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.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski