IRL: Dover Qualifying

Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International - motorsport.com

Dover, Delaware, July 31 - Mark Dismore put his Kelly Racing Dallara Aurora on the pole for tomorrow's Pep Boys Indy Racing League MBNA Mid-Atlantic 200 at Dover Downs International Speedway. His speed was 182.639 mph, almost 3 mph slower than Tony Stewart's 1998 pole speed of 185.204 mph. The slower speed is attributed to the current IRL rev limit of 10,000 rpm, down from last year's 10,500 rpm.

Mark was pleased with his car and the run.  "I couldn't ask for the car to
be any better than it was.  With it being hotter and getting within a
couple of hundreths of my best time, I've got to be happy with that."  He
has a simple strategy for tomorrow's race:  "Go like hell."

Mark will be joined on the front row by Kelley Racing teammate Scott Sharp,with a speed of 182.417 mph. "It was a great run. Kelley Racing worked real hard, and I was real confident we had a great car. It was like splitting hairs out there, and Mark had the shortest one. It's an all-Kelley front row, and I'm really excited."

Tom Kelley, car owner for both Dismore and Sharp, was obviously happy. "It's great for both Mark and Scott. We made some changes earlier this year and brought in Jim Freudenberg as general manager. We shared info to set up both cars. I have a lot of confidence in both of their abilities, and after the last pit stop I'm just going to let them both go."

Starting inside the third row is Greg Ray in the Team Menard Dallara Aurora, with a speed of 191.068 mph. "I'm really pleased, happy we're in the nine's (19 second range). Our warmup laps were good, but the tires were starting to go away. We thought that everybody would be so far ahead of us. I'm really pleased."

Outside the second row will be Sam Schmidt, in the Treadway Racing G-Force Aurora. "All I want to be here is in the top five. Last year I was 10th, and it was hell. I think we can lead tomorrow and take it to the checkered flag. Since we are out of contention for the championship, we just want to go out and win one."

The third row was filled by two IRL rookies, Scott Harrington and John Hollansworth Jr.

Harrington was in last year's race, substituting for the injured Elesio Salazar, but fell out after only one lap. He returned with a vengeance, qualifying his Harrington Motorsports Dallara-Aurora fifth at 180.415 mph. "I'm thrilled! The CertainTeed crew is the best in the business, and they have given me a great car to drive here at Dover. We haven't been out of the top 10 in any practice session here." Scott also has a simple strategy for the race: "Staying out of trouble!"

John Hollansworth fills out the third row, with a speed of 180.316 mph. "It's pretty warm, in general, and in the cockpit. I think the physical demands are more than at any track I've been to."

The last driver to crack 180 mph was Jeff Ward, who qualified his Pagan Racing Dallara Aurora at 180.189 mph. "You don't need to be on the pole to win this race. We'll pick up a couple of spots on the start and then run it right there until the first set of pit stops. I just want to stay out of trouble. This is a tough race. We'll be there at the end."

The 23 car field is tight, with the slowest qualifier, Ronny Johncox at 176.548 mph, within 3 1/2 percent of Dismore's pole speed. The close speeds leads to some concern about close racing, but also gives hope to those not qualified up front. Thirteenth-place qualifier Robby Unser expressed confidence for tomorrow. "I still believe this will be our race. The key to this race is that you're going to need to stay out of trouble, there's going to be a lot of passing. Just stand on the gas and work these guys. It's gonna be a great race."

Jimmy Kite, here for the first time and qualified two spots behind Unser, is also confident about his prospects tomorrow. "Qualifying doesn't mean a dang thing here. You've got to make sure you're running at the checkered flag. Now that I'm in the race I start worrying about tomorrow" Pointing to his crew, Jimmy said "I don't care where we start; these guys will put the car up front."

Veteran Eddie Cheever was not quite as thrilled about a run from the back. After practicing second-fastest yesterday, he turned in a disappointing qualifying run of 177.009 mph, putting him 19th on the grid. "We lost about 2 mph that we shouldn't have. We're trying to figure out what the difference is between our qualifying runs and our race runs. There is something we're not putting our finger on. But we'll fix it. We always do for the race." Despite a history of excellent runs from back to front, he does not enjoy the position. "That's like being bankrupt and trying to make money."

Another disappointed speedster was Scott Goodyear. Fastest in Friday's practice sessions, he qualified 18th, one spot ahead of Cheever, at 177.532 mph. "We put a fresh motor in and it didn't pull very well. The guys did a great job of changing the motor between warmup this morning and qualifying, but it doesn't seem like that's the problem. We're not quite sure about the loss of speed since yesterday. We're still flat out all the way around. I suspect the teeth in the gearbox went."

A man both good and bad feelings about his position back in the field is Eliseo Salazar. Last year he was badly injured at Dover, but is now back to 100%, with the injuries behind him. "Unless somebody reminds me, I completely forget. It's a defense that the body has." He enjoys driving this track, seeing similarities to Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas. "I like the miles and a half, I've won on the miles and a half, I always have good results. I feel like this is a mini mile and a half, in the sense that it has so much banking. I know the people here have done a good job fixing it."

Eliseo thinks of the people back home in Chile, and how much they cheer for him. The Atlanta race, where he finished a solid fifth, was watched by a third of the Chilean population, and he knows they will be watching again. "That's why today I'm not very happy with the qualifying, because tomorrow everybody will be watching hoping for another top five. We'll have to pedal a lot to deliver. But it's fun. I'm glad to be the only one from there. It's pressure, but this business is all about pressure."

Qualifying Results

Pos Car Driver Speed

 1      28      Mark Dismore            182.639
 2       8      Scott Sharp             182.417
 3       2      Greg Ray                181.608
 4      99      Sam Schmidt             181.005
 5      66      Scott Harrington        180.415
 6      42      John Hollansworth       180.316
 7      21      Jeff Ward               180.189
 8       9      Davey Hamilton          179.919
 9       7      Stephan Gregoire        179.497
10      55      Robby McGehee           179.301
11      20      Tyce Carlson            179.002
12      12      Buzz Calkins            178.784
13      81      Robby Unser             178.580
14      14      Kenny Brack             178.484
15      30      Jimmy Kite              178.288
16      11      Billy Boat              178.191
17      91      Buddy Lazier            177.699
18       4      Scott Goodyear          177.532
19      51      Eddie Cheever           177.009
20      98      Donnie Beechler         176.869
21       6      Eliseo Salazar          176.861
22      33      Jacques Lazier          176.826
23      22      Ronnie Johncox          176.548