IRL: Charlotte Qualifying

Ken Plotkin and David Reininger motorsport.com - Motorsport News International Charlotte, NC, April 30 - The day dawned wet, cold and windy. There were whitecaps on the motel swimming pool. The rain ended by noon, leaving the wind to dry the...

Ken Plotkin and David Reininger motorsport.com - Motorsport News International

Charlotte, NC, April 30 - The day dawned wet, cold and windy. There were whitecaps on the motel swimming pool. The rain ended by noon, leaving the wind to dry the track and the cold to keep everybody out of the wind's way. The whitecaps on the hotel swimming pool were a good indication that qualifying conditions would not be optimum.

After a long delay, the IRL cars took to the track for their first session of the weekend at a quarter past four. This was the only practice session prior to the evening's qualifying.

Greg Ray set a new track record on the way to his second consecutive Indy Racing League pole position. Ray's lap of 222.039 mph eclipsed the old record of 220.498 mph set by Tony Stewart last July. Ray's qualifying run was fraught with drama. When the car was first presented for tech inspection, it was too low. That put him last in line, and penalized him one lap. On top of that, neither his radio nor his dash speed indicator were working. "We just drove around this place as quickly as we could, trying to squeeze every little inch off the racetrack. Luckily enough, when I came around coming into the pits I looked at the top of the tower and saw the number 2 at the top, so I was feeling pretty good. I still had no idea how quick we went, but it was good enough for pole and I was happy about that.

"All I know is I wanted it, and I went for it."

Scott Sharp was second fastest, with a speed of 221.239 mph. "We've got a good car. We were able to run faster tonight than we did this afternoon in practice by nearly two miles an hour. We changed a few things from practice, so we gambled a bit. I thought the wind might be bad, but the Goodyear Eagles helped the car stick to the track." Scooter's run was hampered by a vibration at speed. "From the moment I got up to a pretty good speed there was a big vibration in the car. When you rest your head against the cowling of the car, it transfers right over to your helmet and blurs your vision a bit. But once you take the green flag, you have to run. If you don't, that's the only run you get and you start last. So I hold it down and hope."

Scott Goodyear took third position, with a speed of 221.067 mph. "I'm pleased we put in a good time. I'm not really satisfied. I thought we had a shot at the pole today, and we're just a hair short, obviously. But, you know, we're in a great place to start. We have a great race car right now and I think that's what counts. It's our race setup, and I think we've got an excellent shot for the race tomorrow.

Fourth fastest was Sam Schmidt, at 220.390 mph in his best qualifying position yet in IRL competition. "Track conditions were fine for us. The car handled pretty well, just like in practice, but we had too much push. We tried to keep it on the white line all the way around. We'll change a few things for Saturday's race. We are close to our race setup. We made it a safe car, so it was pretty easy to drive. It gives us a lot of confidence to start close to the front."

Rounding out the top five was Jeff Ward, at 219.736 mph. "That's not too bad. We'll change it a little for the race. The car feels pretty good by itself, but in traffic there's a lot of difference. The motor was a little flat, and we ran the car conservative. We need a win, so we're trying hard here." Ward's car owner, Allan Pagan, was happy with Jeff's qualifying performance, and went on to say "I've been happy with Jeff ever since we got him. I love motorcycle racers."

Twenty-eight cars are qualified for Saturday's 208-lap VisionAire 500. The race will be carried live on Speedvision, with pre-race coverage starting at 7:30 pm EDT and the green flag at 8:00.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Greg Ray , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Sam Schmidt