SPARTA, Ky., Saturday, August 11, 2001 - Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore will start at the sharp end of the grid after sweeping the front row for tomorrow's Belterra Casino Indy 200 at Kentucky Speedway with Ilmor-prepared ...
SPARTA, Ky., Saturday, August 11, 2001 - Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore will start at the sharp end of the grid after sweeping the front row for tomorrow's Belterra Casino Indy 200 at Kentucky Speedway with Ilmor-prepared Oldsmobile engines. Sharp turned a fast lap of 214.598 mph on the 1.5-mile oval to win his third pole of the season in the Delphi Automotive Systems Oldsmobile Dallara. Dismore claimed the outside front row starting spot with a 213.648 mph run in his identical red-and-yellow Delphi Oldsmobile Dallara.
"We installed a new engine last night which ran really well today," said Sharp, who delivered Oldsmobile's 48th consecutive pole in IRL competition. "I was surprised by the speed. We just tweaked the setup, made a slight change in tire pressure and I worked on my line to make sure I did my job the best I could. It all came together, and I ran a lot faster than I thought I would.
IRL officials mandated a 12-degree minimum rear wing angle for this year's event, a change that produced both more downforce and more drag than last year's 6-degree wing angle. The steeper angle, combined with heavy, humid air, slowed qualifying speeds from last year's 219 mph pole pace.
"I was drafting in practice to run 214, and honestly felt I could run a mid-213 in qualifying," Sharp confided. "It's really a different track than we ran last year. No one knows exactly what to expect in tomorrow's race."
"I'm happy; that's the quickest we've gone, and if someone is going to be faster than me, I'm glad it's my teammate," said Dismore, who completed Kelley Racing's fourth front-row sweep. "I just hope that tomorrow the results flip-flop!
"Scott and I are on different setups," Dismore revealed. "It's personal preference. I'm going to change my car significantly for Sunday. We're gong to slow it down a little bit, but by the same token I'm going to add a ton of stability. I'm going to have a hell of a race car."
Oldsmobile engines powered 20 of the 22 qualifiers. Perennial polesitter Greg Ray will start Team Menard's Oldsmobile Dallara on the inside of the third row alongside Billy Boat in Curb Records' Oldsmobile Dallara. Ray qualified at 211.441 mph while Boat sailed to a 211.097 mph lap.
"We lost a little speed from where we had practiced and lost a little rpm, but so did everyone else," Boat explained. "That evened things up a little bit. We have a good, consistent race car.
"The race is going to be a little different with this wing package," Boat predicted. "The field is going to be very close together and you're going to have to be able to run the high groove if you want to pass."
IRL points leader Sam Hornish Jr. will start Panther Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara from the eighth starting spot. Last year's IRL race in Kentucky was a breakthrough for the 22-year-old driver who led 38 laps with the unheralded PDM Racing team. That performance ultimately earned the Panther Racing ride for Hornish.
"That was a turning point in my career, and I'll always love Kentucky Speedway for that," said Hornish, who qualified at 210.500 mph. "We're not quite where we want to be with our car right now. We missed the gear ratio a little bit and taped up the cooling ducts too much so the engine got a little hot. I was actually faster on my warm-up lap than my qualifying laps.
"The 12-degree wing puts a lot more strain on the motor," Hornish noted. "People who have a lot of horsepower really start to show it. It's going to be tough to beat Sharp, but Speedway Engines has had a great showing for us this year. They've given us very reliable Oldsmobile motors. We keep finding things as the year goes on. You don't have to win every race to win the championship, but it's a lot more fun that way."
Defending IRL champion Buddy Lazier won last year at Kentucky. This year he'll start Hemelgarn Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara on the inside of the sixth row after qualifying at 210.248 mph. Lazier won three of the last four races and trails Hornish by 40 points in the championship standings.
"We lost some speed from this morning's practice, and I think we have an idea why," Lazier reported. "You're never happy unless you're on the front row, but we have a very balanced car. I was running around flat-out, so that's about as fast as we could go today. We'll have to see what we've got for tomorrow.
"Handling is going to be key," Lazier added. "With the 12-degree rear wing, we're carrying more downforce so it's good in the corners, but there is a lot more drag on the straightaways and that's keeping the speeds down. When you have a big wing in the rear you have to make sure you balance it up front. I think we've done a good job on that so far. Getting the perfect compromise between downforce and straightaway speed is what it's going to be all about."
Sharp won his fifth career IRL pole today and was the only driver to top 214 mph in qualifying, but his focus is on Sunday's race. "I would trade it all for a good, strong run tomorrow," he declared.