Former Grand Prix driver Eddie Cheever is the second high-profile American racing driver celebrating his birthday today!
A popular (but highly-strung) Eddie Cheever first entered motorsport via karting in Italy, where he was raised despite being born in Phoenix.
After a hugely impressive showing in Formula 3 and Formula 2, Eddie caught the eye of Ferrari, who offered him a contract and then signed Gilles Villeneuve. So Eddie joined forced with Theodore, quitting the team after two failed attempts to make the grid, before finally doing so with Hesketh in a one-off outing in 1978.
Two more seasons in Formula 2 saw his stock fall and then rise, and it was when the Osella team took the punt on joining Formula 1 that they took him with them. Not surprisingly, it was a frustrating season spent accruing DNFs and struggling to qualify at the back of the grid.
He joined Tyrrell in 1981 and peaked with fourth place at the British Grand Prix, before jumping ship to the Talbot Ligier outfit in 1982, where his car hung together long enough for him to take a fine second-placed finish at Detroit.
The next year saw his biggest break with a seat alongside Alain Prost at Renault, achieving two more podiums at France and Canada, but generally the flashes of brilliance were mixed with mediocrity and he was off to the unreliable Alfa Romeo in 1984. Always flamboyant behind the wheel, he rarely paid attention to the fuel gauge or the turbo pressure, which often resulted in some spectacular retirements.
Out of a drive for 1986 – save for a one-off appearance in place of the injured Patrick Tambay at Lola – he drove for TWR in sports cars and returned to F1 in 1987 with Arrows, where he stayed for three seasons, achieving some excellent results in a midfield car before the curtain was brought down on a 132-race career, which yielded just 70 points and not a single lap in the lead.
Off to IndyCars, Eddie performed well and won the Indy 500 in 1998 from 17th on the grid. He now works in team management.