IRL: Dover Race Report

IRL: Dover Race Report Ken Plotkin - Dover, Delaware, August 1 - The Monster Mile still has a bite, but most of the bites at today's MBNA Mid-Atlantic 200 were self-inflicted. Greg Ray paid due respect to the track and his ...

IRL: Dover Race Report

Ken Plotkin -

Dover, Delaware, August 1 - The Monster Mile still has a bite, but most of the bites at today's MBNA Mid-Atlantic 200 were self-inflicted. Greg Ray paid due respect to the track and his competitors, and was rewarded with victory, his second career win in the Indy Racing League. Ray, who led 28 of the 200 laps, benefitted from the misfortunes of Kelley Racing's front row sitters Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore, and from a controversial situation involving the lapped car of sixth place finisher Scott Harrington.

Pre-race predictions of two, or even three, racing lanes proved to be over-optimistic. The fast line was at most a lane and a half wide. Most passes on the track were done carefully and decisively, with passed cars yielding the line when the pass was inevitable.

The race began with Scott Sharp moving from his outside pole position into the lead, followed by teammate and pole sitter Mark Dismore, then Greg Ray from his second row position, then Sam Schmidt, John Hollansworth, Davey Hamilton, Stephan Gregoire, and John Hollansworth. Through the next 30 laps, Sharp and Dismore stretched out nearly a third of a lap lead over the other front runners, who remained closely packed. Further back, several drivers with fast cars but poor qualifying times carefully worked their way forward. Kenny Brack advanced seven positions from his 14th place start, and Eddie Cheever moved up eight from his 19th place start.

Scott Sharp's ride up front came to an end on lap 35 when his right rear tire failed, putting him into the fourth turn wall. Scott was uninjured, but out of the race. Most of the field took advantage of the yellow for their first pit stops.

The green came out again on lap 45, with Mark Dismore in the lead and most of the front runners a position to the good. Eddie Cheever resumed his climb toward the front. Up to eighth place on lap 57, he attempted to pass Robbie Unser on the outside on the back stretch. He did not have the momentum to carry it off, and dropped back into line. His slowing car came down in front of John Hollansworth. The resulting contact ended Cheever's day against the concrete, and sent Hollansworth to the pits for a new nose cone.

The most serious incident of the day occurred several laps after the lap 65 restart, when the rear wing on Elisio Salazar's car flattened in the middle of turn 2. With the downforce gone, the car spun and hit the outside wall hard, scattering debris along most of the backstretch and almost overturning. The accident was a grim reminder of Eliseo's wreck last year, when he broke his right hip, arm, leg and pelvis. Fortunately, this time he was unhurt, and climbed out of the car unaided. With both of his accidents caused by mechanical failure, Eliseo said "This place is a little too bumpy for us."

John Hollansworth was caught up in Salazar's crash, and was out of the race. "We kind of dodged an earlier bullet with the Cheever crash. But we couldn't dodge this one. I just had nowhere to go."

After a lengthy cleanup, racing resumed on lap 89, with Dismore in command and Ray in close pursuit. A.J. Foyt teammates Kenny Brack and Billy Boat were soon in third and fourth place, followed by Gregoire, Unser, Schmidt and Calkins.

The green stayed out for the next 60 laps, the longest green run of the day. Pit stops put the original leaders out of sequence with several other cars. During this stretch, 1999 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Robby McGehee had a moment of glory as he led 17 laps.

The green run was interrupted on lap 147 when a stalled car required a tow-in. Pit stops under yellow restored most of the original serial, with Stephan Gregoire, who did not pit, in the lead, long-term leader Mark Dismore in fourth, and Greg Ray behind him in fifth.

On the lap 160 restart, Greg Ray, not satisfied with fifth place, made his bold move of the day, carving his way into second place on the first green lap. Speaking of that move, Ray said "As far as I'm concerned, getting around Dismore was the pass of the race."

Traffic soon became a factor - and the subject of controversy. Gregoire stretched out a lead while Ray, Dismore and Schmidt were slowed by lapped traffic. Gregoire's advantage ended when he caught, but could not get around, Scott Harrington, the last car on the lead lap. In a few laps Ray, Dismore and Schmidt caught up to Gregoire, with the four leaders and the almost-lapped Harrington forming a NASCAR-like draft.

