IRL: Atlanta qualifying report

Hampton, Ga. (April 27, 2001) - Greg Ray earned his tenth pole position in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series after turning a blistering lap of 218.265 mph around the 1.5-mile high-banked Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ray, who has started from the...

Hampton, Ga. (April 27, 2001) - Greg Ray earned his tenth pole position in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series after turning a blistering lap of 218.265 mph around the 1.5-mile high-banked Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ray, who has started from the pole 11 times after being awarded a pole by points, has started on the front row in every race this season.

Ray's qualifying speed was two miles per hour faster than second place qualifier Jeff Ward. "I'm more than pleased, that's exceptional," said Ray. "You have to make a lot of decisions on the qualifying setup. We didn't know if we'd be faster or slower because of the cooling weather. Sometimes you can be faster or slower when the air gets heavy. We had a couple of different options in the gearbox."

Ray also topped the speed charts in practice today, recording laps at 217 in both his primary and backup cars. "We were well prepared coming in here. This is a team sport and the guys did a great job and built great motors. Now we have to execute tomorrow."

Jeff Ward finds himself starting on the front row for the second consecutive race. Ward's lap at 215.643 mph put the former motocross champion on the front row for the seventh time in his Indy racing career.

"I think things went really well," said Ward. "We didn't test here but I feel very comfortable. The guys did a great job setting up the car and the Menard motor is very strong again."

Ward is arguably the best driver in the Northern Light Series yet to score a victory. "We'd really like to get a win here. It would be a great momentum builder going into Indy."

Oldsmobile engines prepared at the shop of Indianapolis-based Team Menard powered both Ray and Ward to their front row starting positions.

Eddie Cheever will start third, a Northern Light Series career high and the highest starting position of the new Infiniti 35A engine. "We've been working really hard with the new Infiniti 35A to get it up there. There's no touching Menards around here in qualifying, they've got something that nobody else has, but I think we can run with them tomorrow."

Starting fourth, after turning a lap at 215.061 mph, is Mark Dismore. Despite being three miles per hour off the pole speed, Dismore is optimistic about tomorrow's race. "The race is going to be so much different than being out there by yourself, a guy like myself who is just a little off the pace can just get hooked up behind somebody who has more horsepower. I think I can hang onto them and hopefully force them to be paranoid and make a mistake in the pits, or maybe he'll run hard enough to have a failure."

"It's going to be a long day tomorrow," said Dismore.

Shigeaki Hattori will start fourth, his first top-ten qualifying position. "We know we made the right decision bring Dalllara and (Thomas) Knapp onboard," said Hattori. "What we didn't know was how fast the team, the new car and Knapp would come together."

Hattori's car was presented late to the qualifying line, hence he was only given one lap to qualify. "For Hattori to do as well as he did with only half the lap time of the other drivers is very impressive," said Knapp, the team's engineer. "He used a lead foot on the pedal and it paid off."

Felipe Giaffone is the highest starting rookie in the field for the third consecutive race. Giaffone, currently third in Northern Light Series points, drives for Treadway-Hubbard Racing.

The zMax 500 takes the green flag at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow evening. Live television coverage will be provided by ESPN2.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Shigeaki Hattori , Jeff Ward , Mark Dismore