NA-F2000: IRL: Dismore, son making their mark on track

PEP BOYS IRL STAR DISMORE, SON BOTH MAKING MARK IN RACING DOVER, Del., July 10, 1998 -- Ten-year-old Mark Emerson Dismore stepped into the intensive care section at Indianapolis' Methodist Hospital, looked at his injured father, Mark ...


DOVER, Del., July 10, 1998 -- Ten-year-old Mark Emerson Dismore stepped into the intensive care section at Indianapolis' Methodist Hospital, looked at his injured father, Mark Austin Dismore, and fainted.

This was in May 1991. The senior Dismore had literally destroyed a race car and nearly did the same to his body in a horrific crash into the end of the pit wall at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while practicing for the Indianapolis 500. He spent the entire summer recovering and learning to walk again.

Thankfully, both father and son recovered nicely from their frightening ordeals in 1991 and have built impressive racing careers of their own. The elder Dismore, driving for Kelley Racing, is preparing for the Pep Boys 400K Pep Boys Indy Racing League event July 19 at Dover Downs International Speedway. And son Mark II, or "Little Mark" as he's called by his buddies, is looking ahead to the SCCA National July 11-12 at Indianapolis Raceway Park as a competitor in the Formula 2000 series.

Mark II, now 17 and a May graduate of Eastern Hancock High School near his Greenfield, Ind., home, already displayed considerable talent during his young racing career.

On June 28, Mark II raced in a 5-year-old car at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. He qualified fifth among 40 entries and finished third in his first visit to that track. His father finished eighth in the New England 200 on the same day in the Kelley Automotive Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear.

The elder Dismore said he never encouraged his son to race. And he vividly remembers that hospital fainting episode.

"I think he was just a little kid then," he said. "I think it was one of those things where a kid that age doesn't think anything could happen to dad. He sees dad as a cornerstone to their life, and nothing could happen to dad. I think it was just a rude awakening."

When his father was hurt, Mark II was ambivalent toward racing. Since the family was one of the country's largest go-kart distributors and his father had won numerous kart championships, it was only natural that young Mark should be introduced to karting at an early age. He drove one around his yard when he was only 5. By the time he was 9, he was racing regularly.

Then he quit. His father said that was fine.

"He was just a little kid," his dad said. "He was still playing with G.I. Joe dolls and everything. He just wasn't into it. He wanted to do it, and we did it. He didn't want to do it, and we didn't do it."

Some 18 months later as the senior Mark's career progressed, Mark II "out of nowhere" told his dad he wanted to race again.

The father once more put him in a kart and noted that this time there was no wavering about wanting to be a race driver.

"He wanted to race, period," young Mark's father said.

        Young Mark is learning both the mechanical and driving sides of
the sport.  Dad has been there to help whenever he can. 

Mark II won a regional race at IRP. He attended his first SCCA National at the new Gateway International Raceway outside St. Louis, sat on the pole, had quickest lap of the race and snatched the lead with four laps to go for the victory. Dad took him to Mid-Ohio for the first time, and he qualified 18th in a 50-car field, raced to 11th and had seventh fastest race lap.

"It's not like I bought him the best stuff and gave him a full crew," said the elder Dismore, 41. "He's got dad going with him and, believe me, dad doesn't know much.

"He's done good. I rented a 1988 Reynard when he was 16 and took him to IRP. That was last year, and he qualified on the pole and got second in his first-ever race in a really antiquated car, so he's got natural ability. It's just a matter of getting out there and getting thousands of miles. That's what it takes, practice."

The senior Dismore admits it bothers him to watch his son on the racetrack. He says he'd hate to see anything happen to him but accepts that going racing is a decision his son has made. He feels the same about whatever choice his daughter Esteina makes in life.

"You can't protect them their whole life from everything, and there's no question racing's dangerous," he said. "But it's a choice he made, and he loves it. I hope he succeeds at it. I hope he has a lot more luck at it than I've had.

"Right now college is the racetracks. I'm going to do everything I can to make college a good experience, and hopefully he'll graduate from college and go on to do whatever he wants to do. He wants to drive race cars, but that's a hard nut to crack."

The senior Dismore talks from experience. He enjoyed considerable success on the way to Indy-style cars, winning in Formula Atlantic and competing in endurance cars at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring, and even driving midgets. But his best career IRL finish is fifth, and he ranks 14th in this year's point standings.

Dismore is doing all he can to advance his son's career, but when there is a conflict his racing still comes first.

"He's doing his deal and I'm doing mine," Dismore said.

"I'm still young at heart. I'm not an old guy yet. I've still got a few years left in me, and I want to focus on me. You've got to be semi-selfish in this deal to achieve your goals. And time for me is not near as long as it is for him, and right now I'm going to be plenty selfish for me."

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Series IndyCar , Other open wheel