Home Page About Us Contribute




Escort, Inc.

Tweets by @CrittendenAuto










Indy Car Racing Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Car Racing Media Conference

Eddie Cheever, Jr.
May 2, 1995


JOHN PROCIDA: Well, I want to thank everyone for being with us today and we're fortunate enough to have Eddie Cheever with us. As most of you may know, Eddie has registered two top five finishes this year. A somewhat disappointing fifth at Nazareth since he had had the lead until the second from last lap before fuel problems. A fourth at Long Beach. And a seventh at Australia with a third top ten in the last four races. Heading into Indianapolis Eddie also, of course, qualified on the front row there in 1992. One thing that I want to remind everybody with the teleconference today is that we do have radio people on the line, so that requires everybody to be as quiet as possible. If you can press a mute button, please do that. And anyone that could possibly move the phone away from their mouth when they're not speaking if you don't have a mute button would be greatly appreciated as well. The operating procedure for today will be I will go around and pull each person who's with us today for a question. After that, when we go through the rotation, if you want to ask another question please feel free to go ahead and do so. It will be an open mic. So with that, let me go to the first question.

Q. Yes, Eddie, can you give us just kind of a quick run down on how the new team was worked out, particularly with you and A.J.; there seems to be an Alpha and Omega type personality there, so maybe just how things are going so far?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Alpha and Omega. Who's the Alpha and who's the Omega? (LAUGHTER.)

Q. I'll leave that one to you.

EDDIE CHEEVER: Actually, I came to drive for Foyt in pretty awkward circumstances when Herta was hurt last year. I was there just to replace Herta until he was healthier and we developed -- A.J. and I developed a pretty good relationship throughout the year. And it was -- he asked me to stay on for 1995 and I did so. Throughout this winter, the last winter, we spent a lot of time trying to improve our reliability, which has been successful to date. I think we're fourth or fifth in mileage completed this season. So we've developed a good relationship. And working with A.J. is not easy. I've been told that working with me is not easy in the past, but I have an immense respect for what he has done in racing and I always know that I can go to him for information on a lot of different things and get the right answer. We still have a lot of work to do. We've squandered a few good finishes through little errors, but I'm very pleased with the way the team is running. And I'm the Omega by the way (LAUGHTER.)

JOHN PROCIDA: As we move along, there's somewhat of a little bit of background noise going on, and if, again, we can try to avoid breathing directly into the phone possibly when others are on the line that would be greatly appreciated.

Q. Eddie, how much time have you been spending in Phoenix lately? Somebody said you've been staying with your sister out here for a while.

EDDIE CHEEVER: I have a business that I'm involved in Phoenix and I've been spending quite a lot of time there. No, I haven't been staying with my sister. I've probably spent two months there since the beginning of the year.

Q. You're still in Aspen though?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Yeah, I spend my time between Aspen and Houston.

Q. What is not easy about working with A.J.; and has he changed at all since you started working for him?

EDDIE CHEEVER: A.J. is one of those very unique people that are given from nature, or I don't know from where he got it, that he has an unbelievable determination. I mean, he will just plow through things to get to the point that he wants. I think a lot of drivers have maybe had a problem with him in the past because he has such a strong personality and he really wants to be successful. I -- it is -- the hardest thing for me was to try to understand or -- the hardest thing for a driver to work with a team owner like A.J. is to make sure that everybody has the same goal in mind. Once it was understood that we were both aiming for the same thing, there was a little bit of leeway given from me to him vice versa. We both want to be successful. We both came together in pretty strange circumstances, and I would say it's working pretty well. But A.J. is not going to change for anybody. A.J. is A.J. A.J. achieved what he did in his life by going about things the way he did. But the challenge for me is to try to bring the team -- to try to modernize what we're doing. To try to bring the experiences that I had in the past and merge that with all of the winning that he has had in the past and try to make a winning combination out of it. And given the amount of testing we have done which has been limited, I think we've done an exceptionally good job. A lot of the credit has to go to A.J.. But like I said, he's definitely not -- everybody has got this impression that we have this very calm and peaceful relationship. A relationship with A.J. could never been calm and peaceful. It could be successful, but he's always pushing the limits try to find how he can make everything better. And I think that's positive.

