Happy 56th Birthday, Eddie Cheever Jr. (VIDEO)

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Today also marks the 56th birthday for Eddie Cheever Jr., the 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion and the man with the most starts among American drivers in the history of Formula One with 132.

Cheever competed in 11 seasons in Formula One but for nine different teams during that span – Theodore, Hesketh, Osella, Tyrrell, Ligier, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Lola and Arrows. His 1983 season with Renault alongside the great Alain Prost was his best in F1, earning four podiums that included a runner-up at the Canadian Grand Prix.

In 1990, Cheever jumped from Formula One to CART, where he would drive for luminaries such as Chip Ganassi (1990-92) and A.J. Foyt (1994-95). But in 1996, he moved into the fledgling Indy Racing League and eventually set up his own team.

Cheever would earn five victories as a driver in the IRL, but none bigger than his ’98 triumph at Indy. Overcoming a first lap run-in with J.J. Yeley, he would find himself battling against ’96 Indy champ Buddy Lazier in the end before emerging as the victor. He led 76 of 200 laps en route to the win.

After Cheever stepped out of the car following the 2002 season, he concentrated on team ownership. The list of former Cheever Racing drivers is an interesting one and includes the likes of 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, Tomas Scheckter, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron and current IndyCar owner/driver Ed Carpenter.

Cheever would come back to IndyCar driving in 2006, making seven starts before he was forced to shut his team down in mid-season due to a lack of sponsorship. He now works as an IndyCar TV analyst.

Reaction to INDYCAR/NBC Sports Group announcement: Mario Andretti, Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal and social media

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Like countless others on the East Coast, Mario Andretti was fighting through a snowstorm Wednesday morning.

But emotionally and personally, it was a very bright and sunny day for the legendary Indy car driver.

In an exclusive interview with NBCSports.com, Andretti spoke in glowing terms about this morning’s announcement of a multi-year media rights partnership between INDYCAR and NBC Sports Group beginning next year.

“I think this is awesome,” Andretti said. “It’s music to my ears and all of us. NBC has been very familiar with IndyCar racing, so they’re a great partner. I’m elated that it’s all nailed down, secured and I’m looking forward to the future.

“It’s also great for the young lads in Indy Lights coming on, and it’s great for all the sponsors to have that kind of exposure. It’s a good day for INDYCAR today.”

Andretti lauded the fact that all elements of INDYCAR coverage – TV, digital and streaming – will now be under one corporate roof, so to speak.

“Personally, I think it’s huge,” Andretti said. “Everybody is going to be very familiar with everything, the storylines are going to flow perfectly from event to event. There’s nothing like continuity.

“It’s okay sometimes if you have two networks, but to me, the best possible solution is this. That’s why I think this is really a great day for INDYCAR racing to have NBC involved and the continuity is huge for us.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

MORE: Optimism abounds with new INDYCAR media partnership


Several other high-profile individuals within the IndyCar community also gave their take on Wednesday’s announcement, including statements from team owners Roger Penske and Bobby Rahal.

Roger Penske: “As an industry, we are very fortunate to have the NBC Sports Group grow their presence and coverage of INDYCAR racing and really invest in the future of the sport. We believe there is a great deal of positive momentum in the Verizon IndyCar Series right now, from the development of the new race car, to the very talented group of young drivers and new teams coming into the sport this season.

“With the announcement of the enhanced broadcast partnership with NBC, it certainly adds to the excitement for the future. We know that the ways our fans are watching races and viewing INDYCAR content is rapidly changing, so staying ahead of the curve and the developing technology with our partners is important to the growth of our sport. We look forward to working with the NBC team to continue to build INDYCAR and take the sport in new directions.

“We also need to thank ABC and ESPN for all their terrific coverage over the years. The ABC network helped bring some of the most memorable moments in racing to life – including many of our team’s Indianapolis 500 victories – and we appreciate all of their hard work and passion for INDYCAR racing.”

Bobby Rahal: “It’s great news. I think the fact that the IndyCar Series will be under one roof, so to speak, network-wise can do nothing but great things for our sport. To increase to having eight races on network TV is also great news of course.

“The quality of the NBC broadcasts have gotten better and better over the last several years. They do a great job of providing interesting and entertaining content for the viewers and I think that will only continue to grow with the relationship going forward. That type of storytelling is also what helps bring new fans to the sport.”



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