Record updated 11-Feb-08
Eddie McKay Cheever is an American racing driver who raced for almost thirty years in Formula One, Sports cars, CART and the Indy Racing League, and now owns an IRL team. Cheever participated in 143 Formula One races and started 132, more than any other American, driving for nine different teams from 1978 through 1989. In 1997, he formed his own IRL team and won the Indianapolis 500 as both an owner and driver in 1998.
American racing driver for almost thirty years in Formula One, Sports cars, CART and the Indy Racing League, and now owns an IRL team. Cheever participated in 132 Formula One races, more than any other American, driving for nine different teams from 1978 through 1989. In 1997, he formed his own IRL team and won the Indianapolis 500 as both an owner and driver in 1998.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Cheever lived in Rome as a child and was introduced to motorsports at age eight when his father took him to a sports car race in Monza, Italy. He soon began racing go karts and won both Italian and European Karting championships at age 15. He worked his way up through the levels of European Formula racing, teaming with American Danny Sullivan in Formula Three and driving for Ron Dennis in Formula Two.
He made his F1 debut at age 20 in 1978. After failing to qualify in Argentina, he made the grid at Kyalami for the South African Grand Prix in a Hesketh-Ford. An engine problem forced him to retire after just eight laps. Two seasons later, he became a regular driver for the Osella team, but finished only once in ten races. Switching teams repeatedly as he tried to climb his way up the grid, Cheever had five points-scoring finishes for the Tyrrell team in 1981, and three podiums for Ligier the following year, including a second place at the 1982 United States Grand Prix East in Detroit.
Some times referred to as 'Je suis vert' (I am green), theÂ 1983 season proved to be Cheever's high point in Formula One. He signed with the Renault team alongside Frenchman Alain Prost, both of whom were among the year's Championship favorites. Cheever drove well in support of team number one Prost, earning four more podiums and 22 Championship points, but the team's disappointment after losing both the Driver's and Constructor's titles late in the season brought about the replacement of both Cheever and Prost. In six more seasons, he never drove another truly competitive F1 car. His final podium finish in Formula One came in his hometown of Phoenix at the first USGP event there when he finished third for the Arrows team.
In all, he participated in 143 grands prix, achieved 9 podiums, and scored a total of 70 championship points.
From 1986 to 1988, while still driving in Formula One, Cheever won ten sports car races for Jaguar. In 1990 he moved to the US to drive in the Indy Car series and to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In his first attempt at the Indianapolis 500, he finished eighth and was named Rookie of the Year. In 1992, he qualified second for the race and finished fourth. In total he scored 4 top-3 finishes in the series, although never winning.
In 1996 the Indy Racing League was formed, and Cheever switched to this, soon setting up his own team. Then in 1998, all the pieces came together for Cheever when he took the biggest win of his career as both a driver and owner. He started from 17th position and led 76 of 200 laps to win the Indianapolis 500. His team is still active today, and he runs cars for Alex Barron and Patrick Carpentier in 2005, having hung up his helmet in 2002.