Another makeshift Indianapolis 500 is over, won by a man who was
winless in nine years on the Formula One circuit and 0 for 6
seasons on the CART tour, and whose previous best finish at Indy
had been fourth in 1992. "I'm glad that I've finally done
something in my career that will stick," Eddie Cheever said
after Sunday's race. "My father told me, 'If you're going to win
one race in your life, win Indy.'"
Cheever (far left) and J.J. Yeley were lucky to
escape the first lap unscathed.
But even Cheever realizes he won a race that is three years
removed from being a world-class event. The guys he never could
beat don't show up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway anymore, and
the motley crew there on Sunday made this 500 reminiscent of the
Dust Bowl migration to California, what with so many stalled
vehicles along the way. Five of the 12 caution flags were for
cars that had neither wrecked nor blown engines, but had
suffered some lesser mechanical breakdown.
Defending IRL points champ Tony Stewart blew his engine just
seconds after taking the lead on Lap 21. Pole starter Billy
Boat, driving for Indy legend A.J. Foyt's team, battled
mechanical problems all day and left the race after 111 laps.
Foyt's other driver, Swedish upstart Kenny Brack, led 23 of 88
laps before running out of fuel, which prompted Foyt to yell at
his fuel-mileage specialist and smash the guy's laptop.
Defending champ Arie Luyendyk lost first gear early and then
blew his clutch on Lap 150. Plus, in a break with Indy
tradition, cars that had been taken to the garage area for
repairs were allowed to return to the race. In the 81 previous
runnings of Indy, once a car was taken behind the pit wall, it
What there was of actual racing was pretty good: 23 lead
changes, including three passes under the green flag for the
lead. But then there are some pretty good races on the short
tracks of Indiana, where several of this year's 500 competitors
had moonlighted during the two weeks leading up to Sunday's
raceyet another sign that the Indy field was not populated by
Cheever, 40, is known around racing more for his glibness and
dashing persona than for his driving achievements. He's an
American who was raised in Italy, where his father, Eddie Sr.,
operated fitness centers. Cheever drifted toward Formula One,
but after going nowhere on road courses and street circuits he
moved to CART in 1990. "The first time I came to this place
[Indy's high-speed, 2.5-mile oval], it terrorized me," Cheever
says. "I wanted to go home." To this day, he admits, "I am still
Which is the current nature of Indy. It is a place of learning,
of replacement players.
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Issue date: June 1, 1998