David Reininger - motorsport.com Hampton, Ga. (July 15, 2000) - Greg Ray dominated the Midas 500 Classic weekend in his Oldsmobile Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Dallara, winning the race after leading 182 of 208 laps, taking the pole position...
David Reininger - motorsport.com
Hampton, Ga. (July 15, 2000) - Greg Ray dominated the Midas 500 Classic weekend in his Oldsmobile Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Dallara, winning the race after leading 182 of 208 laps, taking the pole position and setting fastest lap in three of four practice sessions. He earned 55 championship points in the process, the maximum number available, moving up eight positions in the standings to 11th place.
The Midas 500 Classic was Greg Ray's fourth career win in Indy Racing Northern Light competition, his third win from the pole. "We had a great car, it was fun to drive," said Ray. "A lot of our focus tonight was to get away quick on restarts, be extremely aggressive in traffic, try to break the draft and go into cruise mode."
Problems and bad luck have plagued Ray since winning last year's Northern Light championship. His last win came at Pikes Peak in August. "It was a lot of fun," Ray said about tonight's race. "I could only wish to have a car that good at every race. I think we should have had a few performances like this earlier this year, but some bad luck and my fair share of mistakes have cost us."
Buddy Lazier finished second in the Delta Faucet/Coors Light Oldsmobile-powered Dallara, assuming a 23-point lead in the championship standings over Eddie Cheever, driver of the Excite @ Home Infinti-powered Dallara. Cheever, who led the point standings coming into the Atlanta race, was classified 21st when his engine expired.
"It was a good night for us," said Lazier. "It was a hard fought battle. We were running wide open, lap after lap."
With 15 laps to go, Sarah Fisher lost a motor, causing her car to spin and make contact with the turn four wall. The caution period, which lasted five laps, erased Ray's lead over Lazier and set up a ten-lap dash to the finish.
"The key tonight was staying with the draft," said Lazier after finishing three seconds behind Ray. "We lost the draft and Greg Ray pulled away."
Race strategy and quick service in the pits enabled Al Unser Jr. to place third after starting from the rear of the field. Engine problems during qualifying placed Unser 24th on the starting grid. "I just want to thank my team for tonight's effort. They put me up front on the first pit stop. My car definitely ran better than the qualifying effort."
Unser passed eight cars on the first lap, but it was his crew, which gained him 12 positions on the first pit stop, that put the Galles Racing Tickets.com car out front. "During the pit, my guys passed more cars than I did on the first lap," Unser said with a smile.
Robby McGehee, 1999 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, finished fourth in the Treadway Racing G Force. He was the last car on the lead lap, .857 seconds behind Unser. "The car was just great, and the crew did an awesome job on our pit stops," said McGehee, who started 12th. "We did have some problems on restarts, but overall it was just a great race."
Donnie Beechler, who qualified on the inside of the second row in the Cahill Racing Dallara, ran at the front until a problem in the pits caused the car to mishandle. During his first pit stop, an air gun jammed and the team returned Beechler to the track with three new tires instead of four. "It actually made the car push bad, and we dropped to 12th. After we pitted again, the car was a lot better. I'm very disappointed we qualified third and finished fifth."
Also one lap down and finishing sixth was Robbie Buhl, followed by Stephan Gregoire, and Billy Boat. Shigeaki Hattori finished two laps down in ninth and Eliseo Salazar, three laps down, rounded out then top-ten.
The Indy Racing League Northern Light Series returns to competition August 27 at Kentucky Speedway for round eight in the series championship.