HAMPTON, Ga., April 28, 2001 - Greg Ray repeated his dominant performance in last year's Indy Racing Northern Light Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, scoring a record-tying fifth career victory tonight in the Zmax 500. Ray lit up the first ...
HAMPTON, Ga., April 28, 2001 - Greg Ray repeated his dominant performance in last year's Indy Racing Northern Light Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, scoring a record-tying fifth career victory tonight in the Zmax 500. Ray lit up the first night race of the season as Team Menard's Oldsmobile Dallara was untouchable from start to finish. Ray started on the pole, led 184 of 200 laps and crossed the finish line with a 19.85-second margin of victory over runner-up Scott Sharp in Kelley Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara.
"I've had two fairy tale weekends here," said Ray. "Very rarely does a driver and a team have two races so flawless."
Third-place finisher Buzz Calkins completed Oldsmobile's podium sweep with Bradley Motorsports' IRL Aurora V8-powered Dallara. Sam Hornish Jr., winner of the first two races of the season, maintained his lead in the championship race with a fourth-place finish in Panther Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara.
Ray's race pace was slowed to an average speed of 133.647 mph by an 11-car accident on the 53rd lap. No drivers were seriously injured and racing resumed 36 laps later. Fuel strategy became crucial in the closing stages of the race as Ray ran 53 laps after his final pit stop. Savvy pit strategy by Kelley Racing vaulted Sharp to second place when he pitted out of sequence with the leaders - the best result for new Oldsmobile engine builder Ilmor Engineering.
"Ilmor has done a great job in the little time they've had," said Sharp. "They didn't have a motor on the dyno until December. They've had to bridge a big gap with other engine builders working on this formula for four years. Fuel mileage is certainly key - we saw that from the first race, and it's something I hope we can use to our advantage in Indianapolis."
Fuel efficiency also figured in Calkins' best finish since 1996. "I think the Comptech Oldsmobile was an advantage tonight," said Buzz, who shared the inaugural IRL championship with Sharp. "I think we had a little too much drag in the car, but we were able to get good fuel mileage. We had good power all weekend, but just a bit too much drag. If I had it to do over again, I'd do the same thing because the setup was good in traffic and I was able to run with the leaders."
Oldsmobile engines dominated the IRL series' third event in Atlanta, sweeping the top 20 finishing positions and leading every lap. IRL Aurora V8s powered 25 of the 27 starters and all 14 of the cars running at the finish. The top five finishers represented five independent Oldsmobile engine builders: Team Menard (Greg Ray), Ilmor Engineering (Scott Sharp), Comptech Machine (Buzz Calkins), Speedway Engine Development (Sam Hornish Jr.) and Roush Technologies (Eliseo Salazar).
Team owner John Menard was exuberant over his Ray's performance in the final warm-up for the Indy 500. "I think it's just about incalculable what it means going into the Indianapolis 500 with a win under your belt."
Ray concurred: "Let's go to Indianapolis!" he exclaimed. "I think the best thing for us is knowing that we practiced, qualified and raced with the same engine. We've put over 700 miles on motors in testing. We know that any race we go to, all weekend long we won't have to change motors. That allows us to focus on the car. Butch Meyer (Menard engine department manager) is doing an incredible job with the motors."
The next stop on the IRL schedule is the world's most famous auto race, the Indianapolis 500. Pole Day qualifying will take place on May 12 and Bump Day on May 20. The 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins at 12:00 noon EDT on Sunday, May 27.
<pre> RACE SUMMARY Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile oval Winner: Greg Ray, Team Menard Oldsmobile Dallara Margin of Victory: 19.857 seconds Average Speed: 133.647 mph Pole: Greg Ray/Oldsmobile, 218.265 mph Fastest Lap: Greg Ray/Oldsmobile, 215.714 mph
Top Five Finishers: Pos./Driver/Engine/Laps 1. Greg Ray, Oldsmobile, 200 laps 2. Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 200 3. Buzz Calkins/Oldsmobile, 200 4. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 199 5. Eliseo Salazar/Oldsmobile, 199
Manufacturer Results Laps Led: Oldsmobile 200, Infiniti 0 Starters: Oldsmobile 25, Infiniti 2 Running at Finish: Oldsmobile 14, Infiniti 0
Championship Standings (After 3 of 13 events) Driver/Engine/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 136 (2) 2. Eliseo Salazar/Oldsmobile, 105 3. Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 96 4. Jeff Ward/Oldsmobile, 82 5. Felipe Giaffone/Oldsmobile, 80
Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Oldsmobile 33 (3) 2. Nissan 21 (0)
Next Race: May 27, 2001, Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis, 2.5-mile oval TV: ABC, 12:00 noon EDT