IRL: Pikes Peak recond set with Oldsmobile

FOUNTAIN, Colo. - The fast one-mile oval at Pikes Peak International Raceway got even faster Saturday. Defending Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray of Plano, Tex., scored his third consecutive pole position on the Colorado track with a record...

FOUNTAIN, Colo. - The fast one-mile oval at Pikes Peak International Raceway got even faster Saturday. Defending Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray of Plano, Tex., scored his third consecutive pole position on the Colorado track with a record qualifying lap of 179.874 mph. Even he was surprised.

"I'll be the first to tell you, we were blown away," Ray said. "We made a lot of changes and didn't know how they'd work. We backed up and made some educated guesses and the weather held out. The stars just lined up perfect."

Ray's speed in the Team Menard Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Oldsmobile Dallara eclipsed the previous track record set by Billy Boat in 1998. Significantly, Ray's record was set with Oldsmobile's new smaller, higher-revving 3.5-liter IRL Aurora V8 engine, while Boat raced with the previous 4-liter version. Ray took the pole position for both IRL races at Pikes Peak in 1999, and followed with victory in both races.

"We've been happy all weekend long," he explained. "We came with a different motor package, a different chassis, a different gearbox, something all new from last year. We had a very good handle on this place last year, and we had some concerns whether we could match the level of excellence we had here last year. We've been very happy with the car in practice and we're happy with the car in qualifying. The team just seems to be working real well together right now, and I feel that we've made some really smart decisions, following the weather. And the Oldsmobile powered us to it."

Ray easily grabbed the pole position from second-place Robbie Buhl of Indianapolis, whose qualifying lap of 175.362 mph in the Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Infiniti G-Force was 4.512 mph slower than Ray's. Oldsmobile powered the next seven fastest qualifiers, for a total of eight of the top 10 and 24 of the 26 starters for Sunday's race.

With cold temperatures and the threat of rain, IRL Director of Racing Operations, Brian Barnhart added two warm-up laps to help the cars get up to speed. The extra laps gave Kelley Racing driver Mark Dismore of Greenfield, Ind., an edge over his teammate Scott Sharp of Carmel, Ind., who missed his final qualifying lap. The two will share the second row on the starting grid, with Dismore third in the On Star/GM BuyPower Oldsmobile Dallara and Sharp fourth in the Delphi Automotive Systems/MCI Worldcom Oldsmobile Dallara. Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., rounds out the top five in the Kroger/Tristarmall.com Oldsmoible Dallara.

Oldsmobile is racing for its 35th straight IRL victory in tomorrow's Radisson Indy 200 - the longest active winning streak in a major American motorsports series. Oldsmobile has won all four IRL events at Pikes Peak International Raceway and the previous 15 IRL races on one-mile oval tracks.

The Radisson Indy 200 is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. MDT (4:00 p.m. EDT) on Sunday, July 18. The 200-lap, 200-mile race will be televised live by ABC at 4:00 p.m. EDT and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network.

Mark Dismore/Kelley Racing On Star/GM BuyPower Oldsmobile Dallara, third, 175.055 mph: "We thought we could go a little faster than that. We missed the gear ratio by about a hundred revs. But hey, third is great! We get a point that moves us back up and ties us for fifth [in series standings]. Now we've got to focus on the race car and hopefully tomorrow we'll be good. It's a pretty small track, it gets real crowded, real hectic, so you have to drive a real heads-up race here."

Scott Sharp, Kelley Racing Delphi Automotive Systems/MCI Worldcom Oldsmobile Dallara, fourth, 174.953 mph: "I'm not used to having four warm-up laps. I didn't pay attention to the flag, I just did what I wanted to do with the throttle for each lap. I got the car pretty good and I thought that was it. Then I realized I had another lap to go. We maybe could have got third, but we wouldn't have got second. But we have a really good race car. If we were in the top five, I was going to be pleased."

Jeret Schroeder, Tri Star Motorsports Kroger/Tristarmall.com Oldsmobile Dallara, fifth, 174.216 mph: "We've been working hand in hand with [engine builder] Brayton Engineering, trying to find some extra power. We found some better power at Texas and that carried over here to Pikes Peak. Tri Star Motorsports ran here last year and had a really fast car. We took a little bit of what they learned last year and just figured out what we needed to do to make it quick this year. The team really do make my job easy. I go out there, put my foot down to the floor and the car goes fast."

Eliseo Salazar, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Rio A.J. Foyt Racing Oldsmobile G Force, sixth, 173.846 mph: "Yesterday, we were the fastest Oldsmobile. Today we gave up some speed, but we're happy. It's a very strong engine."

Stephan Gregoire, Dick Simon Racing Mexmil/Tokheim/Viking Air Tools/Cigarette Oldsmobile G-Force, seventh, 173.285 mph: "I like the track, that's for sure. I was on pole in '98, second in '97, so it's a good track for me. And we have a good one-mile car. This year, we've been very fast at Orlando and Phoenix and this is another one-mile oval. For some reason, Dick Simon Racing has a very good setup for this type of track."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Stephan Gregoire , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Jeret Schroeder , Dick Simon , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing