IRL: Menard says Ray is staying

SPARTA, Ky., Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2000 -- Team owner John Menard and driver Greg Ray, who combined to win the 1999 Indy Racing championship, will stay together and race in the expanded Northern Light Series in 2001. Menard was in...

SPARTA, Ky., Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2000 -- Team owner John Menard and driver Greg Ray, who combined to win the 1999 Indy Racing championship, will stay together and race in the expanded Northern Light Series in 2001. Menard was in the pits for The Belterra Resort Indy 300, the inaugural open-wheel race at Kentucky Speedway, on Aug. 27. Before the race, Menard put to rest rumors that he is moving to other series and that Ray is moving to another team in the Northern Light Series or to NASCAR. "Oh, yeah, we're going to have a team," Menard said. "Greg now is in the second year of a five-year contract. We'll keep on going with a one-car team." Ray, the swift driver from Plano, Texas, replaced Tony Stewart as Menard's driver at the end of the 1998 season. Ray captured the championship last year, winning three races. This season, the team was winless until Ray drove the Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone to victory in the Midas 500 Classic on July 15 at Atlanta. He is 11th in the point standings with one race remaining. Menard downplayed any talk of Ray jumping to NASCAR. "Someday that's something Greg may want to do in his career, but we've got a situation now that I think Greg feels he's got a pretty good situation where he's at," Menard said. "I know Greg would be a success in any series he'd run, but as it stands now he's given every indication of fulfilling the contract." Thomas Knapp was hired as team manager at the same time Ray signed with Menard. Knapp and Ray had raced together in the past, and everything seemed to go smoothly through the first year together. But Knapp and Menard agreed to part company in mid-season this year. Menard hired Mitch Davis to fill the team manager role and also is assisting with those duties. "We'll see how that all goes," he said. "Certainly, Mitch has been a great addition to the team. We're looking at that and a couple of other guys, and we'll just have to wait and see how it all goes. A lot of it depends on this weekend and a couple of tests to see how everybody jells." Menard, an original member of the Indy Racing League, said the key to success is sticking with what a team is doing and keeping a driver over an extended period. He added that team stability is very important even though he made some personnel changes in recent weeks. "(Winning at Atlanta) really bolstered us to begin believing in ourselves again that we could actually finish a race," Menard said. "We just hadn't been able to finish races for whatever reason." Despite the slow start by his Northern Light Series team this year, Menard still enjoys racing. His son Paul is racing in a NASCAR touring series, and Menard also fields a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team for driver Bryan Refner out of the same shop in Indianapolis in which the Indy Racing team works.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Greg Ray