IRL: Indy 500 Champ Cheever Leads Entries for True Value 500
26 May 1998INDIANAPOLIS, May 26, 1998 - Eddie Cheever Jr., fresh from his victory May 24 in the Indianapolis 500, will try to continue his power surge at the second annual True Value 500 on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Eddie Cheever Jr.
It's very possible that Cheever could extend his winning streak at Texas. After all, speed is the common denominator between Texas and Indianapolis, two of the fastest tracks in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. Qualifying and race speeds faster than 200 mph are expected on the reconfigured high banks of the 1.5-mile quad-oval at Texas, and no car showed more consistent speed during the Indy 500 than Cheever's Rachel's Potato Chips Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear.
History also favors a repeat by Cheever. Arie Luyendyk followed his victory in the 1997 Indianapolis 500 with a dominant win in the inaugural True Value 500 last June, lapping the entire field in the first night race in Pep Boys IRL history. Cheever finished sixth in that race.
But many other drivers will contend for victory in the 208-lap, 312-mile (500 kilometers) race at 8 p.m. (CDT) June 6, the first of three night races this season. The True Value 500 is the fourth of 11 races overall this year in the Pep Boys IRL.
Pep Boys IRL points leader Tony Stewart and Luyendyk lead the list of contenders at Texas.
Stewart will have no shortage of motivation at this event. He finished 33rd - last - in the Indianapolis 500 after the engine in his Glidden-Menards Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone broke after just 22 laps. Stewart took the lead for the first time less than a lap before his engine expired.
Defending series champion Stewart also has a score to settle with Texas Motor Speedway. He led four times for 100 laps last year before his engine broke, causing him to hit the wall between Turns 1 and 2.
Luyendyk also must be considered a favorite in the Sprint PCS-Radio Shack-Qualcomm G Force/Aurora/Firestone. He showed impressive power and driving skills May 24 at Indianapolis, climbing from the 28th starting spot to lead four laps. Luyendyk led as late as Lap 149 at Indy before gearbox problems ended his race.
Another strong contender for victory in the True Value 500 is Buddy Lazier. He finished second to Cheever at Indy in the Delta Faucet-Coors Light-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, leading 20 laps.
Lazier also was powerful in the True Value 500 last year, leading twice for 57 laps before being sidelined by engine problems. But Lazier rallied six weeks later to win the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the new track configuration at Texas has similarities to the 1.5-mile layout at Charlotte.
This race also will have a strong Texas connection. All three drivers on the front row at Indianapolis - Billy Boat, Greg Ray and Kenny Brack -- have ties to the Lone Star state, and someone from that trio could win at Texas.
Indy pole sitter Boat and No. 3 starter Brack drive for "Super Tex," four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, whose team is based in Houston. Boat finished second to Luyendyk last year at this event.
Ray, from Plano, Texas, stunned the motorsports world by qualifying second at Indy despite losing the primary sponsor of the Thomas Knapp Motorsports/Genoa Racing Dallara/Aurora/Firestone just as practice started. But a host of sponsors, including Texas Motor Speedway, The Nashville Network and True Value, stepped up to sponsor Ray in the race. He led twice for 18 laps before being hampered by gearbox problems. Ray ended up 18th.
Second-year Pep Boys IRL driver Ray is no stranger to success at Texas. He finished a career-best eighth in the True Value 500 last year.
An impressive crop of rookies also could make an impact at Texas. Jack Hewitt, J.J. Yeley and Robby Unser - son of three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser - all finished in the top 12 this year at Indianapolis. Thirty-four drivers are entered to compete for the 32 starting spots, creating tense moments during qualifying, which starts at 8:15 p.m. (CDT) June 4.
TRUE VALUE 500 NOTEBOOK
Texas Two-Step: The True Value 500 will be the first race of the "Texas Two-Step" Championship, a unique bonus program providing extra incentive for strong performances by drivers in both Pep Boys IRL races this year at Texas Motor Speedway.
The Pep Boys IRL driver who scores the most combined points in the True Value 500 on June 6 and the Lone Star 500 on Sept. 20 will earn a $100,000 bonus as the Texas Two-Step champion. The driver with the second-highest total will earn $50,000.
Event schedule: The second annual True Value 500 is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. (CDT) June 6. Qualifying starts at 8:15 p.m. June 4. Pep Boys IRL practice sessions will take place at 2 and 5 p.m. June 4, and 2:30 and 6 p.m. June 5.
Broadcast schedule: The True Value 500 will be televised live on TNN at 9 p.m. (EDT) June 6. Pole qualifying will be televised live on SpeedVision at 9:15 p.m. (EDT) June 4.