IRL: Sharp earns Kentucky pole

By David Reininger - motorsport.com Sparta, Ky. (August 11, 2001) – Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore will start on the front row for Sunday’s Belterra Casino Indy 300 at the Kentucky Speedway. Sharp earned his third pole...

By David Reininger - motorsport.com

Sparta, Ky. (August 11, 2001) – Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore will start on the front row for Sunday’s Belterra Casino Indy 300 at the Kentucky Speedway. Sharp earned his third pole position this season, the fifth of his Indy racing career, after averaging 214.598 mph around the relatively flat 1.5-mile speedway.

“We stuck a new engine in last night which ran pretty well this morning and again right now,” said Sharp, who was second on Friday’s speed chart. “We didn’t really change the car that much, we just tweaked it, added a little here, added a little there, made a slight change in the tire pressures and it all came together a lot more faster than I thought it would.”

Sharp, who was fastest in this morning’s practice session with a lap at 214.379 mph, was surprised that he was able to match that speed in qualifying. “I was drafting in practice. I ran a 214.4 for two laps when I was following (Felipe) Giaffone around. I felt honestly I could run a mid to high 213 (mph). I was amazed at how fast we ran.”

This is the second time this season that both Kelley Racing cars have started on the front row. Dismore earned the pole at Texas in June with Sharp starting alongside. The positions will be reversed when they take the green flag at Kentucky.

“Overall, I’m happy,” said Dismore, whose car is powered by an Ilmor-prepared Oldsmobile engine. “I’m thrilled it’s an all Kelley front row. Hopefully, tomorrow we can keep it that way, only we can reverse the order.”

The all Kelley front row is flanked by an all Infiniti power second row with Eddie Cheever edging Robbie Buhl for the third starting spot.

“We made a mistake on the gearing this afternoon in qualifying,” said Cheever, who is still looking for Infiniti’s first pole. “We kept hovering between a gear that’s too short and a gear that’s too long. Once we get the gearing right, we’ll be okay.”

Both Infiniti drivers have a car capable of running with the lead pack all day. Now it’s a matter of staying out of trouble, running consistent laps until it’s time to make the final charge to the checkered flag.

“It’s a very long race,” said Cheever. “The Infiniti 35A engine has been particularly strong on these 1.5-mile ovals and it’s a very drivable engine in traffic. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

Greg Ray will start fifth tomorrow. Ray, who has started from the pole 14 times in his career, lost a half-shaft during this morning’s practice session. Just to be safe, his crew changed the right side suspension in the hour between practice and qualifying.

“We really got lucky not to total the race car,” said Ray. “We were very, very lucky not to have a huge crash because of that. We had to replace the whole right side suspension. You don’t really know what kind of damage that half-shaft did coming out the back.”

A two-hour window was scheduled between morning practice and qualifying but a blanket of thick fog shrouded the track when teams arrived this morning, causing practice to be delayed. Drivers sat waiting in their cars warming their engines when word came that the medical evacuation helicopter was still grounded in Lexington 45 miles away.

Practice got underway as soon as the helicopter lifted off and the full session was completed without incident.

The field takes the green flag at 12:30 EDT with live television coverage provided by ABC-TV.

Notes from the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway:

A fan brunch is scheduled from 10:00 a.m. until noon tomorrow featuring the drivers of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Fans will be admitted to the infield of the Kentucky Speedway for $10.00 to collect autographs from their favorite drivers during the brunch. Robbie McGehee will have a surprise for youngsters seeking his autograph, he will ask for their autograph. McGehee is a national spokesman for Think First, a non-profit group that stresses safety. McGehee will ask each young fan to sign a special poster, pledging that they will wear seat belts and bicycle helmets. McGehee will also give each child a Think First coloring book.

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Dave Darland, of Lincoln, Ind., won the USAC Midget feature held Friday night on the Kentucky Speedway short track. The race, which was delayed by rain, had an announced attendance of 10,774. Tracy Hines finished second followed by Dave Steele, A.J. Fike and Bobby East in fifth.

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Sam Schmidt Motorsports has acquired all the racing assets of Dick Simon Racing. The deal includes Simon’s two cars, a Dallara and G Force, as well as the transporter, pit equipment and hospitality equipment.

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When Rick Treadway takes the green flag in Sunday’s Indy Racing event he will become the one hundredth driver to compete in the series.

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As part of the Indy Racing League’s new “Take a Ride With Us” advertising campaign, a Heritage Motorsports Indy car will be on display at all of John Mellancamp’s concerts during his “Cuttin Heads” 2001 tour through September. The Heritage Motorsports car, driven by Jeff Ward, is now sporting a new red, white and blue Mellancamp-themed paint scheme to promote the rocker’s new album.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Rick Treadway , Sam Schmidt , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Bobby East , A.J. Fike