IRL: Ray and Olds take Texas pole

FORT WORTH, Texas - The Indy Racing League championship picture came into sharper focus today as qualifying for the season finale of the nine-race Indy Racing Northern Light Series was completed at Texas Motor Speedway. Greg Ray, the reigning IRL...

FORT WORTH, Texas - The Indy Racing League championship picture came into sharper focus today as qualifying for the season finale of the nine-race Indy Racing Northern Light Series was completed at Texas Motor Speedway. Greg Ray, the reigning IRL champion, won the pole for Sunday's Excite 500 with a stunning 215.352 mph lap around the 1.5-mile oval in Team Menard's Conseco Oldsmobile Dallara. Ray will start on the pole for the sixth time this season and the tenth time in his career. Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 will start on the pole for the 38th consecutive IRL event after sweeping every pole position in IRL competition for four straight years. Scott Goodyear, second in the championship standings coming into the Excite 500, claimed the outside front row starting spot and two bonus points with a 214.391 mph qualifying lap in his final appearance in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara. Goodyear cut Buddy Lazier's lead to 36 points after Lazier qualified Hemelgarn Racing's Delta/Coors Oldsmobile Dallara sixth on the grid with a 212.305 mph speed. Eddie Cheever, the only other contender for the Northern Light Cup, qualified his Nissan-powered entry tenth at 211.483 mph. "The weather was changing from cloudy to sunny, the wind was shifting, and the air density was going up and down" said Ray. "We made ten changes and then changed them all back right before qualifying. Now the mechanics, the engineers, the motor guys, the driver all have to execute in the race. A team is like a V8 engine - it has to hit on all eight cylinders. "We didn't meet our expectations this year," noted Ray, who is 11th in the championship standings. "To win here at my home track in the final race of the season would be a big bonus." Goodyear came close to repeating his pole-winning performance at the preceding race in Kentucky. "We were off just a little bit and it cost us some speed," Goodyear reported. "We got two points and we have a great shot at winning the race. There's no strategy for us except to go fast, turn left, lead the most laps, and win. We're going out to have fun." With Goodyear failing to take the pole, Lazier can win the $1 million IRL championship with a 14th place or better finish. "My qualifying lap was the fastest we've run without the draft, so I'm pleased with that," said Lazier. "We'll approach tomorrow like any other race. We're going to charge and try to win the race, but we're not going to abuse the car. We're going to keep doing what we've been doing all year." Jeff Ward will start A.J. Foyt's Harrah's Oldsmobile G-Force third on the grid, his best qualifying performance of the season. "I can drive anywhere and get behind anybody and it doesn't upset the car," said Ward, who had only a single qualifying lap after his car failed tech inspection and had to go to the back of the line. "I run a low line and scrubbed off some speed because the tires weren't up to temperature with only one warm-up lap. I probably had another mph left in the car. Third's fine; I've got a great race car for tomorrow." Al Unser Jr. also turned in his best qualifying performance of his IRL career, putting Galles ECR Racing's Tickets.com Oldsmobile G-Force fourth on the grid. "The warmer air dropped our speed about one mph from this morning's practice, but we've got a good race car," said Unser. Oldsmobile engines dominated qualifying for the Excite 500 as IRL Aurora V8s powered the four fastest qualifiers and 92 percent of the starters for the 208-lap, 312-mile race. Oldsmobile is racing for its 37th IRL victory in Sunday's Excite 500. Oldsmobile has won all 16 IRL races contested to date on 1.5-mile superspeedways. The Excite 500 is scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m. CDT on Sunday, October 15. The 208-lap, 312-mile race will be televised on tape delay by ABC at 4:00 p.m. EDT and broadcast live on the Indy Racing Radio Network. k

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Scott Goodyear , A.J. Foyt
Teams Panther Racing