Cheever hires Papis as second driver for Indy

Updated: May 17, 2006, 1:22 AM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bumping could be back this weekend at qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.

Eddie Cheever Jr. hired veteran Max Papis as the second driver on his team Tuesday, giving the field for the May 28 race 34 driver-car combinations -- one more than necessary.

Papis will drive the No. 52 car and becomes the teammate of Cheever, the 1998 race winner who will drive the No. 51 car. Both drivers are attempting to make their first starts at Indy since 2002, and the hiring means someone could go home before race day.

Papis, 36, finished 23rd in his only Indy start in 2002 but has driven in Formula One and won three races on the CART circuit.

Papis, a native of Italy, has been one of the top drivers in American sports-car racing in recent years.

He posted an overall win at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2002 and won the Grand American Rolex sports car series championship in 2004. He also has had two runner-up finishes at the 24 Hours of LeMans.

"Papis drove for Cheever Racing in his rookie race at the 500 and we did not deliver for him when we had mechanical problems with his car," Cheever said. "I am happy we are able to give him another chance."

Practice resumes Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the first weekend of qualifying was rained out for the first time since 1983. Race officials hope to qualify 33 cars Saturday and hold Bump Day as scheduled Sunday.

But having 34 driver-car combinations does not necessarily mean anybody would be bumped. Seven drivers have no backup cars entered, so a crash could keep them from qualifying.

Only one driver, Arie Luyendyk Jr., was bumped last year. Felipe Giaffone knocked him out of the starting grid with less than 30 minutes left in qualifying. That was the first time a driver was knocked out of the starting field since 2002.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press