile race on the IRL schedule.
Barnhart also announced the length of the Radisson 200 at the 1-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway will be increased to 225 miles, from the previous 200-mile race. The IRL first raced at PPIR in 1997, and the last three races have ended in less than 1 ½ hours.
“Though we have had great races at Pikes Peak, they're getting too short,” Barnhart said. “Buddy (Lazier) won this year in one hour, 23 minutes. We want to increase the value for fans by increasing the race distance.”
Genoa Racing Interested in IRIPS
Veteran car owner Angelo Ferro and his Genoa Racing team recently ordered its first Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series car.
Genoa Racing has been active in motorsports for nearly two decades competing in various series including SCCA Can-Am, Formula 3000, Toyota Atlantic and, most recently, Indy Lights.
"I like the ovals, Ferro said. “You get more spectators. But I like road courses, too. I like any type of racing as long as you win.”
Genoa Racing, named after Ferro's hometown of Genoa, Italy, has fielded cars for such notables as Jimmy Vasser, Greg Ray and Ivan Capelli. The driver for the Pro Series team is expected to be announced in February along with the location of the race shop, which has been narrowed to San Francisco or Indianapolis, according to Ferro.
The Infiniti Pro Series will debut on July 8, 2002, at Kansas Speedway.