Talladega; Greg Ray and Mark Dismore ready for better results

TALLADEGA, Ala., Thursday, April 13, 2000 - Greg Ray got about 90 minutes of track time in preparation for Saturday's True Value International Race of Champions event at Talladega Superspeedway before the rains came Thursday morning and...

TALLADEGA, Ala., Thursday, April 13, 2000 - Greg Ray got about 90 minutes of track time in preparation for Saturday's True Value International Race of Champions event at Talladega Superspeedway before the rains came Thursday morning and chased everybody back into the garage area. "It was getting pretty wet out there," said Ray, the 1999 Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion. "We got some good practice before we had to stop." Ray and his Indy Racing counterparts Mark Dismore and Eddie Cheever Jr. need all the practice they can get because of the other IROC competitors - nine NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers who drive similar stock cars on a regular basis and know every little bump over Talladega's 2.66-mile, tri-oval course. "Yeah, we're fish out of water," said Ray, wiping raindrops off his face. "These NASCAR guys have so much more experience. Drafting is a living, breathing thing in NASCAR racing. Now that I have one full race under my belt, I've learned some of the techniques, but I still have a ways to go." Ray and Dismore are making their first appearance in this all-star series. Cheever competed in the 1999 IROC series. All three Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers got a huge dose of experience in the first round at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February. Ray finished "best in class" at Daytona when he wound up ninth at the checkered flag. Cheever was 11th and Dismore 12th in the 12-car, invitation-only field of racing stars. "Heck, I was running fourth with a few laps to go and got hung out to dry there at the end," said Ray, who wheels the #1 Conseco-Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone machine for Team Menard in Indy Racing competition. "Anything we can do to improve from last time would be pretty good." IROC pits the best drivers from different series in a four-race program. They all drive identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds. The starting order for the Talladega round is based on the inverted finish at Daytona, which means Dismore and Cheever will start from the front row. Ray is fourth on the grid. "I wish I were starting last," said Dismore. "I hope I learned something there (at Daytona), because I certainly don't want to repeat that result." Dismore, who started eighth, was running a strong third at Daytona when he suddenly ran into a wall of air, lost the infamous draft and was shuffled to the rear of the field. After his practice round Thursday, Ray said Talladega has a similar look and feel to Daytona. He had never seen the inside of the track until arriving Thursday. "I've seen it from the outside," said the 33-year-old driver. "From a cockpit standpoint, it's similar to Daytona in a lot of ways. It's big, fast and very smooth. The track surface has a lot of grip. This is exciting for me, because I've heard things about Talladega since I was a kid." The Winston Cup representatives in Saturday's race are: Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Rusty Wallace. Just how good is that group? Seven of those drivers have won NASCAR races this season. "A lot of these guys are very nice people," said Ray. "They're all real gentlemen. Jarrett, Martin and Gordon have all given me advice. Most of those guys walked up to me and made me feel right at home." The drivers are racing for points to earn cash awards at the end of the series. The IROC's season-ending purse is $760,000 with $225,000 going to the series champion. The 38-lap sprint race is scheduled for a 1 p.m. (EDT) start. ABC Sports will show a tape-delayed broadcast on Sunday at 5 p.m. (EDT). The next round is scheduled June 10 at Michigan Speedway. The final race of the season is Aug. 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is the third consecutive year that the IROC series finale will be staged at the famous 2.5-mile oval the day before the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Series event.

IRL/IMS

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Series IROC
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Mark Dismore , Mark Martin