LOUDON, N.H. (AP) - The nervousness is gone, the gremlins have been exorcised and now the Tom Kelley Racing team must decide whether a new chassis is ready for competition in Sunday's IRL Pennzoil 200.
Mark Dismore will be behind the wheel Friday for the first day of practice at the New Hampshire International Speedway, after only two days of testing Monday and Tuesday.
Chief design engineer Bill Riley of Riley & Scott Inc. admitted it was unusual nowadays to put a car on the track for the first time the same week as the race.
"It's like treating race weekend as a test," he said.
When Dismore climbed into the car Monday, "it was the first time it ever turned a wheel," Riley said. "I definitely had some butterflies in my stomach. It was scary and wonderful at the same time. We were mostly getting the gremlins out of the car Monday and Tuesday."
In 82 practice laps, the car managed a best lap of 154.265 mph, well below expectations in the 160s for Saturday's qualifying on the 1.058-mile oval.
But Riley said there still was some speed left in the car. Now comes the fine tuning, and that will determine whether Dismore will be in the new Mark V or stick with the team's Dallara.
Riley said the decision likely will be made Friday night.
The Riley & Scott chassis is only the third approved for use in the Indy Racing League, joining Dallara of Italy and G Force of Britain. The new chassis has larger, more rounded side pods and different nose and rear-end designs.
The car also has an American engine and chassis. The last all-American engine and car to win the Indianapolis 500 was in 1977 when A.J. Foyt won in a Coyote designed by Riley's father, Bob Riley.
Riley & Scott already has sold nine of the new cars and Bill Riley said the hope is to have 15 running at next May's Indy 500, though that depends on how fast the car goes now.
The Kelley team ordered three of the cars and hoped to run two in Sunday's race, but only one was ready, so the team's other driver, John Paul Jr., will stick with a Dallara. He hopes to be in the new car by the October race in Las Vegas.
"It looks aerodynamically more clean, so it can get through the air better," Paul said.
"I'm chomping at the bit to get my hands on one. It's always interesting to go down a new avenue."
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