David Reininger â€“ motorsport.com Lebanon, Tenn. (July 20, 2001) â€“ Greg Ray, driver of the Johns Manville/Menards Dallara Oldsmobile, earned his 13th career pole position this afternoon after averaging 199.922 mph around the...
David Reininger – motorsport.com
Lebanon, Tenn. (July 20, 2001) – Greg Ray, driver of the Johns Manville/Menards Dallara Oldsmobile, earned his 13th career pole position this afternoon after averaging 199.922 mph around the 1.3-mile Nashville Superspeedway.
A brief rain shower between this morning’s practice session and qualifying washed some of the precious rubber coating that Indy racing competitors had been laying on the brand new concrete surface.
“If conditions were good, we were geared to do a 202 (mph), but the track lost a little bit of surface grip with that rain,” said Ray. “I was the fourth car out so we kind of learned that the hard way.
“On top of that, we’re mandated to run 12 degrees of wing with a one inch wicker. With the air being so thick, it just slowed us down more than we thought. Considering the conditions we’re pretty pleased.”
The biggest question facing the drivers at this point is, will they be able to pass in the turns? “The groove has quite a bit of grip,” said Ray. “Above the groove doesn’t have a lot of grip at all. I’ve seen some people running a little higher than I am, but right now I don’t think it’s a two groove race track. You may see people running two or three wide, but it’s only because they’ll be backed up in traffic.
“With time, that second groove will come in, but not by Saturday night.”
Sam Hornish will start alongside Ray in Saturday night’s Harrah’s Indy 200 in the Pennzoil Panther Oldsmobile Dallara.
Hornish, just 22 years old, hopes he’ll have youth on his side since reporting the physical demands of the track. “After running some long runs around here, it’s tough on the forearms to keep steering the car for 50, 60 laps, but that’ll work out good for me.”
Mark Dismore, who will start third, had a different take on the concrete surface. “They have a good foundation for the asphalt now,” said Dismore with a wry grin.
Dismore makes his 23rd career top-5 start on Saturday night. While others have been receptive to the changes that track management have made, including smoothing bumps and roughing up the surface to enhance grip in the groove, Dismore dislikes the concrete surface.
“Everybody has been politically correct and biting their tongue, but the fact of the matter is, it needs to be asphalt. If it was asphalt, we could race two wide here. You would have typical IRL race, two wide, three abreast, and it would be a hell of a race.
“With this surface like it is, there’s one groove. If you set foot outside of that groove, the wall is going to stop you. If you want to see side by side racing, with any kind of car, unless you have thirty degrees of banking, you have to have asphalt.”
Billy Boat will start fourth in his best start since winning the pole at Atlanta in 1999. Eddie Cheever, who won the last IRL race at Kansas two weeks ago, will start alongside Boat. Cheever said he has been uncomfortable on the track but when it comes to passing, he’s here to win and that means passing cars.
“Passing is a state of mind,” said Cheever. If you don’t believe you can, you probably won’t. If you kind of think you can, you’re probably going to have an accident. If you really believe you can, you will.
Cheever looked up at the scoring tower. Seeing his number in the fifth starting position he said, “I need to pass cars tomorrow, so I will find a way around.”
When asked what it would take to win tomorrow’s race, Greg Ray summed it up when he said, “I really think you have to have a good handling car, good race strategy, good pit stops and certainly you have to have luck on your side.”