GREENFIELD — While Indiana has long been known as a hotbed for up-and-coming basketball talent, the Hoosier State’s reputation for producing race car drivers is equally exemplary.
For every Oscar Robertson, there’s a Jeff Gordon. For every Yogi Ferrell, a Ryan Newman.
With the help of Mark Dismore, any one of hundreds of youths could turn out to be the next…well, Mark Dismore.
Dismore, a Greenfield native, is most well-known for having raced in several Indianapolis 500s, including qualifying fourth in 2001, then leading the race before finishing 16th, and an Indy Racing League points finish of third in 1999.
The future stars of tomorrow, however, are just as appreciative of Dismore’s business acumen.
Comet Kart Sales in Greenfield, which Dismore’s dad, Emerson “Diz” Dismore, opened in 1959 — when Mark was three-years-old — and which Mark now operates with his wife and kids, is the go-to supplier for competitive and recreational go-kart racers here and abroad, shipping frames, engines and assorted racing gear to South Korea, Italy and a host of other countries.
A few exits east of Greenfield on I-70, the New Castle Motorsports Park will soon open for its 10th season of operation. Dismore finished construction on the full-service karting facility in 2004, and together with Comet Kart Sales, the Dismores are truly karting’s royal family.
Folks such as Mark Moran couldn’t be happier with the local connection.
“If NCMP was not there, we probably would have never started racing in the first place,” said Moran, whose son, Maxwell Middle School sixth-grader Garrett, was the Junior Driver of the Year at NCMP last season. “NCMP is a big part of local racers development, because we have time to go practice in the evening.”
“Parents and drivers on the national level love NCMP, because it is one of the nicest facilities that we race at. The crowds are always large. It is one of the premier kart facilities in the nation.”
If Garrett Moran makes the big-time someday, he’ll join a list of drivers, who, in just the New Castle track’s 10 years of operation, have come up through the ranks.
Josef Newgarden, who made his IndyCar Series debut last year for Sarah Fisher Racing, got his start at NCMP, which features a one-mile road course, paved pit roads, a garage area — all for karts that reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
Conor Daly, son of former CART and Formula One driver Derek Daly, is a NCMP regular.
In addition to the drivers getting started in auto racing, IndyCar regulars such as Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and, before he passed away, Dan Wheldon, have been a constant presence at NCMP, using the opportunity to hone their road course skills at a number of special events and races hosted by the track.
Even Milka Duno, the Venezuelan driver who finished closer to the back than to the front of the field in a handful of Indy 500 races, has “competed” at NCMP.
She was lapped by Mark Sr. and Mark Jr.
“Man, talk about a chicane,” Mark Sr. said, referring to an artificial feature placed on tracks to slow down the drivers. “She’s worse on go-karts than she is in a race car. We split her (when we passed her).”
As summed up by Mark Jr., “She’s just not very good at racing.”
Tony Stewart has also visited the track on several occassions, although he has yet to jump in a kart.
“He’s chicken,” Mark Sr. said with a laugh. “Tell him I said so.”
Duno (and Stewart) notwithstanding, NCMP, which Dismore originally hoped to locate in Greenfield, has filled a need, the veteran of seven Indy 500s believes.
“I don’t know if I thought what it would be, to be honest with you,” Dismore, 56, said. “I went into it not really having any expectations or goals, other than to give people that race karts a place to go that the track kind of matched the karts.
“Because the karts have gotten physically bigger and they’ve gotten a lot faster. All the tracks were antiquated. Karts outgrew the race track. You used to have karts that had tires that were this wide (holds hands close together) and karts that were literally this wide and had real skinny axles in them and had no body work.”
Dismore, his wife, Donna, and their children, Mark Jr. and Esteina (Dismore) Adams are involved with the day-to-day operations of Comet Kart Sales, as well as assisting at NCMP, where Mike Adams, Esteina’s husband, oversees much of the action.
Mark Jr., who handles online sales and marketing at Comet, said some people are taken aback by the competitiveness of the sport.
“People don’t understand karting, basically,” said Mark Jr., who raced in Formula 2000 and stock car’s ASA series before jumping full-time into the family business. “People hear karting and they think of something that their cousin had in the backyard that went 20 mile an hour.
“People just don’t get it until they see it, then they’re like ‘Holy crap, this is nothing like I thought it was.’”
It was perhaps that unfamiliarity with karting that forced Mark Sr. to build NCMP is Henry County, rather than in Hancock.
Dismore, who survived a broken neck in a horrific crash during practice for the 1991 Indy 500, stepped away from driving in 2002.
Not long after, he said he approached Greenfield officials with his ambitions to build a karting facility.
