Hampton, Ga., April 27, 2001 - Oldsmobile engines built by Team Menard monopolized the front row for the second straight race as Greg Ray and Jeff Ward turned the fastest laps tonight in qualifying for Saturday's Zmax 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Hampton, Ga., April 27, 2001 - Oldsmobile engines built by Team Menard monopolized the front row for the second straight race as Greg Ray and Jeff Ward turned the fastest laps tonight in qualifying for Saturday's Zmax 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ray won his second pole of the season and the 11th of his IRL career with a scorching 218.265 mph lap in Team Menard's Oldsmobile Dallara. Ward, the polewinner at the preceding event in Miami, was second fastest at 216.144 mph with Heritage Motorsports' Oldsmobile G-Force. Ray put Oldsmobile on the pole for the 41st consecutive Indy Racing Northern Light Series event.
"We knew it was going to be cooler during qualifying, but we didn't know whether it was going to be faster," said Ray, who scored his last IRL victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in a runaway last July after qualifying on the pole at 216.104 mph. "We had a couple of gear ratios in the car, so we had the option of going to a taller gear. Lo and behold, it pulled it."
Ray credited his Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 built under the direction of Team Menard engine department manager Butch Meyer for his pole-winning performance. Meyer is the grandson of three-time Indy 500 winner Louis Meyer.
"There is no doubt that since Indy of last year our motor program has gotten better and better," Ray noted. "Butch Meyer has always built very solid engines; some of the last engines we've raced and tested have over 700 miles on them. The motor that is in the car tonight will stay in there for the whole weekend. Butch loves racing, and it shows in the product he puts on the race track."
Ward drove his Menard-built Oldsmobile to his second consecutive front-row start. "The motor is great - that's what got us on the front row," said Ward. "We didn't hit the rev limiter and it ran flawlessly all the way around the track. It's fast out there drafting; we've got a little drag in the car, so when we get behind a car it really unleashes the motor and I can get around the guy easily. If it didn't have the horsepower, I couldn't do that. Menard has a great motor program. They do a lot of development work, and we're happy to be a part of the team."
Twenty-five of the 27 qualifiers for the Zmax 500 are using Oldsmobile engines. Mark Dismore was fourth fastest in Kelley Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara at 215.061 mph, and Shigeaki Hattori was fifth fastest at 213.870 mph in Vertex-Cunningham Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara. This is Hattori's first race since switching to a Dallara chassis and bringing Thomas Knapp, Ray's former team owner, on board as engineer.
"We changed a motor before qualifying and I am very happy now," said Hattori. "This is our first race with the new chassis, and we have a good race car for tomorrow."
Oldsmobile Qualifying Quotes:
Mark Dismore, Kelley Racing Oldsmobile Dallara, qualified fourth at 215.061 mph: "That's about the speed we thought we could run. Greg has everyone covered; all you can hope is that he has a hiccup. The race is going to be so much different than qualifying. If I can get hooked up behind someone in the draft, we can hang in there. The Ilmor Oldsmobile engine program is making great progress. They've come a long way in four months, and they're peaking at the right time with the Indy 500 just around the corner."
Sam Hornish Jr., Panther Racing Oldsmobile Dallara, Phoenix and Miami race winner, IRL points leader, qualified sixth at 213.596 mph: "We just don't have enough speed now, and we're doing everything we know to do. The motor that we ran today isn't as good as the one we'll run in the race tomorrow; Speedway Engines has a little something left. It's going to be totally different tomorrow because the leader won't be able to pull away when we're in the draft."
<pre> Top Qualifiers: Pos./Driver/Engine/Speed 1. Greg Ray Oldsmobile, 218.265 mph 2. Jeff Ward, Oldsmobile, 216.144 3. Eddie Cheever Jr., Infiniti, 215.776 4. Mark Dismore, Oldsmobile, 215.061 5. Shigeaki Hattori, Oldsmobile, 213.870 6. Sam Hornish Jr., Oldsmobile, 213.596
The Zmax 500 is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, April 28.
The 200-lap, 300-mile race will be televised live on ESPN2 and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network.