April 23 in Motorsports History: Cheever out of fuel; Fittipaldi wins

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Twenty-five years ago today, a disappointing afternoon for Eddie Cheever Jr. turned into a great one for Emerson Fittipaldi.

With fuel milage coming into play late in the 1995 Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix at Nazareth Speedway, Cheever made a gamble by staying out of the pits after his final stop on Lap 106 of 200.

Cheever inherited the lead on Lap 161. With the help of two cautions for separate crashes by Michael Andretti and Gil de Ferran, it seemed he would have enough fuel to make it to the finish.

Driving the famous No. 14 car, Cheever looked to give A.J. Foyt Racing its first victory since Foyt won at Pocono in 1981. However, Cheever’s luck – and fuel – ran dry with less than two laps remaining.

As Cheever’s car slowed on the backstretch on Lap 198, Fittipaldi passed him on the outside to inherit the lead.

Fittipaldi held off a charge from Jacques Villeneuve to score his 22nd and final CART victory.

“I had four aces in my hand, and at right at the last minute that ace turned into a 2,” Cheever told CBS after the race. “My computer said I had 4.5 gallons on board, which was more than enough. I think something must have gone wrong inside of the tank.”

While he didn’t win that afternoon, Cheever eventually would find success in open-wheel racing. The CART and Formula One veteran moved to the Indy Racing Leauge the following season and picked up his first victory at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1997. In 1998, Cheever won the 82nd running of the Indianapolis 500.

Also on this date:

2003: Though retired for nearly a decade, Mario Andretti went on one of the wildest rides of his career at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Helping his son Michael’s team shake down a car, Mario hit a piece of debris, and the car cartwheeled through the air before landing on its wheels. Andretti, who had turned 63 two months earlier, walked away with only a cut on his chin.

2018: Josef Newgarden led all but nine laps in his dominant performance at Barber Motorsports Park, his third victory in four seasons at the Alabama road course.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994