FRONT-ROW START VITAL TO HAMILTON, NIENHOUSE TEAM DOVER, Del., July 18, 1998 - Rick Galles clicked his stopwatch on every lap, then nervously turned to the scoring monitor to check the official time. Driver Davey Hamilton alternately ...
FRONT-ROW START VITAL TO HAMILTON, NIENHOUSE TEAM
DOVER, Del., July 18, 1998 - Rick Galles clicked his stopwatch on every lap, then nervously turned to the scoring monitor to check the official time. Driver Davey Hamilton alternately talked to his crew, looked at the monitor and paced back and forth.
There was no drama Saturday about who would capture the pole for the Pep Boys 400K on Sunday at Dover Downs International Speedway. That ended less than a minute after qualifications began when the first driver on the track, Tony Stewart, turned a record-blasting, 185.204-mph lap in his Glidden-Menards Special G Force/Aurora/Firestone, circling the 1-mile concrete oval in 19.438 seconds.
Second place then became vital, since it provided the other front-row starting position. "This is the one where you want to start up front," said Galles, general manager for Nienhouse Racing, about the high-banked "Monster Mile" at Dover.
Hamilton was second out in the qualifying order and clocked a solid 19.728-second lap and speed of 182.482 mph in his Reebok-Nienhouse Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. The rest of the field then took shots at Hamilton's time, as Stewart's appeared to be from another planet.
So Galles, Hamilton and the crew gathered at the pit exit and checked the time of every lap of the next 18 cars. One by one, the drivers shoved their right foot to the throttle and took aim at Hamilton. And after each circuit of the high-banked track, Galles clicked his stopwatch, glanced at its unofficial time and then turned his eyes on the monitor to be certain he had not been deceived.
Hamilton's car No. 6 stayed in second as drivers like Mark Dismore, Scott Sharp and Scott Goodyear fired and fell back. Dismore, the Greenfield, Ind., veteran, came closest with a 19.744 clocking, just 16-thousandths of a second slower.
"He's tough," said Hamilton about Stewart, who beat him out of the 1996-97 Pep Boys IRL championship by a mere six points. "He's got a good team, but he's good." Then Hamilton glanced at the monitor to make sure he still was No. 2.
At the end of the qualifying line came the Indy 500 champions. 1996 winner Buddy Lazier tried and failed. Next, reigning Indy king Eddie Cheever took his shot and came up short. Finally, two-time Indy winner Arie Luyendyk sat at the end of the qualifying line. Ovals are his specialty, but not on this day. He was 10th.
Galles clicked his stopwatch for the last time, smiled, took a reassuring glance at the monitor and congratulated Hamilton. Second was theirs.
Now it was time to think about outracing Stewart on Sunday.
"We had the fastest car at Loudon (N.H.)," Galles said. "There's not that much difference between us."
Just then Stewart walked by. Galles extended his hand and said, "Good job."
"We were wide open today," Galles said. "That's the fastest we've run all weekend, and that's what we've been trying to do. Tony's a great driver, but so is Davey. He's getting better every race. He's working on his fitness and with his engineers. I think we've got a diamond in the rough."
Galles said team owner Bob Nienhouse is so committed to winning that he has purchased a new Dallara chassis for the next race, the VisionAire 500 on July 25 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Hamilton, who came from the same midget, sprint and dirt car ranks as Stewart, said he wasn't surprised at the speed put out by his rival.
"I feel positive for the race," he said. "I feel that with old tires or new tires I can run that speed."
Hamilton may be starting second, but first is his intention on race day. ***