Q. Eddie, in looking back over your career when you came from Formula I into IndyCars and had a couple of pretty good rides in the past, what do you say to yourself when you say, you know, I really need a win? I mean, how do you work through that or work around that?

EDDIE CHEEVER: How do I work through that mentally?

Q. Yeah.

EDDIE CHEEVER: I see my job as being extremely simple and I always have been. I've been a professional racing driver since I was 16 years old. I have to make the best of the equipment that is given to me and I have to make the best of the circumstances that are given to me. Obviously everybody focuses on win. I have had weekends where I have finished 5th that I was -- that was the best I could do. And as long as I feel in my mind that I'm making the best of what I have available, I wouldn't say that I'm content but I am satisfied that I can go home and say I did a good job. Let's take Nazareth, for example. We did everything that we had to do to win the race and we just came a little bit short. Just because I did not win, in my mind I felt the team did win. One of our systems let us down but I thought we did a very good job. I can't really focus. I think my life has been a whole one. I'm lucky, I've managed to do what I wanted to do with my life. Of course I would like to win every race I get into but unfortunately the equipment I've had in the past, that hasn't been possible.

Q. I know a while back you mentioned that coming from the Formula I ranks that you really don't have to look back. And in looking the situation over now do you still think your decision to do a lot of IndyCars and move on from Formula I was the right one when you made it?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think it was. I came to race in the States for two reasons: One, obviously, as an American I wanted to run in America and race in America, and I had done ten years of Formula I. And the second reason was Indianapolis. I wanted to compete in Indianapolis. I came here because I wanted to compete in the 500. I wanted, desperately as everybody else in racing does, to win the crown jewel of all motor racing. And the biggest event for motor -- for a racing driver is the Indianapolis 500. And I'm very pleased with my decision. And things did not work on out with Ganassi the way I would have liked, but I would have to say that it worked out for the better that I did change.

Q. Eddie, you had said you're trying to modernize things. Could you expand a little bit on that and also could you talk a little bit about the fuel system problems you had and if you believe that's corrected at this point.

EDDIE CHEEVER: I'll address the fuel system problem to begin with. We had two separate problems. We had on at Long Beach which was a tank problem that will not occur again when we get to Long Beach, it was a simple problem and that cost us the second place. And the one in Nazareth we're still working through what the reason -- why that happened. The tank was actually dry. When we checked the tank after the race I thought I -- my computer said I had four gallons in but in actual fact there wasn't even enough methanol mix to kill a mosquito in it. We think the problem is on somewhere in our calibration but we're going through that now. As for the modernizing thing, what I meant to say is I've gone through many teams throughout many years and there's lots of things that you pick up on that could improve the systems in a team. And we have spent a lot of that at Foyt's this winter trying to improve our reliability; just trying to make sure that the environment that everybody works in is as error free as possible.

Q. I wanted to ask you about, you know, in '92 you're on the front row, coming to Indianapolis now after having two good finishes with A.J., do you feel now maybe this is the year you can really do something and get that win you so cherish?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I'm going to Indy with a king. A.J. is the king of Indy. He's won there in various decades. He's always been extremely successful there. And so far this year I have learned a lot of things from him on how to approach the races that I -- things that never occurred to me; the little nuances that he's capable of telling you, and if you're willing listen you can use them to your benefit. I am sure that is going to be more of the case at Indy. He's done more miles there than anybody else. I wasn't ready for the front row position in Indy in 1992. I had gone -- I went from a fastest last lap that I had done previously the year before, I think it was 221 to a 230, and I just wasn't prepared for those speeds. As it turned out, in the race I was unfortunate because I had an undertray come off the body. But I think I have gone -- I've gone through lots of miles since then and I've had lots of problems and yes, I believe this probably is the best shot I have had in Indianapolis. The Ford engine is extremely strong. Our Lolas are running well, and I think Goodyear is the tire to have. So if you put all of that into one big basket and you add the extra ingredient of having somebody like Foyt who can tudor you and point you in the right direction, I think that should be a good winning combination.

Q. Eddie, given what you just said about Foyt's background and everything, do you see your car as being a front row car this year? Everybody is talking about the Buicks being so powerful in testing and what not, is your car capable of sitting up front?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I don't think anybody is going to have the capability of beating the Menard's car when it comes to qualifying. That could change. Before I came to drive for Indy I was -- I had raced with Menard's and I had been involved with all of the development they were doing and a lot of things they are enacting were ones that I was there and was involved in and put them into place. Having said that, qualifying is one thing, racing is another. It still has to be proven that you can run a Buick or Menard or whatever you want to call it, the speeds their running at now for 500 miles. I think the Ford is a much more reliable package. But they could very well surprise everybody. I think the fastest car in the field this year is definitely going to be one of the Menard's.

Q. Eddie, I think a lot of people have an image, and maybe you can correct this, that A.J. is kind of set in his ways when it comes to running the team. Have you found that, that he's willing and take suggestions from you on how to run things or change things?

EDDIE CHEEVER: It's been a two-way road. I've raced for 20 years and yet I came to a team and this is the first time somebody has actually told me how I should change a few things the way I approach it. And he obviously knows what he's talking about. And I've taken that advice and I've used it in a very positive manner. I probably have seen more teams than he has or different ways of doing business and I have found it a very comfortable relationship. And there are, obviously, things that I would like to do that he doesn't want to do, but I think logic prevails with A.J.. He wants very much for his teams -- his team to return to the success that he had in the past. And I don't think in any sport, be it in any sport in motor racing, can you be set in your ways and be successful. You have to always modernize, you have to always change, you have to always adapt, you have to always evolve. I think what might have happened with my going there and having had a lot of different experience in different types of racing I have offered maybe a little different insight in how we go we can go about business. And I think the proof is in our reliability. I mean, throughout Indy we can always change. We have been particularly lucky not that it involved any accidents but our cars are one of the most reliable that are out there. I think we're fourth or fifth in mileage done. And things that were not looked at with great care before are now looked at with a lot more care. And yes, he is a hard guy. (LAUGHTER.)

Q. Listen, every engineer that ever had to work with Foyt came away shaking their head or was thrown out of the garage and he said I don't need no foreign sons a bitches telling me how to set up an Indy Car. First of all, do you have an engineer this year; and secondly, does he have any input or how has that area been?

EDDIE CHEEVER: This year we have an engineer that was given to us directly from Lola, and he is developing a relationship with Foyt. But I think it's pretty good. I haven't heard him saying he's going to kick his ass yet or throw him out the garage.

Q. What's his name?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Mike. I'm not going to say his last name because somebody might want to steal him. No, the thing with Foyt I think that nobody has actually understood is that the guy has done so many miles and he's like a walking technical library. And the most important thing is that you have to show him that you know what you're doing. And obviously when you come to Indy he knows more than any of us do there, but there are circuits that he doesn't. I think it's vital to be successful that you have to build a system where everybody could put their input into it. Obviously, his input is of paramount importance, apart from the fact that he's the team owner. But he's been there and seen that. I'll just tell you a little story. There were two little changes that were made to our car at Nazareth before the race and they were changes that Foyt wanted to make and they were changes that I probably did not agree with nor did the engineer and they turned out to be very successful. And now that's part of my information in my head. If you can just fish the things out of his head, it's all there. It's just a question of putting it into the car.

Q. Eddie, it seems like every year coming to Indy there's Penskes or there's something that's a dominant car. This year seems to be the most wide open that I've seen. Do you feel it's the most wide open field going into qualifying or going into the race months that you've witnessed there and obviously you feel you're in the midst of that?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think if you were to take all the cars that are currently racing now, the Penskes, the Lolas, Ford, Mercedes, it is a pretty open field. But there is one team that is concentrating just on Indy, which is Menard. And I think when it comes to qualifying they kind of have the field covered. Circumstances can change. I mean, the weather has a lot to do with it. The race, I definitely believe is a wide open deal. As for qualifying, I think it's going to be very hard to beat Menard's.

