IRL: Team owner Kelley taking care of business

HAMPTON, Ga., Monday, July 10, 2000 -- With Kelley Racing drivers Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore sitting third and fifth, respectively, in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series point standings, one might think that team owner Tom Kelley will be ...

HAMPTON, Ga., Monday, July 10, 2000 -- With Kelley Racing drivers Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore sitting third and fifth, respectively, in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series point standings, one might think that team owner Tom Kelley will be focused solely on racing during the Midas 500 Classic race July 15 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

But the off-track action will be just as important to Kelley because of a unique "Sponsor Summit" that will take place July 12 in Atlanta, bringing together the sponsors of both Kelley Racing cars.

"We'll bring in all our sponsors, play some golf and see how we can learn from each other," said Kelley, who co-owns Kelley Racing with his father, Jim. "We want to see how we can promote our sponsors and the Indy Racing Northern Light Series better."

Kelley, who owns 14 car dealerships in Indiana and Georgia, would also like to see sponsors help each other out and work together.

"We want some of our veteran sponsors like Delphi to help some of our newer sponsors get the most out of this as they can," Kelley said. "Also, we want to give some business opportunities to our sponsors to work with each other. If this happens, the sponsor is likely to stay in longer because they have ties to other sponsors."

And the location of the Midas 500 Classic - at Atlanta Motor Speedway - is important for Kelley, who owns five car dealerships in the city.

"Having the race there helps with our employees because we can get them out to the track," said Kelley, who bought his first dealership in Atlanta in the 1980s and now has more than 500 employees in the city.

Even with all the off-track activity, Kelley still keeps close tabs on the chase for the Northern Light Cup. Sharp is third with 159 points in the Delphi Automotive Systems/MCI WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Dismore is fifth with 155 in the On Star/GM BuyPower Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. With two drivers in the top five, Kelley Racing is the most successful multi-car team in the series this season. The strong results are even more impressive considering that the team made its series debut in January 1998.

"I'm enthused about the three races left, and I think our team is psychologically ready, and we know we can win," Kelley said. "We just need some good finishes. The ultimate goal is to win the championship, and if we win some races along the way, that's great."

The championship run wasn't so smooth early in the season with Dismore and Sharp each having only one top-five finish through first four races. Kelley Racing left the Indianapolis 500 with Dismore a respectable sixth in points, while Sharp was back in 12th.

"At Indy, I took a much more active role in Sharp's car," said Kelley. "I think I've brought some stability to the team and helped them get focused." Stability and focus have helped Sharp jump to third in the points. He started the climb by first winning the Casino Magic 500 on June 11 at Texas in a last-lap duel with Robby McGehee and then finished third in the Radisson Indy 200 on June 18 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Dismore has been consistent with a sixth-place finish in Texas and a fourth-place showing in Pikes Peak.

Still, Kelley won't take credit for his team's recent strong showing. "I'm not saying I'm the reason we've had some success," said Kelley, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind. "We've had some good luck. You can put yourself in a position to win, but if Mother Luck is not on your side, there isn't much you can do."

Helping his team get a chance to win is exactly what Kelley wants to do in Atlanta.

"Places like Texas and Atlanta, it's like a baby (Indianapolis) 500." Kelley said. "You don't win it in the first 50 laps. You put yourself in a position to win, and if you don't win you want a strong finish."

Even with the pressure to remain a Northern Light Cup contender and with all of the off-track activity in Atlanta this week, Kelley will still have a good time.

"I'm going to play some golf this week, and I want to really enjoy it," said Kelley, a member of Indiana University's golf team that won the Big Ten Conference title in 1974. "It's a business I enjoy, and I think when you do something you enjoy, eventually, sub-consciously, you work harder at it." That hard work and enjoyment that earned Kelley a championship 26 years ago with the Hoosiers may lead to another title -- this time in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series.

MIDAS 500 CLASSIC NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Midas 500 Classic starts at 8 p.m. (EDT) July 15. MBNA Pole Qualifying starts at 7 p.m. July 14.

Practice sessions start at 6 and 8:15 p.m. July 13, and 4:45 and 10:15 p.m. July 14.

***

Sign here, please: An autograph session with Indy Racing Northern Light Series competitors will take place from 8:30-9:30 p.m. (EDT) July 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

*** On the air: The Midas 500 Classic will be televised live on ESPN at 8 p.m. (EDT) July 15. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) July 15 on ESPN2. ESPN2 will televise MBNA Pole qualifying at 8 p.m. (EDT) July 14. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) July 15, followed by the live race broadcast at 8 p.m. The area IRRN affiliate is WYAY-FM 106.7, Atlanta. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracing.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com, the world's leading Web broadcast site.

*** Practice on the Web: Live streaming video of practice sessions from the Midas 500 Classic will be available through a partnership with LiveOnTheNet.com at www.liveonthenet.com .

*** Tickets: Tickets for the Midas 500 Classic are available by calling Atlanta Motor Speedway (770) 946-4211 or through Ticketmaster Online at www.ticketmaster.com .

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Mark Dismore