IRL: Dover Smoothing Takes the Bite out of the Monster Mile

IRL: Dover Smoothing Takes the Bite out of the Monster Mile Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International - Dover, Delaware, July 30 - Twenty three Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers took to the track in the first pactice...

IRL: Dover Smoothing Takes the Bite out of the Monster Mile

Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International -

Dover, Delaware, July 30 - Twenty three Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers took to the track in the first pactice sessions for Sunday's MBNA Mid-Alantic 200 on the Monster Mile at Dover.

The Monster Mile underwent a declawing in preparation for this race, with pavement grinders smoothing out the worst of the Mile's bumps. The results were satisfying, with most drivers finding the smoother track to be fun.

Scott Goodyear, current point leader in the IRL Championship, was very pleased with the surface work. "What they've done is made it almost billiard table smooth. It used to be one of the roughest courses that we would go to." He attributed the progress, compared to last year's rough road, to experience on the part of the track and teams. "We had never been here before, so single seater cars never had the opportunity to point out what we needed for our type of cars."

Goodyear had today's fastest practice time, 19.746 seconds, 182.315 mph.

1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever was also pleased. "Now I can't really complain about the bumps because there aren't any. They've done a very good job of smoothing it out." Cheever also spoke well of efforts by the track owners. "They're making the facility better for everybody, not just for us."

Cheever was second fastest in today's practice, at 19.773 sconds, 182.066 mph.

Scott Sharp, winner of last year's Dover race, concentrated on car setup rather than track quality. "It's better in the corners, but with the seams in the concrete it's never going to be smooth." On his car, he said "The car ought to roll off the truck pretty quick, and it did this morning. We're flat out all the way around. There's not a lot of changes you can make to the car to make big improvements. We're all just sort of massaging on it, trying to make it a little more comfortable to drive or a little bit quicker."

Sharp was third fastest in today's sessions, at 19.777 seconds, 182.030 mph.

1997 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier was lavish in his praise of the improved track. "It's awesome. It's so smooth. It's still a rough place for an Indy car, but it's really great. You can tell they put a lot of effort into it. They did really a great job. It's faster it's going to allow us to run 2 or three abreast. I know they've really worked on it and I can tell you it really paid off."

Drivers new to Dover arrived expecting the worst. "I had just heard the stories and I was pretty terrified," said Jimmy Kite, a man not easily scared. "It's a pretty smooth track. The apron is the roughest part - just getting onto the race track. I'm looking forward to running some more and running that race on Sunday. It's definitely one of the most fun tracks we run." Jimmy said that Dover reminded him the old Atlanta quarter midget track he used to run. "Only on steroids."

Scott Harrington had a very short day at Dover last year.  "Last year I
did only one lap, so it was pretty intimidating.  This is the one I've
been questioning in my mind about coming back."  Fast from the start, he
was delighted with the smoothed Dover and his team.  "I'm ecstatic about
the way CertainTeed put the car together today.  Even out of the box we
can go that quick.  I think Dover is awesome.  The place is great."

Not all of the drivers admitted to being impressed with the smoother ride. Jeff Ward, seven-time AMA Motocross Champion, said "I didn't mind the bumps last year. I thought it was great. Maybe it was my motocross background, but it really didn't affect me. Plus I had a great setup on my car to compensate for the bumps." He did, however, feel that the cars would benefit. "It just makes it better for the cars, for them to last the whole race, because it beats them up quite a bit. Those bumps were pretty big."

Drivers are expecting the smoother track to pay off with multiple grooves in Sunday's race.

Sam Schmidt felt there would definitely be two lines. "As long as people are a little courteous coming off the corner, I think you can run two wide all the way around this thing. People have to know you're there. You really don't have big long corners for you to get up even with somone on the outside. If their spotter tells them you're there it should be pretty good." Sam discounted the idea that he would need a good relationship with his spotter, but "hopefully the biggest relationship is everybody else's spotter with their drivers."

Jimmy Kite also expected two lines. "The problem," he said, "is the field is so close. Everybody here is wide open. It's so easy to run wide open around this track that it makes it difficult to pass. The only way to pass somebody is to come under someone...unless they lift. When you go around them you have to go a long way around, and you can't really do it. During the race, when you've got full tanks, people will be lifting, trying to save tires. You'll definitely have two lines. You could run two, three wide here if you had to. There is plenty of room out there."

Buddy Lazier is looking forward to a hard, competitive race with lots of wheel-to-wheel action. "You know, we run hard. We have a lot of great race drivers. I don't know anybody here who doesn't really want to win. And when you run that hard things are going to happen every once in a while, and that's just part of racing. I think you're going to see an extremely exciting race. I don't think you're going to know who'll win the race until the last 5 or 6 laps. This year the Indy Racing League has been so competitive and so exciting. As a driver I'll be sitting up in a draft. If I'm leading I'm worried because the four guys behind me are going to get me on that last lap or two laps before the last lap. I think it'll be a real exciting race to watch and we're not going to know who's going to win until the last lap."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Jimmy Kite , Sam Schmidt , Scott Harrington