Q. Eddie, you've been talking as if you've taken a hand in the management of the team; is that correct?

EDDIE CHEEVER: No, I am not really, not at all. I've offered -- I've offered suggestions and we have worked to improve -- we have collectively worked to improve the team in every area that needed work done on it. There were certain things that I could bring having raced in so many different categories or so many different teams, and sometimes those suggestions were taken and modified and changed and everybody -- the easy thing with Foyt is there is very little politics involved in what you're doing with the team. If anybody has a positive suggestion, they could take it. They're not always acted upon. The working conditions that we have are such that allows a lot of input to be put into the team. A.J. has this aura of being an angry bear that argues with everybody. And at times he is very determined, but he's actually probably one of the easiest people that I have worked with because he has one goal in mind, he just wants to be successful. And at times that determination can be overbearing, but the goal is very clear and everybody knows what it is.

Q. Eddie, I just wanted to check and see what -- you've been talking about Indy, do you have any particular view with the speed this year? What will it take to win the pole or will we see record speeds this year in the race or in qualifying, do you feel?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think that the qualifying speeds, if the weather is not too hot, will break Guerrero's record in 1992. As for the racing speeds, it really -- there's so many different factors that come into play. I think the whole field will be very tightly bunched when it comes to the final grid; even more so than last year because it's a very, very competitive season. And all of the teams are incredibly well prepared. I think it will be a very interesting Indy. I think the speeds now have gotten to a point where we're all almost going too fast. You could very easily see pole, if the weather will permit it, at above 232 miles per hour.

Q. Eddie, I'm curious as to the notion that I have heard at least from those who supposedly are more knowledgeable than I that A.J. Foyt has lacked success in his efforts with IndyCar -- one of the reasons is because he doesn't put enough money in resources into his race team. Having spent time with him as a driver and as a part of the race team, how do you react to that?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I have brand new equipment, I have the best engines that are available on the market, I get great care from Goodyear for our tires, and I think my equipment -- the equipment we start with is second to none. I think Foyt -- this is just my own personal opinion, but I think the past four or five years for Foyt has been difficult because he was in a transition of having stopped his career as a racing driver and he was moving into being just a team owner full-time. And I think that transition was probably not that easy for him. I see a renewed interest evening changing from where we were at last year in 1994 when I came on part-time. This season I see a renewed interest and vigor in what he's doing and, you know -- I can't complain about that. Obviously you would always like to do more testing, you would always like to have more engineers, you would always like to have more development done on the car, but I think there are other things we have to address in the team before we can do that. I'm very happy with the equipment I have. There's always room for improvement, but I think you'll see a change in the whole way his team approaches business in the future. And I think you have seen the change to date. We have been extremely reliable. His cars in the past have not always been as reliable as he would have like them to have been. So I think that reliability speaks a lot to the fact that his interest is, I think -- he's refocusing what he wanted to do in the past. I get more questions about Foyt than I do about me. I think I'm his official spokesperson now. The other day I was in a grocery store and some kid stopped me by an aisle and he asked us why we didn't put enough gas in the car? And he said tell Mr. Foyt that he's got to take care of that that way it will not be a problem anymore.

