IRL: Indy500: Ray returns to top on Thursday

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 10, 2001 - Greg Ray appears ready to defend his MBNA Pole on May 12 after returning to the top of the speed charts during Indianapolis 500 practice on May 10 with a top lap of 224.542 mph. Ray's time around the ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 10, 2001 - Greg Ray appears ready to defend his MBNA Pole on May 12 after returning to the top of the speed charts during Indianapolis 500 practice on May 10 with a top lap of 224.542 mph.

Ray's time around the historic, 2.5-mile oval was 40.0185 seconds in the No. 2T Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. It was his best lap of the month. Ray has been the fastest driver on three of the five practice days during this event, also leading May 6-7.

"I was very pleased because it was 117 or 120 degrees track temperature, and it was quite windy," Ray said of his top lap, which took place in the mid-afternoon. "It felt muggy. I thought I could run a couple more in that speed range."

Gil de Ferran was second fastest at 223.579 in the No. 66 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Jeff Ward was third at 223.432 in the No. 35T Heritage Motorsports/Firestone/Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Tony Stewart was the fourth-fastest driver in his No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone at 223.188. Stewart also posted a lap of 223.186 in his backup car. Two-time Indy winner Arie Luyendyk was the fifth-fastest driver at 223.009 in his No. 5 Meijer G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.

The track was quite busy during the final hour of practice, as teams recognized that this could be the final "happy hour" of late-afternoon laps before MBNA Pole Day Saturday as rain is forecasted for Friday. Ray turned laps in his primary car during the final hour, reaching just 219.251. "We knew there was possibility of rain," Ray said. "We were happy with our T car, but we think our primary car might be better, but I'm not happy with it. The balance isn't there yet. With 25 cars on the racetrack, nothing is right. You can post a big number with the tow, but it doesn't mean much for qualifying. We tried to avoid the tow."

There were three incidents today with no injuries.

Jim Guthrie hit the wall 46 minutes after practice started in the No. 27 Blueprint Racing Special G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. With 65 minutes remaining in practice, Jeret Schroeder backed into the outside wall in Turn 2 in the No. 9 Purity Products Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Rookie Brandon Erwin brushed the wall in Turn 2 with 16 minutes remaining in practice in his No. 30 WorldBestBuy.com/McCormack Motorsports G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.

Rookie Casey Mears, involved in an accident Tuesday, was cleared to drive today by Dr. Henry Bock, Indy Racing League director of medical services. A total of 42 cars and 34 drivers turned 1,610 laps today. Practice resumes from noon-7 p.m. (EDT) Friday. Race Day is May 27.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Greg Ray , Casey Mears , Jeff Ward , Arie Luyendyk , Jim Guthrie , Gil de Ferran , Jeret Schroeder , Chip Ganassi