Race: MBNA Mid-America 200

Track: Dover Downs International Speedway

Date: Sunday, August 1, 1999

Start time: 12:37 PM EDT

Weather: Very hot, sunny

IRL historical: #7 of 10 in 1999 season, IRL race #31 overall

Track historical: IRL race #2, Indy car race #3 at this track

Track configuration: 1-mile oval, high banked, concrete surface

Wing package: short track


Greg Ray managed to avoid the bite of the Monster Mile and post his second IRL victory, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the track's part. Since the 1998 event the Dover Downs management had done considerable work on grinding the bumps, but a concrete track is very difficult to smooth and the track was still bumpy compared to most IRL venues. Notice was served when Ray during practice lost his rear wing while running full speed down the front stretch; miraculously he managed to spin and catch the car on the banking without hitting anything. Mark Dismore was the big dog in practice and on qualifying day he used a very unconventional groove to post his second IRL pole, running right at the edge of the apron all the way around the track. He just beat out teammate Scott Sharp to make an all-Kelley front row. Speeds were considerably reduced from the previous year despite the smoother track. For the first time since 1997, an IRL race lacked a Riley & Scott chassis entry as Brant Motorsports had decided to suspend their operations after Atlanta.

At the start of the race, Sharp got the jump on his teammate and sped into the lead. Dismore quickly closed back up, but without any cautions in the early part of the race, they were quickly entering lapped traffic on the fast short track, and Sharp used lapped traffic to hold the lead. Davey Hamilton had a disappointing day; he was fast at the beginning of the race but retired after only 12 laps with engine failure. Stephan Gregoire was fast and had moved up to 6th when Sharp blew a right rear tire in turn 4 on lap 35 and backed into the wall. During the caution Dismore got a quick pit stop and came back out in the lead followed by Ray, Scott Goodyear, and Kenny Brack. Cheever emerged in 9th despite entering the pits with a flat tire. Gregoire was black-flagged for a fluid leak, but when no leak was found, the IRL officials restored him to his sixth-place position.

At the green Dismore got a big jump on Ray and gained a .75-second lead. This would be a story all day as Ray evidently was not geared right and could not get a good jump on a restart. Dismore built up his lead and looked to be the class of the field. A surprise was that, after the first few laps, the track proved to be a one-groove racetrack, a rarity in IRL racing. On lap 57 Cheever tried to pass Robby Unser on the outside but got into the marbles and lost speed. He got a tap from John Hollansworth and slid up into the wall. Cheever was out; Hollansworth was able to continue after pitting for a new nose, which was done without losing a lap. During the caution Jeff Ward stalled on the back stretch with an ignition problem and had to be towed in.

When the green flew on lap 65, the skies had clouded over and the track conditions were changing rapidly. Only a few laps of green were run before Eliseo Salazar repeated the nightmare that Ray had suffered in practice: his rear wing collapsed as he ran turn 2. Salazar wasn't as fortunate as Ray had been; he slid up and hit the wall hard, briefly getting the car on its side, then shot back down the bank and collected the luckless Hollansworth. Neither driver was hurt but Salazar expressed his extreme displeasure with the track conditions.

During the caution, Goodyear had to make several pit stops for electronics adjustments. The engine's rev limiter was inexplicably cutting in short of the 10,000 RPM limit imposed by the IRL. During the caution the top-10 was Dismore, Ray, Brack, Gregoire, Sam Schmidt, Scott Harrington, Billy Boat, Buddy Lazier (up to 8th from 17th starting position), Robby Unser, and Robby McGehee. However, Lazier, McGehee and Harrington made late pit stops, perhaps contemplating a fuel economy run. Green showed on lap 89 and again Dismore ran off from Ray at the start.

At the halfway mark Dismore led Ray, Brack, Boat, Gregoire, and Unser. Buzz Calkins, Donnie Beechler, and Jimmy Kite had also moved into the top 10. Dismore was still the car to beat, and he had a 1.5-second lead by lap 115. At this point some cars who had not stopped during the caution saw the error of their ways as they had to pit under green. This included the leader Dismore, as well as Ray, Gregoire, Brack, and Boat. Robby Unser who ran out of fuel in turn 4 and had to coast it in, costing him time he would not be able to make up. The lead passed from hand to hand until McGehee, who had taken advantage of the caution, found himself on the point on lap 129. At this point the lead lap consisted of cars who had pitted during the caution, those being McGehee, Buddy Lazier, Kite, Goodyear (still struggling with engine gremlins), Jacques Lazier, Harrington, and Tyce Carlson. Dismore, Ray, and brack ran in positions 8-10, one lap down. Goodyear, however, was soon to discover the source of his problems in an unfortunate way: on lap 144 his engine shut off and he coasted in with what proved to be a terminal problem, a broken timing chain. Kite's race also saw an unhappy end; on lap 147 a caution had to be thrown after his rear brakes inexplicably locked up solid and he skidded to a halt on the back stretch. The caution came one lap too late for McGehee, who had run out of fuel in turn 1 and lost a lap coasting back to the pits. B. Lazier and Harrington pitted just before the yellow, so when McGehee finally made it to his pit box one lap after the caution flew, the lead had cycled back to Dismore. (McGehee stated later that his radio had failed and that he had forgotten to push his fuel reset button on his last stop, so he had no way of knowing how much fuel he had left.)