Q. As a matter of a fact, Eddie, that was going to be my question. I've sat here for about 30 minutes and I've heard every question in the world your reaction to A.J. Foyt and I'm thinking about when you came over from Formula I, and like most drivers in Indy Car, the spotlight is on the driver. Do you feel some of the luster has come off of maybe what you do as you go from race to race and everybody wants to know about A.J.?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Not at all. I consider it probably one of the most challenging and one of the most enjoyable moments I've had in my career. I enjoy being around him. I mean, you have to understand, I've been a racing driver all my life and to be around somebody like that and all the stories he can tell and all the information that I can learn is just -- I really do enjoy it. I think it's good. I would have had more pleasure in passing that Winners Cup in Nazareth that we so nearly missed, passing it onto him and giving it to him than I would have had winning it myself. Foyt is, like I said, he's a very hard man, he's very tough to work with but his heart is in the right place and he wants to win races. And that's why I like to be involved with him. He's a very special character. I have enjoyed being around him and I am not bullshitting when I say I have learned a lot from him. There's a lot to learn if you can get through all of the Foytisms. There's -- the man is a walking library.

Q. Eddie, I remember when you first came into IndyCars you approached ovals with -- I don't know if it was a little or a lot of trepidation. In fact, I had the honor of riding in the back seat when Johnnie Rutherford gave you rookie orientation at Michigan International. In fact, you made a comment -- I'll clean this up for radio. We went into turn one and Johnnie said, you know, we sometimes go into here three wide and you said you've got to be kidding me. But you used a different word. At any rate, you are much more comfortable with ovals right now. Is there some thing or a number of things you've learned that has made it more comfortable on ovals or is it just bottom line experience?

EDDIE CHEEVER: That's a very good question. When I came here I had never raced on circuits that had walls all around them like you have here. I raced in Monte Carlo where if you made a mistake you'd end up in somebody's living room or in a bar. I raced in places with lots of run-off area where if you made a mistake in Belgium you can be going 200 miles an hour but there would be lots of space to slow the car down. I had never raced in a place where you're going 230 miles an hour and to run quickly at certain places you have to be within two feet of a wall. It took a lot getting used to and I had to change my driving style completely to do that. One of the biggest hurdles I had was I knew that sooner or' later I was going to hit the wall and mentally it was very hard to adjust to that. I have had two accidents on ovals, one in testing -- both in testing and I think it's just a question of accumulating a lot of experience and as you do that you can approach it in a different manner. I now run a much higher line than I used to because if you're going to have a problem you're going to run into the ball with a better angle than you would down at the bottom. There's a lot of things that you have to understand and just go through and live through. Now when I go up to an oval I'm probably more comfortable on oval than I am on a street circuit. It's so much more enjoyable that the focus you have to have when driving on an oval is totally different than you have on a road course. You have to be 100 percent awake the whole time and you have to anticipate things. You cannot react. At a super speedway if the car gets sideways there's not enough to time to correct it, it's impossible. You have top anticipate what the car's going to do beforehand.

JOHN PROCIDA: Is there anyone that we missed out there? Okay. Then we will open things up and go ahead with your questions. Please try not to step on one another.

Q. Eddie, you mentioned you spent a couple of months here between now and the first of the year and with the business you had here. How much family do you still have in Phoenix and what business are you involved in?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Most of my family is in Phoenix. My grandmother still lives there. I have lots of aunts, uncles, cousins. My family originally is from Globe, Arizona and they moved from Globe to Phoenix. I'm involved in a company that is selling vitamins and health products.

Q. Eddie, the last couple of years A.J. has been involved with Robby Gordon and Brian Herta sort of, if you will, two young turks, if you will, coming up and in a sense they sort of both, you know, spent a year there and at least one could say they've kind of spent one year and then got out of town at the first opportunity. Do you feel, you know, as though that there's a sense that A.J. was sort of tired of being a finishing school for up and coming young guys and that with a, dare I use the word, veteran driver like yourself, there's an opportunity to really build something that everybody is going to be able to take advantage of for several years to come?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I would like to think there is. I don't know how you define a veteran. I've been racing for a long time. Obviously at the perspective that I have would be different than Robby Gordon's or Bryan Herta's. I could see Foyt enjoying the relationship of a brand new driver because he could -- I wouldn't say bend them to his will but modify their driving to -- there would be -- I think working with a younger driver must be a very enjoyable thing, especially if he's extremely talented. And both of those drivers owe a lot of their success to having been with Foyt. My relationship with him is different because I've kind of developed a lot -- I was more developed when I got to him let's say, but there's a lot I can learn but we're both veterans, if you will. I believe so, I think we're working. I don't know if I will be there next year, it's way to early to see, there's too many things that can change. But to date I have to say that I have enjoyed it very much and we are working towards making the team better every day. There's a conscious effort put into everything we do towards the future.

