It wasn't surprising when Mark Dismore fell far short of the year-old qualifying record at Dover Downs International Speedway.

But, it was downright shocking when he went so much faster than virtually all the other Indy Racing League cars in qualifying yesterday in Dover, Del., for the MBNA Mid-Atlantic 200. It was a very hot lap on perhaps the hottest racing day--when the thermometer topped out at 97 degrees--in three decades at Dover.

"I couldn't have asked for a better lap," Dismore said after putting put his Aurora-powered Dallara on the inside of the front row for today's race with a lap at 182.639 mph. "Sometimes, you don't know how the heat will affect your car."

But it certainly wasn't an impediment, even though Dismore fell short of the 185.204 mark former series champion and now NASCAR rookie sensation Tony Stewart posted last year to win the pole for the inaugural IRL race at Dover. Because the cars turn 500 fewer rpms than last year, no one believed the record was in jeopardy.

"Heat has an impact, but not much until you stop," said Dismore, a 42-year-old driver from Greenfield, Ind., who knows the century mark might be approached again today.

It was the second career pole for Dismore, who also had the point for the Longhorn 500 in June at Texas Motor Speedway.

When he looks to the right today, he'll see the same car he saw in Texas--that of Kelley Racing teammate Scott Sharp, the defending Dover champion. Dismore, still seeking his first career victory, wound up eighth to Scott Goodyear in Texas, two spots ahead of Sharp.

* NASCAR BUSCH SERIES: Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed he's the real deal, winning the Carquest 250 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

The 24-year-old son of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt made it two in a row on Gateway's tricky oval by taking care of his tires late in the race while managing to hold off a charge by second-place finisher Randy LaJoie.

"I was almost going to be a little too conservative, and I was afraid of that," Earnhardt said. "I knew he was coming, and I didn't know if we had the stuff to hold him off."

* FORMULA ONE: Who could prevent pole sitter Mika Hakkinen from winning today's German Grand Prix in Hockenheim with his Ferrari?

Try Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the German whose Jordan nearly eclipsed Hakkinen's McLaren-Mercedes in yesterday's qualifying and ended up being only .050 seconds slower. It was the eighth time in 10 races this season that Hakkinen has led qualifiers. He won the German Grand Prix last year.