IRL: Atlanta Thursday practice report

By David Reininger - Hampton, Ga. (July 13, 2000) - Greg Ray turned the fastest lap of the day in practice for Saturday night's Midas 500 Classic at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ray set his best lap in the morning session when he ...

By David Reininger -

Hampton, Ga. (July 13, 2000) - Greg Ray turned the fastest lap of the day in practice for Saturday night's Midas 500 Classic at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ray set his best lap in the morning session when he recorded a lap at 213.616 mph. Ray only turned 15 laps in the morning session before switching to the back up car for the afternoon session.

"Our private test a few weeks ago provided us good information for race weekend. Our Conseco-Menard team is in good shape for Saturday, and the car feels really good."

Stephan Gregoire was second fastest on the day, recording his best lap late in the second session, at a speed of 212.573. "The team did a great job, and it was easy to go fast," said Gregoire. "My car just got faster and faster. I didn't do anything more than drive it. We were still using my Pikes Peak motor for this session with 200 laps of racing on it."

Gregoire's team owner, Dick Simon, looks forward to a fresh engine in the car and more speed. "We haven't had enough of a budget to do a lot of testing this year so we came here with our Texas setup. It took us both sessions to get up there. We crept up on it. We took some drag away as we were going, and put a little extra air in the tires. I'm very pleased with where we're at because this engine is a well-used engine from the last race. We're taking it out tonight and putting in our race engine. It'll be better than the engine we just ran the fast lap with".

Sarah Fisher was second fastest in each session but her best lap, set in the first session at 212.064 mph, placed her third on the day. "I think it's real neat to come to a new track and never have tested here or ran here before, and to have run so well right out of the box. With the performance we've displayed today, I'm truly looking forward to the remainder of the weekend."

Third fastest in each session and fourth fastest on the day was Donnie Beechler. Beechler has one of the best Indy car engineers in the business, Darrell Soppe, setting up his car. "Right out of the trailer we had a pretty decent setup on the car," said Beechler. "Darrell Soppe has worked hard to achieve that. We haven't been known as a team that qualifies very well, but I think we might have a handle on it at this track. I had a tow on my fast lap, everyone tries to do that, but I did run an honest 211."

Jeret Schroeder was fifth fastest on the day, followed by Jimmy Kite and Davey Hamilton. Buddy Lazier and Mark Dismore rounded out the top-ten.

Practice for Saturday night's Midas Classic 500 continues at 4:45 p.m. Friday afternoon with MBNA Pole Qualifying from 7:00-8:00 p.m. ESPN2 will televise qualifying at 8:00 p.m.


Jonathan Byrd-McCormack Motorsports has switched from a Riley & Scott chassis to a 1999 G Force chassis for this event.

Al Unser Jr. returns to the Atlanta Motor Speedway after racing here 17 years ago. In his second career start in Indy style cars, Unser started 21st and finished 6th. His father, Al Unser Sr., finished second in that race. In 1983, when Unser Jr, last raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the track measured 1.522 miles. The track has been reconfigured and now measures 1.54 miles.

1999 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Scott Harrington is making his second start in the Northern Light Series this season. Harrington, who raced at Las Vegas in April, is competing with Mid America Motorsports this weekend at Atlanta.

Stevie Reeves is making his second career start in Indy Racing League competition this weekend. Reeves joins Logan Racing for this event.

An autograph session for Indy Racing League drivers will take place from 8:30-9:30 p.m. Friday on the concourse behind the main grandstand at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Firestone has supplied 8 sets of tires per car this weekend for a total of 832 tires. To commemorate the centennial year of the Firestone brand, the "Firestone First at 100 Award" is being presented to the race leader after 100 laps at all Indy Racing Northern Light Series events this year. The award includes a cash prize of $10,000.

Eddie Cheever drove his Excite @ Home Indy Race Car along Peach Street during rush hour yesterday morning. Peach Street, located in downtown Atlanta is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the United States. "I'm amazed more great race car drivers don't come out of Atlanta," said Cheever, whose motorcade included two pace cars, a media truck and a dozen members of the Atlanta Police Department. "It was the most harrowing 12 minutes I've had in a race car in a while".

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Davey Hamilton , Mark Dismore , Jeret Schroeder , Jimmy Kite , Al Unser Sr. , Scott Harrington , Stevie Reeves , Dick Simon