The Andretti Green team scored a major coup last week by signing the tremendous talent of Raphael Matos to their Indy Pro team, but in responding defending IPS champion team Sam Schmidt Motorsports has not only lined up their own quality driver but also have created an instant rivaly for the 2008 season.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports has announced today that it has signed two-time Indy Pro Series race winner Richard Antinucci to drive a team car in the 2008 Indy Pro Series campaign.Yeah he's really good, but what makes this all the more interesting is the previously vocal grudge match involving the sniping between Eddie Cheever Jr and the Andretti family. While Cheever's chances at winning declined when the better financed AGR team jumped from the CCWS to the IRL, it didn't stop him from having on-track incidents and taking off-track verbal jabs at the Andrettis.
In 2007, driving for his uncle, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, Eddie Cheever, Antinucci made nine starts in the Indy Pro Series, all at non-oval venues.
As the season ended, Antinucci became a hot driver having placed in the top five in his last four races, including two wins and a second-place finish.
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Most famous was Old Man Cheever's quote after colliding with Marco Andretti at Watkins Glen in 2006. "The last I looked, I earned the label of Indy 500 champion; those lobbing unfounded accusations at me have not." You could feel the love.
Despite the fact that neither of them have ever competed on an oval, the quality of their teams and their previous accomplishments on the track sets both Antinucci (who most certainly must be one of my distant relatives) and Matos as the IPS favorites heading into the new season. An incident or two between these two may go far in not only devloping their talents but also in the storyline between the Cheever and Andretti two families.
Of course, since both families are Italian-American we can also expect someone like Jack Arute to use a "Godfather" or "Sopranos" reference at some point this season.