IRL: Phoenix Qualifying Report

David Reininger - Phoenix, AZ (March 18, 2000) - Greg Ray captured his second consecutive pole position at Phoenix International Raceway in qualifying for Sunday's MCI WorldCom Indy 200. It was his fifth career pole position and...

David Reininger -

Phoenix, AZ (March 18, 2000) - Greg Ray captured his second consecutive pole position at Phoenix International Raceway in qualifying for Sunday's MCI WorldCom Indy 200. It was his fifth career pole position and 13th consecutive top-five start.

Ray's first lap, at 20.418 seconds, was fast enough to knock Mark Dismore off the pole but Ray pressed on, squeezing a little bit more from his Conseco/Menards Dallara to take the pole at 20.389 seconds and 176.566 mph.

"It was definitely everything we had," said Ray. "I was a little worried when Dismore went out and did a 46 (20.46 seconds) and we were already at the end of our rope doing a 50 this morning. We made a few changes after this morning's practice session and we made another change or two on the grid. Dismore went quicker than us, he improved three-tenths of a second from this morning. So we made a change or two right there on pit lane knowing that we really had to pick up the pace and go for it. It ended up paying dividends."

Dismore, who drew number one in the qualifying order, looked to take his third pole position until Ray knocked him from atop the standings. "My car was awesome," said Dismore, "we ran our two best laps when we needed to. That's the fastest lap I've ever done here so how can I not be happy?"

After setting fifth fastest time in this morning's session at 20.732 seconds, Dismore's On Star crew made a few changes to optimize their qualifying setup. "We put the qualifying setup on the car this morning but it wasn't quite what we needed. The guys made some educated guesses after the session was over and they hit it darn close. If you totaled the four times I was knocked off the pole last year it was less than one tenth of a second, so here I go again. But I know what can happen here, I'm not complaining. I'm happy."

Dismore's teammate, Scott Sharp will start third in the Delphi Automotive Dallara Oldsmobile. "We had hoped we'd be a little faster but I thought it had everything it had this morning," said Sharp, who ran second fastest in this morning's practice session. "It warmed up a little bit from this morning, so it slowed us down about three one-hundredths of a second. We're here for the race. We've been working on nothing but the race. Mark has worked a bit more on qualifying so he was able to gain a little bit more. We're hoping our work pays off for us on Sunday."

The 1999 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, Robby McGehee will start fourth in his Energizer Motorsports entry fielded by Treadway Racing. McGehee was driving a G Force chassis, one of only three of the British chassis starting in the top ten. "We ran just as we expected today," said McGehee. "I put my foot in it all the way around, and we gave it all we had. We spent most of the weekend working on race setup. So we are very happy with our run today, and we are going to stick to our plan and have a quick, consistent car for race day. It was good run today but we expect better tomorrow."

The fastest rookie in the field will start fifth in the Armour Swift-Eckrich Tristar Motorsports entry. After starting 16th in Orlando, Jeret Schroeder ran as high as 8th before problems forced the Vineland, NJ resident to make an extended pit stop. Schroeder, whose fifth place starting position is a career best, is looking forward to tomorrow's race. "We ran better at Disney than our results showed because of some problems we had, so we want to show people what we can really do."

"This morning we were third fastest in practice. We made a slight change to the car before qualifying that didn't work out as well as we thought it would, but it didn't hurt us too much either. We spent most of our time here so far working on our race setup, not our qualifying setup and that's why I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race so much."

Eddie Cheever stopped the clocks at 21.055 seconds to place the Infiniti-powered Excite@Home Indy car on the outside of the fourth row. "For a team that just got this car 15 days ago, we're doing pretty well," said Cheever. "Going back to the Dallara gives us the opportunity to draw on the data we've accumulated over the past three years and gives us the luxury of choosing the best chassis for each track."

Drawing the next to last spot in the qualifying order, Cheever was forced to make his run after temperatures had started to slow the track. "We picked up a lot of speed with the changes we made after the morning session, but we were still a bit conservative. We weren't sure how much the track would change in the heat, so we didn't have quite the load on the front. Although we had a little too much push, I'm not complaining. Now we just have to concentrate on the race."

After setting the fastest time of the day on Friday, Stephan Gregoire experienced fuel pick up problems in this morning's practice session. With only 90 minutes between practice and qualifying, the team was forced to remedy the problem by adding more fuel to the tank. Gregoire qualified 12th, seven-tenths of a second off the pole time.

"With 15 to 20 gallons of fuel in the car during the qualifying run, that was a good run," said team owner Dick Simon. "With that much fuel and the heat when we qualified, it was 15 degrees cooler a half hour ago, I think we did well. We expected to have the pole but I don't know what's happened to our luck lately."

"Tomorrow we have a car capable of winning the race," said Gregoire. "The goal is to be smart enough to make the changes tomorrow because the track is going to change all day long. We have a team capable of that, so that's good."

Sarah Fisher continued to struggle with the Walker Racing Cummins Special, qualifying 21st. Walker Racing will be fielding a car in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series as well as the CART Series this season. Team owner Derrick Walker is returning to the Phoenix track for the first time since 1995, when he raced in the CART series and won with driver Robby Gordon.

"There aren't a whole lot of changes from what I remember," said Walker. "The main thing I remember is trying to wade across the river and now there is a lovely bridge, but when you get down to the racetrack it's the same place. It changes a lot with temperature, but the unique style of the track is unchanged. The basic characteristics of the track are unchanged. This is one of my favorite tracks, so it's good to be back."

The MCI WorldCom Indy 200 takes the green flag at 2:00 p.m. local time. Live television coverage on ABC-TV starts at 4:00 p.m. EST. A final half hour practice session will start at 9:15 a.m.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Robby McGehee , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Stephan Gregoire , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Jeret Schroeder , Dick Simon