IRL: Mark Dismore Indy 500 Preview

NEW TEAM GIVES DISMORE A CHANCE TO EXCEL AT INDY INDIANAPOLIS, May 7, 1998 - Entering the 82nd Indianapolis 500 this month, Mark Dismore knows that he finally has a chance to put 1991 into everyone's rear-view mirror forever. ...

NEW TEAM GIVES DISMORE A CHANCE TO EXCEL AT INDY

INDIANAPOLIS, May 7, 1998 - Entering the 82nd Indianapolis 500 this month, Mark Dismore knows that he finally has a chance to put 1991 into everyone's rear-view mirror forever.

Dismore comes to the Brickyard, located just miles from his Greenfield, Ind., home, at the top of his game. This year might be the best chance he's ever had to win the race of his dreams.

The chance for victory is sweet for Dismore, considering that he was involved in a serious accident at the Speedway while practicing for the 1991 Indianapolis 500. Dismore dreamed of this opportunity throughout his long recovery, throughout his successful return to the Toyota Atlantic series in 1992 and throughout his return to the top level of open-wheel oval racing, the Pep Boys Indy Racing League.

"I've had a lot of people say the place owes me and all that, but I don't feel like any racetrack owes anybody anything," Dismore said. "I feel like sometimes if anything owes me, I owe it to myself to go back there hopefully more than two or three times. I hope to get to go another 10 times after this.

"I need to just go back and do the best that I can do. Unfortunately, it's not a movie; you can't write a script with a fairy tale ending."

If it were a script, Tom Kelley would be the protagonist. Kelley, who helped get Dismore a ride last year for the 500, formed a two-car team last fall. He hired Dismore and Scott Sharp to drive, and put together a crack staff, including team manager David Cripps and Dismore's engineer, Chris Cox. The team found serious funding, and, surprising everyone in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, was hot out of the box at the season opener in Orlando, with Dismore challenging Tony Stewart before his car ran out of fuel late in the race.

After Sharp won the second race at Phoenix, Kelley Racing became a serious contender for the Indy 500. That made a serious contender of Dismore, 41, who bounced from one marginal ride to another at Indy before he drove for Team Menard in 1996.

"Unfortunately, I was just never able to hook up with somebody who had the resources to do it right," Dismore said of his past rides at the Speedway. "It's no fault of their own; you know how tough of a business this is. A lot of the teams in the past that I'd been affiliated with had all of the best intentions. When I was trying to put deals together, it seemed like I was always one handshake away from the deal happening. It never materialized.

"With Tom, everything the guy ever told me came true. There's never been any hoping that something happens and then it doesn't. With Tom, he'll tell you A-B-C, and the bottom line is that's what comes about. Obviously, he's a businessman first and a team owner second. There are very few people who have ever made money in auto racing, but he was able to expand it.

"Tom is like a lot of the people who are successful in auto racing, like (Roger) Penske and Rick Hendrick. First and foremost, they're businessmen, and second, they have a love for auto racing."

During the Open Test April 16-17 at the Speedway, Dismore put away 430 miles, easily the most seat time he's had before the month of May.

"It was the first time in my life that I really ever went there knowing that I had my own car and my own group of guys," he said. "I could actually go out wholeheartedly, all of us putting a concerted effort into really testing and trying to change things about the car and come up with a race car that we knew we could go into the race with and have a shot at the deal. That was really cool.

"With the other teams I was with, there were people who had a friend who had a little bit of money, and they got involved with the guy who had the dream in auto racing. It was never able to fund itself the way it needed to be funded. There was always enough there to start the engine, but there was never enough there to do all of the other things that it takes to do it right."

Dismore's car has potential, with a bit more work, to start up front. What Dismore and engineer Cox are more concerned with, though, is how the car performs in the race.

"I feel like we've got the car to where we have got a really good race car," he said. "I didn't have a car that could go out and do four flyers with to get on the pole or anything, but I've got a car right now that I feel confident that I can go into the race and race hard all day. That's with a full tank and an empty tank and in the middle.

"That's what we're there for, is to try to win the race. I'd love to be on the front row, and more yet, I'd love to be on the pole, but we need to do some more work to make that happen."

The victory by Sharp at Phoenix boosted the entire team and provided the momentum for Indianapolis, Dismore said.

"Having good success at Phoenix was good for the whole team," he said. "Everybody's really pumped up and looking forward to going to Indianapolis. With my car coming out of there and handling well and Scott's car coming out of there able to do some flyers is good for everybody. We know we've got good packages. Now we just need to go back and, first and foremost, prepare for the race and, secondarily, prepare for qualifying."

When Kelley, a Fort Wayne, Ind., auto dealer who had dabbled in Indy-style racing, hastily put together a Pep Boys IRL team before the start of the season, success wasn't expected. He hired Cripps, whose background in Formula One and CART gave the team instant credibility. He landed Delphi, Learjet, Valvoline, Futaba and AMD as sponsors, and hired Dismore and Sharp.

People began to realize that the team would be strong; they just didn't know how long it would take. Both cars were fast in testing at Orlando, with Sharp setting an unofficial track record. The questions had been answered.

"It was (successful right away), and that's a credit to everybody on the team," Dismore said. "It's not one guy; it's a team. Everybody deserves a lot of credit, each of them in their respective jobs. David Cripps is a really, really smart guy. He's got a huge amount of experience, and he's been fairly diversified. He's been involved in Formula One and CART cars and now IRL cars.

"He's obviously got a good head on his shoulders and a good feel for what a race car likes. Chris Cox can always go to the well, the well being David, and bounce things off of him. If we have a problem, he can discuss it with David. The information flows really freely."

The two cars -- like the two crews -- are entirely equal, Dismore said. It's not as if he's driving the secondary car, a misperception he often has to correct.

"It is a team," he said. "It's not like it's the 8 car (Sharp) and the 28 car (Dismore). There are both cars, and it's Kelley Racing team. That's one thing that's really important is that we remain a team. Obviously, there's always going to be competition among drivers and crews, and that's good as long as it's healthy and no one ever develops an invisible wall there. I don't ever see that happening. I was at the shop today, and the guys are just great guys.

"Everybody gets along and intermingles. Everyone's always trying to help the other side do better or whatever they can do to make the team stronger as a whole, and that's really the key to this deal lasting for the long haul."

The long haul, it seems, could include Dismore's face on the Borg-Warner Trophy.

"Hopefully it'll come pretty soon, and it'll come more than once," he said. "I don't see this team doing anything but getting stronger and stronger and stronger, literally race to race."

The timing couldn't be better.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Chris Cox