Q. Just to amplify a little more on the question. You're very determined and forceful driver yourself, and do you get the feeling or the vibes that maybe A.J. is enjoying the relationship as much as you are?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think so. We have a very event -- we have very eventful weekends. When you put two determined people in one room and they both think they're right, as long as it remains in a positive vain, you will be successful. I think so. I mean, I can see -- I can see the difference from last year. I've known A.J. probably five or six years, I've always enjoyed being around him. And I can see there's a renewed vigor in what he's doing because I believe he's finally changed from being a racing driver to a team owner. I mean they're two totally separate things, and there's very little overlapping between the two things. Obviously all the experience he has as a racing driver he can influence what the racing driver and he can call the races and he can give a direction to the team, but being a team owner it takes a whole different set of responsibilities. It takes a different mind set, a different way of looking at things. You've got to think more towards the future, not the immediate like a racing driver does. The immediate to a racing driver is how am I going to win this race? or how am I going to go quicker? Whereas a team owner has to concentrate more on what is the best position for me to be in two or three years from now? I can see the change. I find the change very visible. And I've been an around a lot more team owners than A.J. has. A.J. has always raced for himself, so he has a perspective that he developed extremely successfully throughout his whole year.

Q. Eddie, you were remarking on Menard chassis and so on, you felt like they had the inside track on the front row of the Indy 500. Do they have, as a result of that in your estimation, the ability to win the race or do they just have the ability to qualify?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think they -- well, I believe they have more horsepower. I mean, you have to assume the engine they have has a lot more horsepower due to the regulation. They have spent a lot of time testing there have been a lot of extra development and I think they have the inside line on qualifying. The race, I think, is a totally separate issue. I'm not saying they won't be competitive, I'm sure they will be extremely competitive but I think the race itself -- every 500 is an open book, but I think this year is going to be more so than in the past because there are so many teams, so many drivers that are very competitive and you have so many different issues that come into play coming into the race.

Q. Go back to the moment when you first pulled out onto the track at Indy after coming from Formula I. What went through your mind? Was it everything that you expected or you know how sometimes dreams are bigger than real life?

EDDIE CHEEVER: The first thing I did is I went -- obviously you heat up the car and the first time I actually accelerated I was going on a straightaway between corner two and three which is the back straightaway. I looked down at my computer and it had 210 miles written on it. I didn't even think I was moving. I was astonished at the speed. I did not have a very enjoyable first year at Indy. I was running Penskes, they had do some diffusers in the bottom. It was a car that had won the race the year before but they ruined all the aerodynamics to make the car slower. And I had no idea what a car handled like on a super speedway, and this car was loose. And I thought everybody's car was loose. So I looked at a guy like Rick Mears who'd be going ten miles an hour higher than me and I thought this guy must be God, I mean, he is. But had I known then what I know now I would have gotten out of the car and I would have said fix it, this thing is undrivable. So I had to go to go through all of that unlike Mansel who came and had Mario and a team that the cars, as they were running, I was kind of like thrown into double lines and said here they gave me a fork and said fend for yourself. I've come to enjoy Indy so much that the day I leave I start counting how many days it takes at the end of every year to get back to it again. It's the most enjoyable race in the year.

Q. Is it a different mental attitude preparing for the race? Because a lot of times drivers, when they were arrive on the track Wednesday or Thursday, they start getting ready for that race. Does it take longer to mentally prepare?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I've been preparing for this race since the day I stepped out of the car last year and I finished 8th. I mean, you just work on it every day. I can win Nazareth, and no offense, I can win Nazareth 15 times in a row and be on pole 15 times and it wouldn't even compare to the importance or to what I would feel inside as having won Indy.

