IRL: Indy500: Pole qualifying

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 20, 2000 - Greg Ray took the final step in Indianapolis 500 qualifying on Saturday, narrowly edging Juan Montoya for the PPG Pole for the 84th Indianapolis 500 with a four-lap average of 223.471 mph. ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 20, 2000 - Greg Ray took the final step in Indianapolis 500 qualifying on Saturday, narrowly edging Juan Montoya for the PPG Pole for the 84th Indianapolis 500 with a four-lap average of 223.471 mph.

Defending Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion Ray, from Plano, Texas, had qualified second each of the last two years at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But he earned his first PPG Pole Award at Indy - worth $100,000 - during a dramatic run in 55-degree weather to knock Montoya from the top spot.

"I was flat out all four laps and grazing the wall," Ray said. "Anytime you want to be fast here, especially with the field as close as it is, you have to take all the downforce out of it (the car). With the cold tires, you just have to hold your breath and hang on. The man upstairs was with me through every corner."

Montoya ended up second at 223.372 in the #9T Target G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone while Eliseo Salazar filled out the front row at 223.231 in the Rio A.J. Foyt Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.

MBNA Bump Day qualifying starts at noon (EST) Sunday. The 33-car field will be set at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Defending CART champion Montoya claimed the provisional pole at 1:19 p.m. (EST). Montoya's run to the front came exactly 10 minutes after Ray pulled off the track just after starting the first lap of his first qualification run due to an ill-handling car.

At 3:49 p.m., Ray returned to the track for his second attempt and won the pole.

"The car wasn't capable of being a pole car," Ray said of his first run. "It's hard to get heat up in big staggered tires, and on the first lap I was committed into Turn 1 at 233 mph and the car went straight. I had to back off to keep it off the wall, and there was no point in continuing the run."

Ray's Team Menard teammate, Robby Gordon, qualified for the inside of the second row (fourth) at 222.885 in the #32 Turtle Wax/Burger King/Moen/Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Scott Sharp, driving the #8T Delphi Automotive Systems/MCI WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, qualified fifth at 222.810, and Salazar's A.J. Foyt Racing teammate, Jeff Ward, qualified sixth at 222.639 in the #14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone to round out the front two rows.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. was the first driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Unser averaged 220.293 in the #3T Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz Encore Superpak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, which provisionally places Unser in the 18th starting position.

Sarah Fisher, 19, also made the provisional starting lineup with a four-lap average of 220.237 in the Walker Racing Cummins Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone to earn the 20th spot. She will be the third-youngest driver in the starting field in Indianapolis 500 history if she maintains her spot in the field.

Twenty-three drivers completed qualification runs.

Track temperatures never climbed above 69 degrees due to chilly air temperatures and cloudy skies. The low track temperatures made it difficult for tires to warm up enough to gain traction, resulting in a rash of accidents. None resulted in driver injuries.

The #48 entry driven by Andy Hillenburg made contact with the outside retaining wall during pre-qualification practice, while drivers Scott Harrington, Jimmy Kite, Memo Gidley, Hideshi Matsuda and Lyn St. James were involved in accidents during qualification attempts. Admission Sunday is $10 for persons age 6 and older, and free for children age 5 and younger.

The 84th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. (EST) May 28.

-IRMLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Memo Gidley , Jimmy Kite , Andy Hillenburg , Lyn St. James , A.J. Foyt , Matsuda Hideshi