IRL: Indy500: Ray leads practice again on Friday

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 11, 2001 - Greg Ray is the favorite to win the MBNA Pole for the 85th Indianapolis 500 after leading practice May 11 with a speed of 225.403 mph, the fourth time in the first six days of the event that he was ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 11, 2001 - Greg Ray is the favorite to win the MBNA Pole for the 85th Indianapolis 500 after leading practice May 11 with a speed of 225.403 mph, the fourth time in the first six days of the event that he was fastest.

Ray's speed in the No. 2T Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone was the second fastest of the event, trailing only the 226.137-mph lap turned by Scott Sharp on Wednesday.

Sharp was second fastest today at 224.715 in the No. 8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, with 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. third at 223.981 in his #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

Two-time Indy winner Arie Luyendyk was fourth at 223.673 in the No. 5 Meijer G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Jeff Ward rounded out the top five at 223.504 in the No. 35T Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.

The top 10 drivers today were separated by less than one-half of a second as the battle for the MBNA Pole, which starts at noon (EDT) Saturday, should be one of the tightest in the long history of the event.

Despite his impressive speed this week, 2000 Indy pole winner Ray is still concerned entering qualifications as high temperatures are only expected to reach the mid-60's Saturday in Indianapolis, anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the daytime highs since this event started Sunday.

"Really, the cooler weather probably is an equalizer," Ray said. "It's going to make all of the cars faster. The downside of cooler weather is that sometimes you don't get the tire temperatures up. It's going to make it tighter and tighter.

"We know we have a good car in hot conditions. Cool conditions? It hasn't been that cool since we've ran here."

There were four one-car accidents today, with the only injury a facial contusion suffered by Eliseo Salazar. Other drivers crashing were Helio Castroneves, Stan Wattles and Davey Hamilton. Wattles was released from Methodist Hospital a few hours after his crash this afternoon in good condition. Davey Hamilton was transported to Methodist Hospital after his accident, which ended practice 12 minutes early, complaining of a headache. He was in good condition, awake and alert.

A total of 47 cars and 39 drivers turned 1,610 laps in today's practice, which was delayed for 52 minutes by rain shortly after the session began. Pre-qualifying practice takes place from 9-11 a.m. (EDT) Saturday.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Eliseo Salazar , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Stan Wattles