IRL: Ray Rockets to MBNA Pole at Atlanta

ATLANTA, Friday, April 27, 2001 - Greg Ray rocketed around Atlanta Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval Friday night to capture the MBNA Pole for the zMAX 500. With a lap of 24.7406 seconds, 218.265 mph, Ray earned his second consecutive...

ATLANTA, Friday, April 27, 2001 - Greg Ray rocketed around Atlanta Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval Friday night to capture the MBNA Pole for the zMAX 500. With a lap of 24.7406 seconds, 218.265 mph, Ray earned his second consecutive Atlanta pole and established himself as a legitimate threat to repeat his win from last July. This was Ray's 11th career pole, a record for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. He started the season by winning the pole at Phoenix in March. "I'm very happy," said Ray, driver of the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. "We have good motors, good chassis and good setups. Everybody is hitting on all cylinders." Jeff Ward, who produced a lap of 24.9834, 216.144, will start next to Ray Saturday night. "Ray is a real master of these one-and-a-half-mile tracks," said Ward, who said he knew he couldn't beat the Texan's speed and was only hoping to slip by Eddie Cheever Jr. for second. Ray and Ward shared the front row at the last race, but the roles were reversed with Ward winning the pole at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in early April. Ray had particular praise for Team Menard engine builder Butch Meyer, grandson of the late three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer. "There's no doubt since Indy last year our engine program has just gotten better and better and better," Ray said. "He's doing a wonderful job." Cheever had qualified his #51 Excite@Home Indy Race car powered by the new 35A Infiniti engine at a speed of 215.776 mph. Cheever held second through 11 more qualification attempts before Ward, driving the No. 35 Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile, pushed him back to the third starting spot. Mark Dismore joins Cheever on the second row. He recorded a best lap of 215.061 mph in his Delphi Automotive Systems/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Shigeaki Hattori produced his first top-five Indy Racing starting position with a lap of 25.2490, 213.870 mph in his EPSON Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone car. Hattori actually was scheduled fifth in the qualifying line. However, he blew an engine in the day's second practice session. The Vertex-Cunningham Racing crew worked feverishly to make the engine change and the car was pushed out late in the session. Indy Racing League officials allowed Hattori his two laps of qualifying because the team immediately presented the car for qualifying after the engine change. Indy Racing Northern Light Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr., winner of the first two races in 2001, will join Hattori in the third row with a lap of 213.596 mph in his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. The 200-lap zMAX 500 will start at 7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The event will be televised live on ESPN2.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Shigeaki Hattori , Mark Dismore , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing