With the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 coming up on May 28, what else would we talk to Eddie Cheever about other than the world-famous race? Eddie won this event back in 1998; he also set the track record during the '96 race with a blistering lap time of 236.103 mph-a record that still stands today. As a veteran racer who has had success in both F1 and CART, Eddie was drawn to the IRL for one main reason: the Indy 500. Here are his thoughts about Indianapolis-past, present, and future-heading into the 2000 race.
On The 2000 Indianapolis 500:We go to Indy this year with the Infiniti engine, and we've learned, hopefully, from last year's mistakes (Infiniti's engine was new at last year's race-Ed.). We want to be in the front the whole 500 miles-and not have problems like we did last year. This year looks good for the 3.5L engine; a lot of work has gone into it. Hopefully, by the time this article is out, we'll have the new 35A engine, which is an updated version of it. Every year, the Indy Racing League gets a little bit tougher, a little harder. I think it is going to be quite a good battle between General Motors, with the Oldsmobile engines, and the Nissan-Infiniti motors at Indy this year.
What It Takes To Win At Indy:Every year at Indy, it's always a different story. Sometimes you'll have a good car, and bad pit stops-or the exact opposite. Sometimes you'll have an engine that won't run well or tires that won't work properly. Every year is a different story. When we won in 1998, the car just worked perfectly. The funny thing was, when we finished the race, the engine probably didn't have 20 miles left on it before it would have exploded. If it's going to be your year, it's going to be your year. But, obviously, our main goal is to be competitive and strong the whole way through the race. It's not an easy race to win, because Indy is the most grueling 500 miles any car can do anywhere.
On Choosing IRL, Despite His Extensive F1 And CART Road Racing Background:I chose the IRL because I wanted to compete in the Indianapolis 500. I wanted to have my name, and my dad's name, on the Borg-Warner Trophy. That was the main reason I chose to race on ovals in the IRL. Also, I believed then, as I do now, that if you are going to win Indy, you have to learn to drive on other ovals. It's a science; it's a different form of racing. Racing in the 500, that continues to be my prime objective-to win as many times at Indy as I can. Hopefully, God willing, I'll win another one.
It's true, yes, I did come from road racing, but I am an American. Even though I was representing America as a Grand Prix driver, I wanted to win the 500, so that's why I came here. If the other series, F1, had the 500, I would have been racing in that series. They don't. The Indianapolis 500 continues to be the crown jewel of the IRL racing series-of any racing series.
On Formula 1 Coming To Indy:I love it. The U.S. Grand Prix is always a very unique event. To have the U.S. Grand Prix held on the sacred grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I think, will be phenomenal. I hope that there might be some other young American racing driver who dedicates his life to becoming an American Grand Prix racer, like I did. And this race at Indy just might be the spark that gets it done. There are a lot of talented young race car drivers in America, but there are none that have had, or have been afforded, the right sort of training that will allow them to compete in Grand Prix racing. I would love to see that happen, and I think Indy might be the catalyst to have a very strong following for Grand Prix racing in the States.