Q. Some of what you're saying seems to mirror several years ago what Emmo said when he came to peace so to speak with ovals and found a pleasure in them. Do you sense yourself coming to that end and that comfort zone?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I'm getting there. I'm not quite there yet but I'm getting more and more comfortable with it, and I've now turned the corner where I look forward to an oval tremendously. Every time I go into an oval I look forward to an oval race. I like the challenge, I like the mental challenge of having to tune your car and make changes throughout the race. An oval is more of an open book. Any result can happen because the situation changes so dramatically.

Q. Is Indy as daunting as some people might think?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Oh, yeah, very much so. It's a -- it's a very difficult track to go well on. I mean, there are four corners that are totally different. None of those four corners are similar. I can probably shut my eyes now and tell you every bump and every little undulation in the track and how the wind goes through the Grand Stand, and how the car handles when the wind is in one direction and how it handles in another. There's just so many things in your mind that you have to acquire before you get comfortable with it. I'll give you a little story here. I've always had a big problem with turn one in Indy, and I had it for two years. And I sat down and I spoke with Bobby Unser once and I talked him through the corner and he asked me one simple question that solved the whole thing for me. He said where are you looking when you go into the corner? I said I'm looking at the wall. He said forget at wall. The wall doesn't exist. You look at the ground, look at where you want to go, look at the 200 yards ahead of you. And the minute I did that it was like going through a barrier, I no longer had a problem in turn one. There are so many different mind games that you have to play with yourself because the speeds are so high and there's so much experience that goes through your head. That's why I'm looking forward to going there with Foyt because I believe I've probably figured out 60 percent of the question. He could help me get the next little bit. And there's so many little nuances that you have to understand. And at the beginning when you start to drive at Indy and somebody speaks to you -- I remember I sat down and talked to Rick Mears the first year and I thought the guy was from Mars, I couldn't understand what he was talking about. But as you drive and as you accumulate the experience, it all falls into place.

Q. Well, you are probably used to the immensement of the place by now but how mesmerizing was it when you first walked into that giant place?

EDDIE CHEEVER: First time I walked into Indy Indianapolis I was not driving Indy Cars. I passed by Indianapolis once and I took a ride in that little van that they bring you around, I think it was in 1987, '88, and I was in this little van driving around, it was a rainy day, and I told myself that it took a very special person to race there. And as I left I said I don't think I really want to do that because I didn't understand the speeds. But the hardest thing for me to do to understand coming from Formula I was the actual speed, the speed of it all and the fact that there was no room to make an error.

Q. Eddie, you know, you talked about winning Nazareth 15 times and so forth, but really, you came within a few hundred yards of winning your first race. Really, you never said how frustrating it was. How frustrating was it? I watched you walk down the pits and pour water on your head. You had to be pretty dismade.

EDDIE CHEEVER: It was very frustrating. I mean, we made a judgment call with the information that we had available to us, and I would have made the exact same call that Foyt did. The risk factor was very low. I should have had enough fuel and there was an error someplace in our system. But I would much rather run a race like we did at Nazareth and lose it at the end. I'm not condoning the fact that we've lost it, I'm saying -- we really through away some valuable points, but I'd much rather have a race where we're competitive and we kind of stutter and finish 5th than have a race where we're in the middle of the field the whole day struggling and then we finish 5th. It was very frustrating but it was very exciting to see how much progress our team had made. And I have been telling the whole team that we were ready for a good race and I'm glad that it happened before we came to Indy. We have worked very hard and very diligently in making the team perform to try to enhance the team's performance. And Sunday was a result that we didn't capitalize on but we ran very strong.

Q. If you had went in for a splash of fuel, would that time have thrown you back further than 5th place?

EDDIE CHEEVER: No, I think I could have -- had we known that we had a problem that we were -- we didn't have as much fuel as we thought we had, we probably could have come in earlier and could have made our way up to the front again. But that's hindsight, it's always easy to do that.

