Eddie Cheever is the American driver who has started the most Formula One races in history, with 132 starts out of 143 entries. He raced for nine different teams from 1978 to 1989, scoring nine podiums and 70 points. He also won the 1998 Indianapolis 500 as both owner and driver of his own team. In this article, we will look at his F1 career, his achievements, and his legacy.
Eddie Cheever: Early Life and Racing Career
Eddie Cheever was born on January 10, 1958, in Phoenix, Arizona. He grew up in Rome, Italy, where his father worked as a businessman. He developed a passion for racing at an early age, and started karting at the age of 13.
Cheever soon moved to Europe to pursue his racing dream, competing in various junior series such as Formula Ford, Formula Three, and Formula Two.
He made his F1 debut in 1978 with the Theodore team, but failed to qualify for the first two races of the season. He then switched to Hesketh for the rest of the year, but only managed to finish one race in 12th place.
Eddie also raced part-time for Ferrari in sports cars, winning the Daytona 24 Hours with Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve.
Eddie Cheever: F1 Career Highlights
Cheever’s F1 career took off in 1980, when he joined Osella, an Italian team that had moved up from Formula Two. He scored his first championship point at the Argentine Grand Prix, finishing sixth.
He also impressed with his qualifying performances, often outpacing his car’s potential.
Eddie Cheever: Tyrell
In 1981, he moved to Tyrrell, where he had his best season to date. He scored five points finishes, including two podiums at the San Marino and Las Vegas Grands Prix.
Eddie qualified on the front row at the Monaco Grand Prix, behind Nelson Piquet. He finished seventh in the drivers’ championship with 19 points.
Eddie Cheever: Ligier
In 1982, he joined Ligier, where he formed a strong partnership with Jacques Laffite. He scored three podiums that year, including a second place at the Detroit Grand Prix, where he fought for the lead with John Watson until the final lap.
Cheever finished third at the Belgian and German Grands Prix. He ended the season eighth in the drivers’ championship with 18 points.
Eddie Cheever: Renault
In 1983, he moved to Renault, where he became the teammate of Alain Prost. He scored three podiums that year, including a second place at the French Grand Prix.
He qualified on pole position for the first and only time in his F1 career.
also finished third at the Brazilian and British Grands Prix. He finished sixth in the drivers’ championship with 22 points.
Eddie Cheever: Alfa Romeo
In 1984 and 1985, he drove for Alfa Romeo, where he had a difficult time with an unreliable and uncompetitive car.
He scored only one point in two years, finishing sixth at the Dallas Grand Prix in 1984. He also suffered several accidents and injuries that affected his performance and confidence.
Eddie Cheever: Haas Lola
In 1986, he joined Haas Lola, a new American team that entered F1 with a Ford turbo engine.
He scored four points finishes that year, including two podiums at the Detroit and Austrian Grands Prix. Cheever qualified on the front row at the Canadian Grand Prix, behind Ayrton Senna.
He finished ninth in the drivers’ championship with 14 points.
In 1987 and 1988, he drove for Arrows, where he had some of his most memorable races. In 1987, he finished third at the San Marino Grand Prix after a thrilling battle with Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger.
He also finished fourth at the Monaco Grand Prix after starting from 16th on the grid. In 1988, he finished third at the Italian Grand Prix after a chaotic race that saw only six cars finish.
Eddie Cheever: Coloni
In 1989, he moved to Coloni for what would be his final season in F1.
However, it was a disastrous year for both driver and team. The car was slow and unreliable, and Cheever failed to qualify for any race except for one: the Monaco Grand Prix.
He retired from F1 after that race.
Eddie Cheever’s Career After F1
Eddie Cheever had raced for almost 30 years in Formula One, sports cars, CART, and the Indy Racing League.
He participated in 143 Formula One World Championship races and started 132, more than any other American, driving for nine different teams from 1978 through 1989.
He had achieved nine podium finishes, including three on home soil, but never won a race or a championship.
After his retirement from Formula One, Cheever decided to pursue his dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500, the most prestigious event in American motorsport.
He had made his debut in the race in 1990, finishing eighth, and returned in 1991 and 1992, finishing fourth and third respectively.
He also competed in the CART series, the top level of open-wheel racing in North America, but without much success.
In 1996, he formed his own team, Team Cheever, and joined the newly created Indy Racing League (IRL), a rival series to CART that focused on oval racing.
He won his first race as both owner and driver at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1997. Eddie then achieved his greatest triumph in 1998, when he won the Indianapolis 500 after a thrilling duel with Buddy Lazier.
He became the first owner-driver to win the race since A.J. Foyt in 1977.
Cheever continued to race in the IRL until 2002, winning four more races and finishing third in the championship in 2000.
He also made occasional appearances in sports car racing, winning the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1998 and the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2011.
Eddie Cheever Retirement
He retired from driving in 2006, but remained involved in motorsport as a team owner, commentator, and mentor. His younger brother Ross Cheever, nephew Richard Antinucci and son Eddie Cheever III also became racing drivers.
Eddie Cheever is widely regarded as one of the most versatile and accomplished drivers of his generation.
He raced in different disciplines, continents, and eras, and faced some of the greatest drivers in history. Cheever never gave up on his passion for racing, even when he faced challenges and disappointments.
He is a true legend of motorsport.
- American F1 Drivers
- Mario Andretti
- Bob Bondurant
- Eddie Cheever
- Mark Donohue
- Richie Ginther
- Maston Gregory
- Dan Gurney
- Jim Hall
- Phil Hill
- Peter Revson
- Logan Sargeant