IRL: Indy500: Greg Ray fastest on final full practice day

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 19, 2000 - Just when everyone was wondering what happened to Greg Ray, the defending Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion ripped off a lap of 223.948 mph today, the fastest lap of the month at Indianapolis...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 19, 2000 - Just when everyone was wondering what happened to Greg Ray, the defending Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion ripped off a lap of 223.948 mph today, the fastest lap of the month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ray, who made it into the top five in practice only three of the seven days this week, turned his fast lap in the #1T Conseco/Quaker State/Moen/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone at the most appropriate time - the afternoon before qualifying Saturday for the PPG Pole.

"We've had some ups and downs," said Ray. "Whatever good happens, we'll take it. If the weather's similar tomorrow as today, I'll feel pretty good. We tested here May 1 and 2, and the track's changed. We've had very little track time, and it's been an issue."

Ray and most of the 38 other drivers who turned laps today used the ideal weather conditions - cloudy skies and cool air temperatures - to get their cars ready for qualifying. Weather predictions point to similar conditions Saturday.

Pole Day begins at 8 a.m. (EST) with a two-hour practice session. The chase for the $100,000 PPG Pole Award will start at 11 a.m. Billy Boat, driver of the #81 Team Pelfrey Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, drew the first qualifying position during today's qualifying draw ceremony after practice.

Jeff Ward drove his way into the top five for the first time today, posting a lap of 222.949 in the #14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, second fastest of the day.

Scott Sharp was third at 222.949 in the #8T Delphi Automotive Systems-MCI WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, while Ward's teammate, Eliseo

Salazar, was fourth at 222.921 in the Rio A.J. Foyt Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Robby Gordon, Ray's Team Menard teammate, clocked a lap of 222.901 in the #32 Team Conseco/Quaker State/Moen/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, good for fifth.

By leading practice today, Ray became the seventh different driver to lead practice in seven days of practice since Opening Day. This is the first time since modern-day Indianapolis 500 records were first kept in 1971 that seven different drivers have led the first seven days of practice.

Four cautions came due to accidents. No drivers were injured. At 1:42 p.m., Ronnie Johncox made light contact with the Turn 2 outside retaining wall. At 3:17 p.m., Dr. Jack Miller made contact with the outside retaining wall exiting Turn 1 and then clipped the Turn 2 wall.

At 5:20 p.m., Hideshi Matsuda did a full spin off Turn 4 and made contact with the inside retaining wall at the entrance of the pits with the left side of the car.

At 5:57 p.m. - only three minutes before the end of practice - Mark Dismore hit the outside retaining wall at the exit of pit lane. The car was entering the Turn 1 warm-up lane when it suddenly turned left into the wall, sustaining damage to the left side of the car.

Northern Light Series drivers recorded 2,212 laps today, the most of any day this week. From May 13 through today, drivers completed a total of 9,230 laps, or 23,075 miles of practice.

Andy Granatelli visited the Speedway today as part of the weeklong Legends of the Speedway celebration. Granatelli, who won the Indianapolis 500 twice as a car owner, took several ceremonial laps around the 2.5-mile oval in the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car. Mario Andretti won the 1969 race for Granatelli, and Gordon Johncock won in Granatelli's car in 1973.

Following Saturday's Pole Day qualifying, drivers will have a second and final chance to qualify for the Indianapolis 500's elite 33-car starting field on Sunday's MBNA Bump Day. MBNA Bump Day qualifying is scheduled for noon-6 p.m. Qualifying admission is $10 per day for persons age 6 and older, and free for children age 5 and younger. The 84th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. (EST) May 28.

-IRMLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Greg Ray , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Mario Andretti , Ronnie Johncox , Gordon Johncock , A.J. Foyt , Matsuda Hideshi , Jack Miller