Q. Eddie, will you have the new Ford engines at Indy and is it significant?

EDDIE CHEEVER: That's a question I can't answer because I don't know the answer to that. That's Foyt's domain.

Q. Eddie, I wanted to ask about the transition F-I to IndyCar. Do you think it would be easier or harder than when you had to make the switch to come over now, say if you were in Schumacher's position or some of the guys who have been looking to come over next year?

EDDIE CHEEVER: So much of it has to do with the team that you're going to come over with. I don't think I could have had more difficult circumstances making my transition than I did. I went to a brand new team, a brand new team owner, we had year-old cars, and I didn't have anybody there that would actually get in a car and tell me how it was going. Mansel did a tremendous year but he was also very fortunate in having Mario Andretti in a team that was winning races setting the car up for him so all he had to is go in and emulate what somebody else is doing. And once you achieve a level of comfort, he could then go and do something else. I can't really judge. I think the cars are probably easier to drive now than they were before. My Lola this year is a vast improvement over what it was last year, so I have to assume it would be easier to drive for other racing drivers. Formula I and IndyCars are very different. I mean, you know, Formula I car you only have to drive in a certain type of circuit and you repeat yourself wherever you go. It's the same sort of corner, same sort of speed, same sort of braking. When you're an IndyCar driver you have to learn how to drive on a super speedway which is totally different than a short oval. The turn is radically different when you go to a place like Long Beach and then you might turn up somewhere like Elkhart Lake. So you have to be a lot more versatile and you have to get used to the yellows. When I came here to begin with I thought a yellow was the stupidest -- I couldn't understand why they put yellow out. Just take the car off the track and let's keep on going. So it's a whole different mentality, it's a whole different way of looking at races.

Q. Eddie, could you comment about the job that Scott Pruett has done in his return to the series and with his Firestone tires.

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think Scott has done a tremendous job. Of all the drivers this year I think Scott is the one that has done the best job. His team spent all of last year testing. They accumulated a lot of information, and I don't think Scott has miscued once the whole season. Lots of other drivers that have been fast or faster and have poles have had accidents and I don't know why they've had them, but Scott as run incredibly competitive. And I think he's -- the team has pushed him to a level of maturity that I didn't even think he knew he was capable of. And he's given all the Goodyear guys a good run for their money. I still think that the Goodyear tire is superior to Firestone. But Firestone has done a very good job.

Q. Can you expand on why you think the Goodyear is better?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Goodyear have been in racing a very long time. I think our tires are a little more consistent. There are nuances that Goodyear has on the side of their tires that are going to take Firestone, I think, quite a while to emulate. It's a very competitive battle between the tire companies right now and I think racing has a lot to gain from it. But it is -- never the less makes -- it's another problem that has to be solved for the racing driver because we're now looking -- we're using a much finer tooth comb than we were before in trying to make our cars work. Also we're asking more of the tires, and right now at this point in time it's very good to have Goodyear in your corner.

JOHN PROCIDA: Okay. Anymore questions for Eddie?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I hope not because I'm running out of answers.

JOHN PROCIDA: We'll wrap things up with Eddie. We want to thank him for being with us. Anyone who needs more information on Eddie and the Copenhagen Racing Team can call Anne Fornoro and her number is (203) 622-3444. And again, Eddie, thank you for being with us.

EDDIE CHEEVER: Thank you

Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library

The Crittenden Automotive Library at Google+ The Crittenden Automotive Library on Facebook The Crittenden Automotive Library on Instagram The Crittenden Automotive Library at The Internet Archive The Crittenden Automotive Library on Pinterest The Crittenden Automotive Library on Twitter The Crittenden Automotive Library on Tumblr  
 
 


The Crittenden Automotive Library

Home Page    About Us    Contribute




By accessing the The Crittenden Automotive Library/CarsAndRacingStuff.com, you signify your agreement with the terms and conditions on our Legal Information:  Disclaimers & Privacy Policy page.

To notify The Crittenden Automotive Library of errors, suggest topics, contribute information, make a comment on a page or to ask a question e-mail us.