Indy 500: Eddie Cheever Wins at Indianapolis
25 May 1998INDIANAPOLIS, May 24, 1998 - Eddie Cheever Jr. recorded the crowning triumph of his long racing career Sunday, beating Buddy Lazier to the finish by 3.191 seconds to win the 82nd Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The Indy 500 becomes your whole year," said Cheever, 40. "I am really glad that I've done something that will stick. Winning the '500' will stick."
Cheever, from Tampa, Fla., took the lead for good on Lap 178 after beating Lazier out of the pits in the Rachel's Potato Chips Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Cheever led Lazier by 3.1 seconds when Marco Greco's car started smoking on Lap 191, triggering the last of 12 caution periods.
Racing resumed on Lap 195, with 1996 Indy winner Lazier just 0.5 of a second behind Cheever in the Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. But Cheever steadily pulled away over the last six laps, driving the high groove through the four turns of the 2.5-mile oval for his first Indianapolis 500 victory.
Rookie Steve Knapp was third, one of four rookies in the top 10. Davey Hamilton was fourth. Rookie Robby Unser, son of three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser, was fifth as Cheever's teammate. Cheever's victory was the second of his Pep Boys IRL career. Cheever raced in Formula One from 1978-89, in CART from 1990-95 and has raced in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League since it started in 1996.
"I thought he had the legs to beat me," Cheever said of Lazier. "I was sure it (car) was going to break. I had no reason to think that, except for history, because my car ran really well all day. But there are so many gremlins that run through your head. The last 20 laps were the hardest I've ever driven."
Cheever led 76 laps, more than any driver. He patiently navigated through the field from his 17th starting spot, taking the lead for the first time on Lap 68. Veteran John Paul Jr. appeared to be in control midway through the race, as he led laps 98-113 in the Team Pelfrey Dallara/Aurora/Firestone.
Paul entered the pits on Lap 114 but regained the lead on Lap 124. He held off defending race champion Arie Luyendyk to lead until Lap 146, when he made a routine pit stop. Paul led 39 total laps, second best behind Cheever.
Luyendyk took the lead when Paul entered the pits on Lap 147, but it was short-lived. Luyendyk entered the pits for a routine stop on Lap 150. The clutch malfunctioned in Luyendyk's Sprint PCS/Radio Shack/Qualcomm G Force/Aurora/Firestone as he tried to leave the pits, and his car broke midway through Lap 152, ending his day.
Cheever took the lead and began trading the lead with Lazier on pit stops.
Pole sitter Billy Boat led the first 12 laps but eventually fell out with driveline problems after completing 111 laps, finishing 23rd. Pep Boys IRL points leader Tony Stewart finished last in the 33-car field after his engine broke on Lap 22, just one lap after he took the lead for the first time.
The only major accident came on Lap 49, when seven cars were involved in a crash in Turn 3. Jim Guthrie was the only driver injured in the incident. He was in good condition at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after undergoing surgery for a broken right elbow. Guthrie also suffered a broken left fibula, cracked ribs and a small laceration to his right leg when his Delco Remy-Goodyear-ISM Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear hit the outside wall.
The race started approximately 37 minutes late due to wet spots on the backstretch caused by overnight rains. A brown dog also ran free on the track for nearly two laps before the start of the race. The dog finally was caught after repeated attempts by Speedway officials and race teams.
The next Pep Boys IRL event is June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.