Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2002 | 9:46 a.m.
Brian Hilderbrand covers motor sports for the Las Vegas Sun. His motor sports notebook appears Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] or (702) 259-4089.
Helio Castroneves had two words for Eddie Cheever Jr., who accused Castroneves of blocking him during the thrilling closing laps of Sunday's Indy Racing League Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway:
As eventual race winner Sam Hornish Jr. and runner-up Al Unser Jr. were running side-by-side during the final 21 laps of the race, Cheever twice tried to pass Hornish on the outside. As Cheever worked to find another line behind the two, he claimed Castroneves forced him below the white line on the bottom of the track. Castroneves finished fourth and Cheever took fifth.
"I want to sit down with (IRL vice president of operations) Brian (Barnhart) and show him the last laps with Helio Castroneves," Cheever said after the race. "I want Brian's opinion on whether or not that is blocking. (Castroneves) totally moved me under the white line. Those aren't the rules of the game.
"I almost went off the track five or six times. You make mistakes sometimes but what Castroneves did lap after lap was intentional, silly and dangerous."
Castroneves, who is locked in a battle for the IRL championship with one race remaining and was trying to stay as close to Hornish as possible, had no sympathy for Cheever.
"As far as I'm concerned, my friend, I was racing, I was trying to be there and win the race and, hey, tough luck," he said. "In that particular time, he might be frustrated because he couldn't pass the guy and he tried to attack him. I know Eddie and hopefully he doesn't have any hard feelings."
Hornish heads into Sunday's season finale at Texas Motor Speedway with a 12-point lead over Castroneves as Hornish seeks to become the first repeat champion in the series' seven-year history.
"Recovery periods for any type of concussion vary for many reasons, but rarely do symptoms completely disappear in seven to ten days," said Dr. Henry Bock, the IRL's director of medical services. "As with any head injury, it is better to be cautious and not put the driver at risk; that's what were doing with Gil."
Papis, who has three wins in 105 career CART starts, finished 23rd in this year's Indianapolis 500 with Red Bull Cheever Racing in his only IRL start.
De Ferran, who won the past two championships in CART, is 38 points behind Hornish in the IRL standings and had a mathematical chance of winning the championship had he been cleared to drive.
"Obviously, I am extremely disappointed that I will be unable to fight for our third consecutive championship," de Ferran said, "(but) I respect Dr. Bock's decision."