During the caution, most of the leaders pitted, but Gregoire stayed out and inherited the lead. His team was setting up for a 78-lap fuel economy run, which looked possible at the rate that caution laps were accumulating. The green at lap 160 saw Gregoire leading Schmidt, B. Lazier, Dismore, Ray, Brack, and Boat. Harrington had lost a lap stopping just before the caution, and was at the front of the pack on the tail end of the lead lap on the restart. Gregoire quickly caught him but Harrington fought to remain on the lead lap, and with the track conditions becoming iffy Gregoire couldn't afford to try a risky pass. Soon all of the lead cars stacked up behind Harrington. On lap 172 Dismore made a daring move to try to nail Ray and Gregoire on the outside down the front stretch, but he slid into the marbles in turn 1 and had to back way out. This created an opening on the inside for Ray, who passed Gregore and then shot past Harrington with his left wheels on the apron two laps later. Once clear of the lapped car, Ray took off while the other leaders still struggled with Harrington. Schmidt took second on lap 176, but Dismore's car was pushing and he couldn't do anything with Gregoire. Time after time Dismore got under Gregoire entering a turn, only to have to back out and have the talented French driver chop down on him and retake the position. Meanwhile, Schmidt suddenly backed off with a cracked left front wing; part of it broke off and crippled his handling, forcing him to slow.

Dismore's frustration was building and on lap 190, as the two cars exited turn 4, Dismore tried to dive under Gregoire and beat him off the corner. It didn't work; they touched wheels and collided, spinning and hitting the inside wall on the front stretch. With ten laps left Buddy Lazier assumed second followed by the Foyt tandem of Brack and Boat, and the limping Schmidt. The race restarted with only three laps remaining; Ray got his best restart all day and opened up a .75-second lead over Lazier which he maintained to the finish for his second IRL victory.

The race marked the entry of Greg Ray to another level of IRL racing. Once regarded as talented but erratic and lacking good judgement, Ray drove a smooth race taking the chances that he needed to take but not doing anything wild, and he outlasted faster cars to take the victory. Buddy Lazier posted his best finish of the year to date, and his second consecutive 2nd-place at Dover. For Gregoire, who failed to qualify at Indy and had not been very competitive during most of the year, the race was a redemption even though he didn't finish; his 22 laps led was a career best. Three rookies finished in the top-10, with Harrington placing 6th, J. Lazier 7th, and McGehee 9th. Some drivers were unhappy with Harrington, and after the race there was a shoving match in the pits which resulted in Eddie Cheever and Robby Unser being fined; as Harrington was still on crutches due to his Pikes Peak crash the offenses were rather flagrant and there were no gripes about the fines. Buzz Calkins drove a conservative race to an 8th-place finish and an IRL record for the most consecutive races finished.

Fin St  Qual  Car  C/E/T    Driver            Entrant  Laps     Status  Laps Pts
        Spd    #                                                         Led
 1  3 181.068   2  D/A/F Greg Ray            Menard     200     Running   28  51
 2 17 177.699  91  D/A/G Buddy Lazier        Hemelgarn  200     Running       40
 3 14 178.474  14  D/A/G Kenny Brack         Foyt       200     Running       35
 4 16 178.191  11  D/A/G Billy Boat          Foyt       200     Running       32
 5  4 181.005  99  G/A/F Sam Schmidt         Treadway   200     Running    7  30
 6  5 180.415  66  D/A/F Scott Harrington    Harrington 199     Running    1  28
 7 22 176.826  33  G/A/G Jacques Lazier      Truscelli  199     Running       26
 8 12 178.784  12  G/A/F Buzz Calkins        Bradley    199     Running       24
 9 10 179.301  55  D/A/F Robby McGehee       Conti      198     Running   17  22
10 20 176.869  98  D/A/F Donnie Beechler     Cahill     198     Running       20
11 11 179.007  20  D/A/F Tyce Carlson        Blue-Immke 198     Running       19
12 13 178.580  81  D/A/F Robby Unser         Pelfrey    197     Running       18
13  7 180.189  21  D/A/G Jeff Ward           Pagan      195     Running       17
14  9 179.497   7  G/A/F Stephan Gregoire    Simon      189    Crash FS   22  16
15  1 182.639  28  D/A/G Mark Dismore        Kelley     189    Crash FS   91  20
16 15 178.288  30  G/A/F Jimmy Kite          McCormack  144      Brakes       14
17 18 177.532   4  G/A/G Scott Goodyear      Panther    143  Timing Ch.       13
18 21 176.861   6  G/A/F Eliseo Salazar      Nienhouse   69    Crash T2       12
19  6 180.316  42  D/A/F John Hollansworth   Xtreme      69    Crash T2       11
20 23 176.548  22  D/A/G Ronnie Johncox      Tristar     66      Engine       10
21 19 177.009  51  D/I/G Eddie Cheever       Cheever     56    Crash T2        9
22  2 182.417   8  D/A/G Scott Sharp         Kelley      35    Crash T4   34  10
23  8 179.919   9  D/A/G Davey Hamilton      Galles      12      Engine        7

Time of race: 01:45:02
Average speed: 114.258 MPH
Margin of victory: 0.731 sec

Laps under green: 149 of 200 laps (74.5%)
Caution flags: 7 for 51 laps (25.5%)
#1: lap 35, crash (Sharp), T4, 9 laps
#2: lap 57, crash (Cheever, Hollansworth), T2, 7 laps
#3: lap 71, crash (Hollansworth, Salazar), T2, 17 laps
#4: lap 147, stalled car (Kite), BS, 12 laps
#5: lap 190, crash (Dismore, Gregoire), FS, 6 laps

Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes

Lead changes: 7, number of race leaders: 7
St: Sharp 1-34
#1: Dismore 35-121
#2: Schmidt 122-128
#3: McGehee 129-145
#4: Harrington 146
#5: Dismore 147-150
#6: Gregoire 151-172
#7: Ray 173-200

C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 16 / 11.9
G-Force: 7 / 12.1
Aurora: 22 / 11.6
Infiniti: 1 / 21.0
Firestone: 12 / 10.8
Goodyear: 11 / 13.4