IRL: Cheever, Ray, Dismore ready to dance with IROC 'wolves' after qualifying draw

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2000 -- Eddie Cheever Jr. learned several valuable lessons in last year's True Value International Race of Champions series event at Daytona International Speedway, and he hopes to apply that knowledge in...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2000 -- Eddie Cheever Jr. learned several valuable lessons in last year's True Value International Race of Champions series event at Daytona International Speedway, and he hopes to apply that knowledge in the 2000 kickoff sprint on Feb. 18. IROC held its draw for starting order Feb. 16, and Cheever, representing the Northern Light Indy Racing Series, pulled the fourth spot in the 12-car all-star field. "These guys are tough," said Cheever, the 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner. "I went for every possible hole that was there at the start of the race last year. I went from the front to the back then into the wall in seven laps." And he took Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- son of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt -- with him. "I was very happy it was the little Earnhardt, not the big Earnhardt, I had the accident with because I had visions of leaving Daytona with 120,000 mad racing fans chasing me out," said Cheever with a laugh. "It's an honor to be here. It's a highlight of anybody's career. Racing against the best in the world is fun." Cheever will be joined by fellow Indy Racing drivers Greg Ray and Mark Dismore, who will occupy all of row four. Ray, the defending Indy Racing League champion, will start seventh while Dismore will take off from eighth place on the grid. Both Ray and Dismore, who earned his first Indy Racing victory last year, are making their first IROC appearance. "As an open-wheel driver, I'm very proud to be here and part of IROC," said Ray, who drives for Team Menard. "This is a series I've watched for many, many years on TV, and certainly the drivers I'm competing against I look very much up to. I feel like a sheep running with the wolves a little bit. They have a little bit of an advantage." Dismore, who runs for Kelley Racing, has logged more laps over Daytona's 2.5-mile, high-banked tri-oval than any other driver during Speed Weeks. He' s trying to absorb as much information in the shortest amount of time as possible. "I've done about 500 miles in practice since I got here," said Dismore. "I' m like the first kid in class here every day. There's a group of guys here that are going to kick my butt, but it's going to be a lot of fun. "I have all the respect in the world for these guys. I'm here to learn. I' ll try to latch on to somebody who knows what they're doing and follow them all day. When we get to Indianapolis, maybe I can race hard. The kind of racing I do is a whole lot different from this." Defending IROC champion Dale Earnhardt will start from the pole. He'll be followed by Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Cheever, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Ray, Dismore, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton and Rusty Wallace. Cheever expects Ray and Dismore to hold their own against the field, which includes nine Winston Cup drivers. "Mark acts like he's going to lay down, but he's not going to lay down for anybody," said Cheever. "Ray is a heck of a racing driver. He's cocky, arrogant. He'll do good." Stewart races in NASCAR Winston Cup, but he's a past Indy Racing League champion. Stewart won the 1997 league crown and competed in the 1998 IROC. "It's nice to be back," said Stewart. "Two years ago I got my feet wet. Everything I learned in IROC helped me with the Winston Cup cars." The 2000 IROC series ends at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 4, the day before the Brickyard 400 Winston Cup event.

-IRL/IMS-

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Series IndyCar , IROC
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Mark Dismore , Mark Martin