IRL: Pikes Peak qualifying report

BY David Reininger - Fountain, Colo. (June 16, 2001) - Greg Ray extended his Indy Racing Northern Light Series record for pole positions by earning his 12th career pole position in qualifying for the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak ...

BY David Reininger -

Fountain, Colo. (June 16, 2001) - Greg Ray extended his Indy Racing Northern Light Series record for pole positions by earning his 12th career pole position in qualifying for the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Ray, driver of the Oldsmobile-powered Johns Manville Team Menard Dallara, toured the one-mile D-shaped oval at an average speed of 176.585 mph.

"This is kind of a rush event for us," said Ray, who raced last Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway. "We had two practice sessions this morning, and we qualify on the same day.

"Track conditions are quite a bit different than they were this morning. It's windier and the track temperatures are up about 15 degrees. Track conditions were very tough and we probably left a little bit on the table. This is a tough race track, with tough conditions and I think we owe the track a conservative approach."

Ray managed to score his fourth pole position at the Colorado mile despite a new race engineer coming onboard at Team Menard. "Darrell Soppe is our new engineer and he has a completely different setup than I've run the last two years. So far, we've been able to have a pretty good race car on full tanks. We're not quite as quick as we wanted to be in qualifying, but considering the conditions, we have to be pretty happy."

As with most of the drivers and crew members on the Indy Racing circuit, Ray enjoys the annual visit to Colorado Springs area and the multitude of outdoor activities. "This has to rate as one of my favorite places," said Ray. "I won twice here in 1999, en route to my championship. Ever since 1998, I always come out seven days early, bring my two kids and wife and we vacation here. I love to go hiking in the mountains."

Making his third consecutive front row start is Scott Sharp after averaging 174.795 mph in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara. "I love Colorado," said Sharp. "It's a tough track. You have to really be aggressive; you have to drive hard here. We led the most laps last year, and got a little loose at the end and finished third. I think we're poised for a pretty good run here tomorrow.

Series points leader Sam Hornish will start third, placing Oldsmobile-powered cars in the top-three starting positions. "We're just out there doing what we think a championship team needs to do," said Hornish, who leads the championship by 30 points (187-157) over Eliseo Salazar. "If we have a car capable of winning, we'll try to win. If not, we'll go out there and we'll run around, finish the race and make sure we have a car to take to the next race. We're collecting points and it's been working good so far."

Robbie Buhl, who was fastest in the morning practice session, will start fourth in the Infiniti-powered Purex G Force. "You always hear drivers talk about changing conditions at a track. But from when we went out this morning, until we went out this afternoon, with track temperature and ambient temperature, it really changed things for us," said Buhl. "We made significant changes before qualifying from where we were this morning and I think we're back on track. We just have to fine tune that and we'll be okay."

Buddy Lazier, of Vail, Colo., will start fourth in the Tae-Bo Coors Lights Oldsmobile-powered Dallara entered by Hemelgarn Racing. "My car was awesome," said Lazier after averaging 173.566 mph on his qualifying run. "I was flat out, the motor pulled really hard. I was just wide open. I think we have a real good race car and pretty darn good qualifying car too. We're looking pretty good."

Only two and a half hours from home, Lazier is hoping for a better result in his home state. "Last year we won the championship, won twice, but we came here to my home track and we dropped out on the first lap with a broken piece in the motor. I'd kind of like to make up for last year and have a real good race here."

Mark Dismore struggled through the morning practice session turning in the 15th fastest lap. But the Greenfield, Ind. driver regrouped in the afternoon, qualifying sixth with a lap at 173.494 mph.

"We unloaded and focused on the race car," said Dismore. "We spent the entire first session working on the race car and the race car wasn't worth a crap.

"We totally revamped it, changed to different shocks, from Olins to Konis, changed the spring package, changed the ride height, tire pressures, everything. We went out in the second session and had something we could work with. With twenty minutes to go, we scrambled, working on a qualifying car. So we had a qualifying car we spent twenty minutes on. I have to be happy," with sixth place.

A final practice session for the Indy cars gets underway Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. local time. The Radisson 200 takes the green flag at 2:00 p.m. local time with live television coverage provided by ABC-TV.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Sam Hornis