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Infinite joy for Cheever.

On lap 143 it was the leader's turn and Cheever handed the lead to Beechler. The Team Cheever crew took their time and ensured that Cheever had a full tank before releasing him after 12.6 seconds. Two laps later Beechler handed the lead back to Sharp when he pitted, his stop lasting a leisurely 14.7 seconds. When Sharp pitted on lap151 the lead was taken up by his Kelley Racing team-mate Dismore who in turn led for two laps before stopping. The only man not to have stopped was Gregoire who was aiming to make just a quick splash and dash near the end of the race. Cheever was now second and leading the race in reality while a superb stop by Team Xtreme put Dare back onto the track ahead of Sharp, Beechler and Unser Jr who occupied the next three places.

Cheever's car was now working very well and he was able to pull away from Dare with ease, the young Brazilian having to contend with the unwanted attentions of Sharp and Beechler.

Gradually Cheever hauled Gregoire in and on lap 172 with the Frenchman desperately trying to conserve fuel, Cheever re-took the lead. As soon as he was through he was able to pull out a big lead and by the time Gregoire made his five second stop for fuel, Cheever was twelve seconds to the good.

As the race entered its final 10 laps, Sharp and Beechler really started to pile the pressure onto Dare. Sharp looked high into turn three with no luck whereas Beechler tried to pass both at the same corner with just four laps remaining. As the trio came across the line to start lap 197 Sharp and Unser were held up by Unser Jr who had dropped back to seventh place and was now running a lap down. Dare squeezed past the Galles driver but Sharp could not find the necessary momentum. Coming across the start/finish line with two laps to go Sharp ducked to the inside as Unser stayed in the middle of the track. Beechler saw a gap on the high line and went for it and the three went side by side into turn one. Contact was inevitable and it was Unser and Beechler who were bound for destruction, Beechler clipping the front of Unser's machine as he went around the outside sending both into the turn one wall.

Of course the race finished under caution which would be an anti-climax for some drivers but not Cheever who crossed the line, punching the air with joy as he did so.

Pouring a bottle of iced water over himself in victory lane and forsaking the obligatory sponsors cap for the post race interview, Cheever was typically composed and calm about his achievement. Not only is he the first man to win in the IRL with an Infiniti engine, he was the first man to win with Aurora power back in 1997, a fact which he is justifiably proud of.

Dare came through in second to score his best IRL finish ever while Sharp was third and the only other man to complete the full 200 laps. Cheever and Sharp were the two main beneficiaries of Lazier's failure to finish although the fourth placed Dismore also gained some significant ground.

Beechler was classified fifth but deserved better, youthful impetuosity cost him on this occasion but it is unlikely he will make the same mistake again.

Salazar continued his good season for AJ Foyt Racing by coming home in sixth, the Chilean has finished all but one race so far this year and is a real dark horse for the title.

Schroeder completed a composed drive for the underfunded Tri Star Motorsports squad in seventh place while Gregoire's late stop dropped him to eighth ahead of Jaques Lazier and the incapacitated Unser Jr who rounded out the top ten.



Related Pictures

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Eddie Cheever celebrates
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