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IROC: Indy Racing standouts eager for IROC finale on 'Home Turf'

2 August 2000

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
INDIANAPOLIS- Eddie Cheever Jr., Greg Ray and Mark Dismore will return to familiar territory as representatives of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series in the True Value International Race of Champions Series season finale Aug. 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The trio will race against nine of NASCARs finest drivers at 2:45 p.m. (EST) on Aug. 4, the day before the seventh annual Brickyard 400. Cheever, who is second in Northern Light Series points, won the last IROC race on June 10 at Michigan International Speedway. He sits fifth in IROC standings, trailing leader and defending IROC champion Dale Earnhardt by 19 points.

No other IROC driver has more experience than Cheever at the famed 2.5-mile oval, as he competed in the Indianapolis 500 for the 11th time in May and finished third in the 1999 IROC at Indy race.

"I think having done a lot of laps there definitely doesnt hurt," said Cheever. "The more you learn at Indy, the more you learn to understand the conditions and how they apply with the way your car is handling."

The first three IROC races this season took place at Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Michigan Speedway. The Northern Light Series doesnt compete at these tracks.

Cheevers full season of IROC experience in 1999 is an advantage, said Dismore, who joins Ray as rookies in the four-race, all-star series contested by 12 elite drivers in identically prepared Pontiac Firebird Trans Am stock cars.

"Eddie ran last year, and Im sure going into the year 2000 IROC series he had expectations of what to expect," said Dismore. "I went into this deal, like Greg, and had no idea what to expect.

"Every race we run, you learn a lot and take away something with you from that race. Im going to Indy with expectations of having a good race, and for me a good race would be a top-five finish."

Dismore is a five-year veteran of the Indianapolis 500 but is still learning the nuances of IROC racing at Indy. This week he is testing the cars to learn as much as he can.

"I did 25 laps yesterday," said Dismore. "Im waiting for it to get hotter out, because I want the conditions to be worse. In the morning, when the tracks not bad, its easy, and I know that (track conditions Friday afternoon) isnt going to be that way."

Although he enjoys racing IROC cars, Cheever, who also competed in 132 Formula One races, prefers Indy Racing machines.

"I get more satisfaction from driving open-wheel cars because Ive done that my whole career," said Cheever. "I like them because they are very technical, and you can tinker with them. You are always looking for that perfect lap. Driving an Indy car around Indy is like trying to thread a needle in a windstorm.

"Racing in an IROC car is a little bit more fun because you can make mistakes. You can get very close to the car in front of you; you can actually bump them. In our cars, you want to give everyone at least 2 feet. In an Indy car if you touch with somebody, you can be guaranteed of one thing: You are going to hit the wall. The question mark is how hard."

Competing in IROC this season has given all three Indy Racing drivers the opportunity to get a better feel for stock car racing.

"I can sit down and watch a stock car race and have a little more of an understanding about whats going on instead of just guessing about it," said Dismore. "It does help me understand what they are doing on Sundays."

Dismore also wouldnt mind seeing the tables turned.

"If they would come and sit in one of our cars and go run with 10 or 12 of us in a group, then that would open their eyes to what we are experiencing and the level of difficulty we deal with.

"Itd be awesome to get some of the stock car regulars in one of our cars in a controlled situation. Itd be neat to get a Dale Jarrett or an Earnhardt, guys that are only stock car drivers, in our cars to experience what were going through."

While aerodynamic drafting is a big part of stock car racing, it can be disruptive in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series.

"When you get up behind a car with our cars, its like being in a thunderstorm in an airplane," said Dismore. "You get shook around and moved left to right, and the instability goes right off the meter. With a stock car you can run it right up all the way until you touch. You lose a little bit of downforce, but its not really a big issue. But with our cars its a huge issue."

There is an even greater difference for Cheever. He also has the added burden of owning his Team Cheever Indy Racing Northern Light Series team. The talented IROC mechanical team led by Jay Signore prepares all the cars equally, allowing the competitors to simply jump in and drive.

"I enjoy it thoroughly," said Cheever. "I dont own the car. If it crashes, I dont have to pay the bill."

Text provided by Paul Kelly

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.