2004 IndyCar Series Preview--Access Motorports Owner/Driver Ray Sees Both Sides of Racing INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2004 -- Wearing two hats isn't cumbersome for Greg Ray. Constantly switching them, though, requires some mental ...
2004 IndyCar Series Preview--Access Motorports
Owner/Driver Ray Sees Both Sides of Racing
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2004 -- Wearing two hats isn't cumbersome for Greg Ray. Constantly switching them, though, requires some mental dexterity.
One minute Ray, one of two IRL IndyCar Series co-owner/drivers this year, is kneeling on the floor of the Access Motorsports garage at Phoenix International Raceway consulting with a crew member about the car's set-up for testing. The next minute he's outside consulting with a potential sponsor. Fortunately, Ray was able to wipe his hands before greeting the guest.
Ray has always been one to lend a hand, and get both dirty. That's what it takes when you're a small-budget team playing in the major leagues of open-wheel racing.
"I have to separate the driver from the owner," said Ray, 37, of Plano, Texas. "The driver says I want to go, give me more. The owner says, 'Well, let's make sure we have more to give before we give it to you.' It is difficult at times to wear both hats. It's difficult, but very rewarding at the same time."
Ray made 13 starts with Access Motorsports last year, finishing 15th in the point standings. He placed eighth four times (Indianapolis, Kansas, Gateway, and Texas) and had two other top-10 finishes.
"I think our situation is much better than it was last year," said Ray, whose No. 13 Access Motorsports Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone was impressive in limited testing at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 12. "Obviously, last year we were a brand new team and never did achieve the level of success on the race track that we were hoping for."
Ray has known success throughout his seven-year IndyCar Series career. He recorded three victories en route to winning the 1999 IndyCar Series championship and was the MBNA Pole winner for the 2000 Indianapolis 500 while driving for Team Menard (one of an IndyCar Series-best five pole positions he earned that year). With five victories and 13 poles, his interests branched out.
"This is really the case of the cart in front of the horse program; you really have to take care of first things first," said Ray, who also has driven for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and T. Knapp Motorsports.
"It's a lot more difficult than I had envisioned. Some things that we were working on last year really didn't work the way they originally set out to work. So it kind of put us in a recovery mode, and put us on our heels all year long. The thing I can clearly say about the racing business on the sponsorship side is that if you can put the business deals together and be successful in motorsports you really can be successful anywhere because it is very difficult."
The co-owner sees a (pardon the pun) ray of sunshine. Hard work, countless phone calls to potential sponsors, a competitive nature and a love of the sport drive him to succeed in this project.
"We know we have great people, we have a great organization and we communicate very well with each other," Ray said. "We're focusing on the business side -- the business sponsorships, business partners and the business-to-business applications that allow us to build that bigger foundation. At that point, we'll start to scratch the surfaces of the things we want to do to make the team perform better and better."
CAPSULE LOOK AT ACCESS MOTORSPORTS
Sponsors: CapGemini, EDS, Frontier Packaging, Renovac
Car number: 13
Chassis/engine: Panoz G Force/Honda
Owner: Greg Ray
Driver: Greg Ray
Team manager: Ted Bitting
Crew chief: Jamie Nanny
Chief mechanic: Jamie Nanny
Engineer: Jeff Britton
Greg Ray: "The league is so competitive right now that we're swimming in very deep water. We're real excited about the people that we've signed on for this year and we're still trying to grow that. We're trying to put realistic expectations in place day by day."
Greg Ray on choosing the No. 13: "Last year when we started the team, we were looking to have identity for ourselves and to have a number that would be our identity. As we went through the mix to find out what was available, what wasn't available, to pick a number for the team, I noticed between the numbers available and the numbers taken, the only number that wasn't present was 13. Everything in the mix from one to 12 was taken, so 13 was available. And I think it's a good signature for us. It's something that everybody identifies us with. And like I told everybody, I'm not really a superstitious person. I think how you live your life day in and day out, how you believe, what you put into is what you get out of it. I think it's just a good identity for us."