“I made calls, I tried to get the ball rolling and do it and it just … I don’t know, it seemed like no one was really interested in getting the conversation started on where to go and how to go about it,” he recalled. “I don’t think they knew what I had in mind.”
In addition to full amenities for drivers, NCMP offers a restaurant for spectators and an observation deck, along with camper hook-ups. Parking and admission are free, and go-karts are available to the general public for rentals.
On race weekends, hotels and restaurants in New Castle — and in Greenfield, with overflow — are packed, Dismore said.
In short, NCMP has been an unmatched success.
“Not to sound like I’m bragging, but we’ve probably got the nicest facility,” Dismore said. “Everybody’s got their favorite track, you know what I mean? A guy might say ‘I like New Castle’s facility, but I like this track better.’
“But as far as the facility goes, just having the restaurant and all the amenities and everything. Honestly our facility probably matches just about anything in the world.”
NCMP has grown to match the reputation of Comet Kart Sales. Delivery trucks are a near-permanent site at Comet, loading the next shipment of kart parts to destinations far and wide.
In addition to offering some of the sports’ premier brands of chassis and engines, the Dismores design and have their own engine packages built in-house, in order to provide customers with a more affordable alternative.
“Karting is inexpensive for motorsports, but it’s still not cheap,” Mark Jr. noted. “It’s still racing and it costs something, but we do everything we can to keep costs down.”
Moran, dad of junior karter Garrett, said the racing world associates Comet with quality.
“Comet Kart Sales is very respected in the karting community. Comet’s engine program is second to none and is always a threat to win at any level of karting.
“Comet Kart Sales is supplier to alot of other kart shops. They have more stock than any kart shop I have ever dealt with … and they’re competitively priced, also.”
When they final checkered flag drops, it’s all about helping out families, Mark Jr. noted. After all, if the entry level of racing isn’t accessible, it’s a hindrance.
“You get the parents involved, you get the dad involved and kids,” he said. “You see a lot of kids that could have been doing other things, probably not positive things in their life.
“It’s like, ‘I can’t get in trouble because I have to go racing this weekend and if I get in trouble I can’t go racing.’ I know as a kid that’s one thing I always thought. It’s like, ‘I don’t want to make my dad mad because I can’t go to the go-kart race.’”
Walking around his Comet Kart Sales office, Mark Sr. shows signs of occasional stiffness and aches; a bit of a hitch in his getalong, following decades worth of flying into concrete walls at three times a highway speed limit.
Last May marked the 10th anniversary of Dismore’s final Indianapolis 500 start, when he finished 32nd for Kelley Racing in his Chevrolet Dallara in 2002. A few months shy of 40-years-old when he qualified for his first Indy 500, he took a shining to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track right away. Only once in his six 500s previous to 2002 did he qualify worse than 14th. He secured his lone IRL win in 1999 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Still surrounded by horsepower and asphalt, Dismore can’t help but long for the days he wore a racing suit.
“Oh yeah, I miss it a lot,” he said. “Absolutely. You’re brain always tells your body that you’re not old, right? Nobody wants to get old.
“I always think I can still go do it. And I could probably go out there and drive around and haul ass, but I don’t know that I could do it like I knew I could do it when I was … hell, I was old when I was doing it then. I wasn’t young then.
“Yeah, I miss it. Miss it a lot.”
As long as Comet Kart Sales and the New Castle Motorsports Parks serve as a springboard for future racers, however, Dismore will have a hand in Victory Lane celebrations for years to come.
For information, visit www.cometkartsales.com or www.newcastleraceway.com.
The Mark Dismore file
* CART (1989, 1991-92)
* Toyota Atlantic (1992-95)
* Indy Racing League (1996-2002)
* Won 1990 North America Formula Atlantic title; won 1993 24 Hours of Daytona for owner Dan Gurney; competed in seven Indianapolis 500s, high of 4th-place starter in 2001; won the 1999 Texas Motor Speedway IRL race and finished career-best third in IRL points that season. Severly injured, including broken neck, in 1991 crash at Indy 500 practice.
Owner, Comet Kart Sales, 2650 West Main Street, Greenfield
* Mark’s father, Emerson “Diz” Dismore, opened what is now known as Comet Kart Sales in Greenfield in 1959. Today, Mark and his family operate a 20,000 square foot operation that, along with its online presence, is one of the most successful parts suppliers and engine builders in the karting industry.
Owner, New Castle Motorsports Park, 5816 S County Road 125 West, New Castle
* Entering its 10th season of operation, NCMP is a state-of-the art competitive karting facility featuring one-mile road course, multiple layouts, over 60 rental garages, onsite parts shop, restaurant and observation deck. Home to the Kart Racers of America, NCMP hosts some of the biggest national events in karting. Among several well-known racers who have competed at NCMP are Graham Rahal, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe. Rentals for the general public are also available.