IRL: Dover Friday Practice

STEWART BLAZES DOVER WITH 184 MPH PRACTICE LAP DOVER, Del., July 17, 1998 - Defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart turned the fastest unofficial lap ever at Dover Downs International Speedway, 184.455 mph, to lead ...

STEWART BLAZES DOVER WITH 184 MPH PRACTICE LAP

DOVER, Del., July 17, 1998 - Defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart turned the fastest unofficial lap ever at Dover Downs International Speedway, 184.455 mph, to lead practice Friday for the Pep Boys 400K.

Stewart covered the 1-mile, high-banked concrete oval in 19.517 seconds during his fastest lap in the Glidden-Menards Special G Force/Aurora/Firestone. He previously set an unofficial track record of 183.393 in mid-June during the Pep Boys IRL Open Test. Rusty Wallace set the track record of 155.898 in a NASCAR Winston Cup stock car while winning the pole for the MBNA Platinum 400 in May 1998.

"The track is a lot smoother than when we tested here," Stewart said. "I'd say some of (the speed gain) is the team, and some of it is the racetrack. It's a little bit of both. "The track has so much grip you're able to go two- and three-wide. The drivers are able to go where they want. It's just a matter of who can go the fastest."

PPG Pole qualifying for the inaugural Pep Boys IRL race at the "Monster Mile" starts at noon (EDT) Saturday. The 248-lap, 248-mile race starts at noon Sunday.

Ten of the 22 drivers who participated in practice turned at least one lap faster than 180 mph, as Dover Downs quickly became the fastest 1-mile oval on the circuit. The impressive speed came despite temperatures in the low 90's, high humidity and track temperatures approaching 110 degrees.

"We're all running really close times," said two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk. "We hope it cools down because it's going to be hard on us if it stays this warm."

Luyendyk was second fastest at 183.477 in the Sprint PCS-RadioShack-QUALCOMM G Force/Aurora/Firestone.

Greg Ray, Steve Knapp and Jim Guthrie each debuted with new teams.

Ray recorded a top speed of 178.288 in his first race as driver of the Conseco-A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Ray is substituting for Billy Boat, who suffered a broken leg and pelvis in an accident during the New England 200 on June 28 at Loudon, N.H.

1998 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year Knapp topped out at 178.456 in the Earl's Performance Products-Parker Machinery G Force/Aurora/Goodyear fielded by PDM Racing.

1996-97 IRL Rookie of the Year Guthrie debuted with CBR-Cobb Racing, reaching only 156.148 due to fuel pump problems. Guthrie missed the last two races due to injuries suffered in the Indianapolis 500, in which he drove for ISM Racing.

PEP BOYS 400K TOP FIVE PRACTICE TIMES, SPEEDS Pos. No. Driver Chassis/Engine/Tire Time Speed 1 1 Tony Stewart G Force/Aurora/Firestone 19.517 184.455 2 5 Arie Luyendyk G Force/Aurora/Firestone 19.621 183.477 3 35 Jeff Ward G Force/Aurora/Goodyear 19.672 183.001 4 16 Marco Greco G Force/Aurora/Firestone 19.723 182.528 5 8 Scott Sharp Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 19.737 182.399 ***

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Greg Ray , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Jim Guthrie , Steve Knapp , A.J. Foyt