On lap 174, IRL displayed the blue flag to Harrington, advising him that the leaders were behind. A lap later Ray passed Harrington, putting him one lap down. Gregoire, who had been unable to deal with the now-lapped Harrington when running alone behind him, could do even less in the draft. Two laps later Sam Schmidt passed both Gregoire and Harrington, setting his sights on Ray.

Sam's run for the lead was soon spoiled by mechanical trouble. "We lost the left front wing flap, so I lost my front downforce. We had a heck of a car. I think if it held together, we might have had a chance." Schmidt hung on for a fifth place finish.

Meanwhile, Dismore, who had led 91 laps and still had the fastest car on the track, remained bottled up behind the lapped Harrington and third place Gregoire. On lap 190, Mark thought he saw his chance, and went under Stephan in turn 4. Side by side as they exited the turn, they ran out of racing room and touched wheels. Both cars slid to the inside wall, drivers unhurt but done for the day. Dismore was philosophical about the incident. "I had the best car out there today. But this track is extremely hard to pass on. Unfortunately, going for the win, we got caught up in a racing accident."

Gregoire was less philosophical, blaming Harrington for his woes.  "Scott
Harrington was right in front of me.  He was trying not to get lapped.  
He blocked me, and I lost a lot of places.  Harrington was shown the blue
flag, lap after lap, to let the leaders through.  And he didn't take any
notice of it.  He should have been black flagged."

As the field lined up for the final restart with three to go, Buddy Lazier and Kenny Brack occupied second and third place, separated from leader Ray by Harrington. The potential for continuing controversy evaporated when Harrington missed a shift on the restart, with Lazier and Brack getting by. Lazier later praised Harrington's handling of the situation. "I've got to say he did a great job. He was trying to get out of our way and let the three of us race for the victory. He missed a gear big time, but the reason he did that was he was really trying to rush in to let us race for the lead."

The final three laps rolled off smoothly, Ray holding the lead and followed home by Lazier, Brack, Billy Boat, and Sam Schmidt, all on the lead lap.

Ray was delighted with his win, which he thought was overdue. "We should have had more wins earlier in the season. But we won the two toughest races of the year. It is called the 'Monster Mile', but it's fun. We stayed with our strategy the whole time." His bold move past Dismore and others on the lap 160 restart was also part of his plan. "It was the first time I had to deal with a lot of traffic. Everyone swung high with cold tires, and we ran a low line like we've been doing in practice all week. Dismore was definitely the guy to beat. Passing him was the biggest point of the race for me."

Ray's victory left him in second place in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Championship, two points behind leader Scott Goodyear. He is looking forward to continuing the championship battle at Pikes Peak later this month.

Final Results (Official)

Pos Driver                 Laps     Status
 1. Greg Ray                200     running
 2. Buddy Lazier            200     running
 3. Kenny Brack             200     running
 4. Billy Boat              200     running
 5. Sam Schmidt             200     running
 6. Scott Harrington        199     running
 7. Jacques Lazier          199     running
 8. Buzz Calkins            199     running
 9. Robby McGehee           198     running
10. Donnie Beechler         198     running
11. Tyce Carlson            198     running
12. Robby Unser             197     running
13. Jeff Ward               195     running
14. Stephan Gregoire        189     accident
15. Mark Dismore            189     accident
16. Jimmy Kite              144     brakes
17. Scott Goodyear          143     timing chain
18. Eliseo Salazar           69     accident
19. John Hollansworth Jr.    69     accident
20. Ronnie Johncox           66     engine
21. Eddie Cheever Jr.        56     accident
22. Scott Sharp              35     accident
23. Davey Hamilton           12     engine

Time of race: 1:45:01.503 Average speed: 114.258 mph Margin of victory: 0.731 sec Fastest Lap: Mark Dismore (lap 116, 182.325 mph, 19.745 sec) Cautions: 5, for 56 laps

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Robby McGehee , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Jaques Lazier  , Jimmy Kite , Donnie Beechler , Kenny Brack , Sam Schmidt , Tyce Carlson , Scott Harrington , Ronnie Johncox , Robby Unser , A.J. Foyt